SBJ/October 31-November 6, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Jet Fuel: Return to Winnipeg helps NHL enjoy big year for merch sales

Fueled by strong sales of apparel and collectibles in Winnipeg, as well as a longer period of demand for championship gear in Boston, the NHL has seen its total merchandise revenue jump 12 percent over 2010-11.

Commemorative coins and jerseys are among the big sellers.
The league’s fiscal year runs from July through June, and just completed the first month of its second quarter. NHL officials declined to give a value for the jump in revenue, but said that in-arena per cap sales were up 31 percent for its opening weekend, and that sales on shop.NHL.com were up 21 percent.

According to Jim Haskins, group vice president of consumer product licensing, Winnipeg’s demand for team apparel has mirrored that of the teams that entered the league in the mid-1990s. Haskins said the demand across Canada for Jets postage stamps and commemorative coins spurred the league to renew licensing deals with the Royal Canadian Mint and Canada Post that had lapsed in 2008.

Haskins, however, said Boston’s longer-than-average
championship sales cycle is unusual.

“Typically you see a championship market get hot in the middle of the summer and then die down at the beginning of the season,” Haskins said. “Boston is still celebrating. This is the longest [sales cycle] we’ve ever seen.”

Dave McCarthy, NHL vice president of consumer products licensing, said championship T-shirts, towels, hats and 3-by-5-inch car flags were the top-selling products in Boston.

Haskins believes the construction of new in-stadium team stores around the league will continue to help overall retail numbers grow. The Penguins have built separate stores for Reebok, Brand ’47 and local apparel manufacturer Crons in the Consol Energy Center; the Flyers recently opened a Brand ’47 boutique and are completing a Reebok store in the Wells Fargo Center; and the Jets opened a Reebok store in the MTS Centre. Haskins said the Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens also plan to open new in-arena team stores this season.

Keith Leach, director of NHL merchandise at Reebok, said Reebok’s recent partnership with retailer Champs Sports will also increase sales. Select Champs Sports stores now feature special sections of Reebok NHL jerseys and lifestyle wear. “It’s a positioning of NHL in a mall distribution channel, and we think it helps reach a younger demographic,” Leach said. “We want to get product in front of a different type of fan.”

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