Feb 21, 2024 - Business

Taylor Swift has a merch problem

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift performs onstage in November 2023 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Buda Mendes/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

A $40 tote bag that was thin and "terrible" quality. A T-shirt with a stained collar that took three months to arrive. Scroll through social media and you'll find quite a few Taylor Swift fans unhappy with their merch purchases.

Why it matters: Swift has had a stratospheric year, propelled by a billion-dollar tour credited with boosting the U.S. economy. But for many die-hard fans, getting official swag has proven difficult — and disappointing.

  • Fans' dissatisfaction with the merchandise is a chink in Swift's armor — proving that even one of the world's most powerful pop stars isn't immune to logistics hurdles that can spur social media outrage.
  • Some Swifties have even said they will stop shopping at her online store.

"Why is Taylor Swift's merch store and merchandise so awful?" one person wondered in a December post on the SwiftlyNeutral subreddit.

  • "From the lack of customer service, shipping delays, bots, disregarded refund requests, to the overall quality of merch. Why do they charge so much for items of such low quality and poor customer service?" the post continued.
A crew of hard working people were busy filling orders as fans lined up by the thousands to purchase Taylor Swift merchandise
Fans line up to purchase Taylor Swift merchandise at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium in Aug. 2023. Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

The big picture: Swift had the most sought-after merchandise of any of Billboard's Top 100 artists of 2023, according to one study.

  • She earned $200 million from merchandise sales alone over the 60 shows she performed as part of "The Eras Tour" in 2023, Deadline reported.

Zoom in: In recent months, fans have taken to Reddit to slam Swift's store for long shipping delays and the merchandise's poor quality.

  • "That's not even the same bag," one person on the SwiftieMerch subreddit said in response to a post comparing the tote's online photo to what arrived in the mail.
  • Fans "need to boycott" Swift's merchandise to "start getting decent quality at a decent price," one user lamented — and others agreed.
  • "I'm done with them!" read some of the replies under the stained shirt post.

Between the lines: Numerous posts on X in December lamented lengthy shipping delays, too.

  • One user's TikTok video said Swift's merchandise team had been "ruining Christmas surprises two years in a row."
  • After an order placed in Nov. 2022 failed to arrive for the holiday, the user said they placed last year's merch order in October — only for it to not arrive in time again.
  • Some fans have reported receiving emails from Universal Music Group (UMG) — which manages the backend of Swift's official merch store — promising refunds on orders that were listed to ship by Dec. 15 but didn't arrive by Christmas.
Fans wait to purchase merch at an eras tour
Fans wait to purchase Taylor Swift merchandise at Los Angles' SoFi Stadium in Aug. 2023. Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

State of play: Bravado, UMG's merchandise division, has taken sole responsibility for the delays.

  • "At Bravado, this is not something we take lightly, and we are very sorry," the company said in a statement to Axios.
  • Bravado said it became aware of the issues in the run-up to Christmas, attributing the problems to "a combination of massive, unprecedented consumer demand and seasonal shipping issues."

What they did: The company said it brought on additional resources and shipping capacity to address the problems.

  • However, when it became clear orders meant to ship by Dec. 15 wouldn't arrive by Christmas, it started reaching out to customers offering refunds and the fulfillment of their orders free of charge.
  • "We work closely with our suppliers and production partners around the world to ensure that all products meet our high-quality standards and have a commitment to replace or refund any official store-bought product that does not meet these standards," Bravado said.

Be smart: Consumer concerns about shipping delays and refund issues aren't new for Swift's official store.

  • Reddit posts and TikToks complaining about merch delays long-predate the holiday season, stretching earlier into 2023 and even 2022, when Swift released "Midnights" and announced "The Eras Tour."
  • Last spring, Swift's team offered to replace some customers' merchandise after fans complained that products had dramatically faded after just one wash cycle, Rolling Stone reported.

Go deeper: Taylor Swift is having one of the biggest years in pop history

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