RETAIL RALLY FOR SUBWAY SERIES MERCHANDISE
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — As the Subway Series has New Yorkers reaching new heights of frenzy, retailers are scrambling to keep up with consumer demand for Yankees and Mets apparel.
With the World Series expected to bolster the city’s economy by $46 million, stores are getting into the game by offering loads of commemorative T-shirts and licensed merchandise and memorabilia.
Die-hard fans have been lining up at the Yankees and Mets Clubhouse stores making multiple purchases to be part of the action and with the feeling that such a historical event might not happen again for several decades. After all, it had been 44 years since the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 Series.
“If you’re a New Yorker, you’re faced with a predicament right now,” said Mathias Montenegro, assistant manager at the Yankees Clubhouse store at 393 Fifth Avenue. “The World Series is being talked about at work and wherever you go. You have to pick a team and wear a hat or something.”
Sales are on track to increase fivefold compared to the same selling period last year, with Subway Series merchandise contributing to a major part of the growth. Most shoppers are buying duplicate items, Montenegro said.
Even Subway Series CDs — the tunes being played in between innings at Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadiums — are also doing well, as well as stuffed bears, which generally are not popular items at the store.
Depending on the outcome of the games, the Yankees Clubhouse store, which also operates a unit at 110 East 59th Street, has been opening at 7:30 a.m. following a Yankees win. The Mets Clubhouse Store, with locations at 11 West 42nd Street and 143 East 54th Street, has been opening at 7:30 a.m. instead of the normal 9 a.m.
One day last week, the West 42nd Street unit sold out of 500 units of Majestic’s $20 Subway Series T-shirts after 45 minutes on the shelves, according to Rick Fiallo, store manager. Demand for that item continues to be strong, with daily shipments of 500 units selling out.
“People are just going out-of-control spending between $70 and $80 each,” Fiallo said. “At one point last week, we had a police officer outside the door to let people in two at a time.”
Weekly sales are expected to increase by 60 percent compared to the same selling period last year. Subway Series hats and “anything that the players wear” are contributing to the growth, Fiallo said.
After the Mets wore mock turtlenecks imprinted with Major League Baseball’s World Series insignia during the first game of the World Series, shoppers at the Mets Clubhouse store quickly snatched up the $49 item, he said.
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani also helped jumpstart a trend by wearing a half-Yankees-half Mets baseball cap to a press conference about the Series. That $22 style has been a bestseller at the Mets store, Fiallo said.
The Sports Authority has been receiving daily shipments in its 33 stores in the Tristate area to try to keep up with consumer interest in World Series activewear, according to Adrienne Barry, promotions coordinator.
The New York stores have been selling out of merchandise so quickly that inventory from the chain’s New Jersey and Connecticut stores has had to be shipped to the city locations, she said.
Reached Tuesday at the retailer’s corporate headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Barry said, “Business has been incredible up there. In the city, they can’t keep the merchandise on the shelves.”
Shirts in the $10 to $20 retail range have been the bestsellers thus far, and congratulatory shirts are also expected to be strong at The Sports Authority, Barry said. The 200-unit chain’s visual department developed signs with the Subway Series logo and special ads plugging World Series merchandise ran in a few New York daily newspapers, Barry noted.
Adidas, a sponsor of the New York Yankees, seems to be basking in its Yankee Stadium exposure. The brand’s three stripes are painted throughout the team’s home front, and players also wear the logo in the dugout.
Adidas plans to introduce World Series-inspired shirts should their boys in pinstripes win, an Adidas spokeswoman said.
NikeTown has been staging “Fan Feuds” at its 57th Street store the day before each playoff game. A Yankees and a Mets fan square off, explaining why their team is superior and then the audience picks a winner who is given to two tickets to the next game.
Nike has also sent out street teams to hand out “flip cards” imprinted with humorous sayings, jabbing the Yankees or the Mets to pedestrians all over the city, a Nike spokesman said. Cards carry such messages as “Yeah, but we sell beer in our bleachers,” a reference to Shea Stadium, and “Yeah, but our owner is not named George,” a reference to Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner.
At NikeTown, baseball fans are buying Yankees and Mets shirts that retail for around $18, and a split version with half the logo of each team, as well as $275 team varsity jackets, the spokesman said.
Bloomingdale’s has set up a Subway Series shop at its New York City flagship and has dressed up one of its store windows with World Series merchandise, but the retailer wants fans to take home more than a T-shirt.
A Waterford Crystal four-inch commemorative home plate is being sold exclusively at Bloomingdale’s 23 stores and at its Web site. A portion of the proceeds from the $175 item will be donated to the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, a nonprofit organization that Bloomingdale’s has supported as a founding sponsor.