NEW YORK — Retailers don’t qualify as Olympic hopefuls, at least for the upcoming Summer Games in Athens.

This story first appeared in the July 15, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Generally, stores don’t consider the Olympics to be much of a platform for specific merchandise tie-ins or special events. The big boost will likely come to the athletic sector in general, as spectators get motivated to work out and thus buy sports apparel, shoes, equipment and other parephernalia. As in real estate, the major factor when it comes to the Games per se generating retail sales is location, location, location. So stores are looking far in the future to the 2012 Summer Olympics, which, if held in New York City, would provide major merchandising and marketing possibilities.

“That could be an absolute bonanza,” said Mitchell Modell, chief executive of the 107-unit Modell’s sporting goods chain in the New York, Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey markets, and a member of the New York City 2012 Olympic board. “It could be bigger than the [baseball] subway series. The energy and enthusiasm of New Yorkers are just incredible.”

“If we win the bid for 2012, it could be enormous for the store,” said Anne Keating, senior vice president of Bloomingdale’s. “But in order to really participate, we would have to work with the sponsors, like Speedo.”

For the time being, however, “We have not found the Olympics to have that much of an impact directly, unless they are in locations that the company has stores in,” said Dennis Magulick, manager of investor relations for Dick’s Sporting Goods, which has 169 stores in 27 states and which just took over the Galyan’s Trading Corp. chain. “We don’t have any major events planned specifically for that. There is not that much in terms of merchandise initiatives.”

He did say that if a hero emerged from the Olympics, an athlete who produces a personal story related to the competition, there could be some “spillover effect” later, charging up sales of related merchandise.

What Modell’s is currently capitalizing on is the after-market for Olympic-inspired or logoed goods, including T-shirts, hats, zipper sweatshirts with hoods and bags to carry athletic gear with red, white and blue colors. “Obviously, manufacturers produced a lot more merchandise than was needed. It was dumped pretty early,” Modell said. “We were able to buy this merchandise at reduced prices, and we will sell it at almost 50 percent what most retailers sell it for. This is an off-price deal. It will be in stores in the third week of July.”

Modell’s generally operates on an everyday low-price platform, rather than off-price. Aside from after-market goods, Modell’s hasn’t seen much opportunity in merchandising or having special events surrounding the Olympics, past or present. “Even when it was held in Atlanta, it wasn’t great,” Modell said.

For about the past year, Bloomingdale’s and a few other stores have been selling merchandise tied to the 2012 Olympics. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of such merchandise as T-shirts, shorts, bags, caps and pins will support New York’s effort to be named the 2012 Host City.

For the Athens games, Aug. 13-29, Bloomingdale’s is teaming with Speedo to promote the brand’s new Fastskin FS II swimwear. Speedo is the official swimwear supplier to the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, and Olympic gold medalists Rowdy Gaines and Janet Evans will appear at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street Monday to model the merchandise, which will also be featured in the store’s Lexington Avenue windows. Keating said Bloomingdale’s is a big supporter of having the 2012 Olympics in New York.

At Niketown this summer, images of Olympians focused on speed will adorn the stores. “Regardless of the sport, their main goal has been speed, and we are bringing that to life in a retail setting with images of Olympic-bound Nike athletes, including Marian Jones and Justin Gatlin,” said a spokeswoman.

She added that Niketown stores, in association with the Nike running club, will hold speed clinics with former athletes and running coaches.

Paragon, on Broadway here, will be selling footwear with colors from various countries, not just the red, white and blue, said Jason Mandell, footwear buyer. Top vendors, including Nike, Adidas and New Balance, are participating. “It seems to be each and every Olympic year, red, white and blue are bigger sellers. It’s mostly color-ups on styles,” meaning a style that could be just in black and white would also be released in red, white and blue.

Paragon will also eventually be selling Dale of Norway nordic sweaters, priced at about $250, in conjunction with the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, according to Peri Cubillo, snow sports apparel buyer. They’ll be worn by television commentators.

But most stores contacted said they just don’t see much of a sales impact from the Games.

“No one has come into our store and asked for Olympic gear,” noted Sam Gold, co-owner of Sports Depot, a 2,500-square-foot sporting goods store in Howard Beach, N.Y. “There isn’t that much interest unless there is a local story. If the Olympics were in New York, that would be a different story.”