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L.A. Fashion District Braces for Michael Jackson Memorial

Thousands of Michael Jackson fans are headed to the Staples Center, and they could hamper business activity in downtown L.A.

The death of Michael Jackson has boosted businesses selling commemorative T-shirts and fedoras, but the turnout for his memorial Tuesday at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles could hamper business activity.

This story first appeared in the July 7, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Authorities, who urged people to stay home and watch on television, were preparing for hundreds of thousands of Jackson fans, although just 17,500 ticket holders are expected to attend the 10 a.m. event. Streets surrounding the arena, and the adjacent Nokia Theatre near the city’s Fashion District, will be closed.

“The California Market Center is anticipating some disruptions and increased traffic in the downtown area tomorrow as a result of the Michael Jackson tribute,” said Deborah Levine, a spokeswoman for the showroom building. “We have informed our tenants of the various street closures and suggest they take alternate routes and remain patient as they navigate into work.”

Rosie Ybarra, who is employed at the showroom complex Cooper Design Space, said Monday people were already camping out in the area.

But Kent Smith, executive director of the Fashion District’s Business Improvement District, anticipated the neighborhood would weather the event with a minimum of interference, as it did during a recent Lakers’ NBA championship celebration that attracted some 100,000 people.

Firms are hoping continued interest in Jackson goods will have a significant impact on their bottom lines. At the San Mateo, Calif.-based Web site CafePress, selling user-produced merchandise, users have uploaded about 43,000 Jackson-related items since his death on June 25, and T-shirts priced at roughly $22 are among the popular items.

EBay’s listings of Jackson apparel, accessories and footwear jumped from 182 in the two weeks prior to his death to 8,111, said Karen Bard, a pop culture expert at eBay. The highest-priced item so far has been a beaded leather jacket that went for $1,226 and garnered 27 bids.

“We are seeing traffic and sales from all over the world,” said Amy Maniatis, CafePress’ vice president of marketing. “In that respect, it is on the scale of the Obama outpouring.”