SBJ/May 2-8, 2011/Franchises

Predators, Grizzlies cash in on playoffs

Fan frenzy sends merchandise sales soaring

The Nashville Predators and Memphis Grizzlies, two Tennessee teams experiencing unprecedented playoff success, have smashed records for arena merchandise sales during the postseason.

Excitement over the Predators, making their first trip to the NHL Western Conference semifinals, and the Grizzlies, who were 0-12 in the NBA playoffs before this season but last week were locked in a duel with Western Conference No. 1 seed San Antonio, produced retail sales numbers far above previous postseason appearances, according to team officials and their retail providers.

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In Nashville, retail revenue during the playoffs almost tripled compared with the regular season.
In Nashville, retail revenue during the playoffs almost tripled compared with the regular-season numbers, which had doubled over the 2009-10 season, said Sean Henry, the Predators’ president and chief operating officer.

Delaware North Sportservice, the Predators’ retail and food provider, made some adjustments to meet demand, setting up two portable merchandise stands flanking the entrance to the Bridgestone Arena Pro Shop. Those supporting points of sale made it easier for fans to buy souvenirs without having to wait in line to get into the main store, said Tom Gallo, Sportservice’s on-site general manager. Inside the pro shop, the simple process of rotating displays for each playoff game gave the store a new and different look for those three event days.

For Predators season-ticket holders already wearing team jerseys, $5 to $10 “dueling” logo pucks and pins made for the playoffs sold well, as did gold-colored T-shirts, as that secondary shade becomes more popular among the Nashville faithful, Gallo said.

In addition, Sportservice runs food and retail promotions for the playoffs exclusive to season-ticket holders wearing special lanyards labeled with their name and seat number and branded with the team’s “Smashville” tag line. They receive discounts on merchandise and food, and can buy bright-gold souvenir drink cups available only to those fans wearing the lanyards. The program began at the start of the regular season as a token of appreciation for the team’s most loyal customers. It is one way for the Predators to expand their season-ticket base by catching the eye of non-season-ticket holders who see those lanyards and the cups.

“It’s that idea that we all want what we can’t have,” Henry said.

In Memphis, the Grizzlies Den store at FedEx Forum reported sales were up 132 percent compared with two home playoff games in 2006, the last time the NBA team made the postseason, said Greg Campbell, the club’s president of business operations.

“Fans have been collectively holding their breath and once we won that first game in San Antonio, there was an outpouring” of spending, Campbell said. “People were poised to buy.”

Grizzlies fans purchased playoff-specific items tied to the “Believe Memphis” tag line and were also buying regular jerseys and T-shirts, said Alan Fey, president of Gameday Entertainment, the team’s retail concessionaire. As the club comes of age in the postseason, the Grizzlies now have five marketable stars in Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol and Tony Allen, and their numbered jerseys have driven sales, Fey said. Personalized jerseys have also been a hot seller.

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