Postseason runs end early for retailers, too

Sean F. Driscoll

October usually means a few weeks of brisk sales for sellers of sports merchandise.

But add three teams within about 90 miles of Rockford to the mix, and it promised to be a great run for baseball fans and retailers alike.

Then, the perfect storm: Three teams, only two wins, and neither the Cubs, the Brewers nor the White Sox made it past the first round.

For Gary Larson, owner of GQ Sports in CherryVale Mall, the local teams’ collapse didn’t leave too many unsold T-shirts lying around. It did leave his October sales a little slow, however.

“We buy as we go along. We have quite a few division champion shirts left, but not too many,” he said. “It would have been a lot busier if the teams had kept winning, so that definitely affects our sales.”

Larson said most of his baseball sales are Cubs-related, which means disillusioned fans still will come back for Christmas gifts.

“If the Cubs would have won the World Series, that would have sailed us through Christmas and beyond,” he said.

At Rockford’s Target store, championship shirts are also on clearance, said Terry Holder, an executive team leader.

However, there wasn’t much of a clamor for shirts to begin with.

“It’s surprising to me. The demand wasn’t as high as I thought it would be,” he said.

Kathy Grannis of the National Retail Federation said the economy likely made baseball fans think twice about plunking down their cash. Even now, some investment in October baseball will always be a chance retailers will take.

“In most cases, this type of merchandise does sell because consumers want to celebrate in their own special way,” she said. “Without taking those kinds of risks and investing in that kind of merchandise to begin with, you run the risk of upsetting loyal customers who are coming into stores looking for stuff like that.”

Sean F. Driscoll can be reached at (815) 987-1346