NHL Execs Expecting To Set Merchandise Sales Records For Winter Classic
NHL officials are optimistic that Wednesday’s Winter Classic will produce the most merchandise sales ever for the series. Stoking their optimism is a number of factors. Principally, there is the size of the crowd at Michigan’s "Big House." The game will be played in front of more than 100,000 people. The biggest Winter Classic cash register ring on merchandise to date was for the '11 Winter Classic, played in front of 68,111 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field. Additionally, with last year’s lockout forcing postponement of the Red Wings-Maple Leafs outdoor game, master apparel licensee Reebok had two years to refine the collection for what will be the sixth Winter Classic. The longer lead time also allowed Reebok to ship some Winter Classic merchandise to retail as long ago as last spring. This also is the first Winter Classic with a Canadian team, which has stimulated sales north of the border.
MORE IS GOOD: adidas GTM Dir/NHL Licensed Apparel Keith Leach said, "We’ve got more (Winter Classic) product in the market than ever and we’ve had it there for longer than ever, so naturally our expectations are high." He added that this year’s Winter Classic apparel line is 30% larger. As always, jerseys are the top-seller. However, an expanded collection of cold-weather gear, including a coach’s varsity wool jacket ($200) and a knit goalie cap with a pom ($24) also are attracting attention at retail. Both will be worn behind the benches. NHL VP/Consumer Products Jim Haskins said, "We went in with the goals of proving that retail demand for this event doesn’t disappear January 1 and of having our biggest Winter Classic sales to date." He added that with growing fan and partner interest in the Winter Classic each year, the league was able to add key retailers, including Target, across the Midwest and Ontario. Target is selling a $65 replica Winter Classic jersey, along with a selection of caps, fleece and T-shirts. As for hard goods, the Forever Collectibles Winter Classic snow globe ($24.99) seems markedly appropriate. NHL VP/Consumer Products Marketing Dave McCarthy noted that fans seeking warmth in the projected 18-degree game-day temperature might also want to pick up a Winter Classic throw blanket from Northwest.