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Steve Strawbridge Jr., Vice President - Licensing & Merchandising
Steve, a lifelong football fan, comes from a retail family and worked for the Philadelphia Eagles for 12 years. Currently, he works closely with all of the Hall of Famers on collectibles, licensing opportunities, and helping promote these legends and the great game of pro football through merchandising avenues.
Well, we are at the quarter point of the NFL season as most teams have played four games. It is still very early but it seems like there are some teams that really have separated themselves as the upper echelon of the NFL. For fun, and so all of my friends can make fun of me later, I am going to predict the playoff teams in each conference. I will revisit and revise throughout the season.
NFC- Saints, Eagles, Vikings, 49ers win their divisions as the 1-4 seeds and the Giants and Falcons are Wild Cards (maybe a bit of a homer on the Eagles prediction to win the NFC East). AFC- Colts, Ravens, Patriots, Chargers win their division as the 1-4 seeds and the Steelers and Texans are the Wild Cards (I am taking a wait and see approach on the Jets and Broncos).
So now that you have my predictions I wanted to let you know how merchandise is affected by the play of each team on the field. As most of you know, we carry a wide selection of merchandise from all 32 team here at the Hall of Fame and on Profootballhof.com. We have everything from the latest jerseys to sideline apparel to kids and women’s items. For example, take Mark Sanchez of the Jets. Being a rookie in a big city from a high profile college team we had a good amount of Sanchez jerseys and Jets items in stock when the season started. Within the first two weeks and with the Jets quick start we sold through a lot of Sanchez and Jets merchandise. We immediately went to Reebok and placed at-once orders and were fully stocked within a week. We have adjusted our forecasts for Sanchez and Jets merchandise going forward and will be ready for the balance of the season.
Another obvious example is Brett Favre and the Vikings. We have had a huge run on Favre jerseys, t-shirts and other Vikings items with the team’s 4-0 start. We have made large upward adjustments for our Favre and Vikings merchandise going forward. Other teams that have been nice surprises and we have had to adjust upward have been the Saints, 49ers, Bears with Cutler, Broncos and Bengals.
Now things can go the other direction as well. Teams that have not gotten off to a great start usually means slower selling merchandise. We have made downward adjustments on the Redskins, Cardinals, Panthers, Dolphins, Bills and Titans.
There is another very important factor that can affect a team and more directly a high profile player’s sales- injuries and trades. So far this year there have not been many high profile players who have been lost for the season. Brian Urlacher was a big loss for the Bears defense and a big loss for Urlacher jersey sales. We cancelled all future Urlacher jersey orders the day he was declared out for the season. A big trade just happened today which will have an impact on our jersey sales- Braylon Edwards. We now have to mark down and get rid of all our Edwards Browns jerseys. The flip side is that we will carry Edwards jerseys in Jets soon and if he plays well will sell a bunch of Edwards Jets jerseys.
So we are only four weeks into the 2009 season and you can see the impact the team records and players performances have on merchandising. Most people do not realize that all sports retail stores, on-line sports websites and team outlets have a vested interest on how teams and players do and make weekly and daily adjustments just like the coaches do. Things can change very, very quickly in the NFL and we have to be ready to react on a moment’s notice and try to forecast teams and players performances the best we can.
Plus, I tell my wife that is why we have DIRECTV and need to watch as many games as possible every week!