Retailers are angling for a piece of Olympic sales gold with a range of merchandising programs tied to the Vancouver Winter games.
Betting that shoppers will want to look like the athletes on the medal stand, merchants from Macy’s and Polo Ralph Lauren to Target and Nike are outfitting their stores with apparel collections inspired by the games.
While event-driven lines are not new at retail, they’ve been on the upswing in the last decade, particularly sports-related programs—be it NASCAR, major league baseball, the World Cup or the Olympics, says Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners.
“Retailers want to hitch their star to events that are happening to bring some newness and excitement to the brand,” he says, adding that captive viewers represent a “ready-made audience they can target with merchandise and messaging.”
For the U.S. Olympic Committee, “The strategy was to have a large retail tie-in with what consumers and fans will see on the medal stand and at the opening and closing ceremonies,” said Peter Zeytoonjian, managing director of consumer products licensing. “The goal was to increase interest in U.S. Olympic product.”
For one, Polo Ralph Lauren’s U.S. Olympic collection is being sold at its retail stores and at Macy’s in the U.S. and Hudson Bay’s department stores in Canada.
The line of apparel and accessories for men, women and children includes a replica of the official opening and closing ceremony parade outfits Polo Ralph Lauren designed for the U.S. Opening Ceremony Parade on February 12.
“We took a lot of inspiration from the 1930s games, reaching into the heyday of the Olympics and bringing to it a more modern sensibility,” says David Lauren, senior vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications.
This is Polo Ralph Lauren’s second foray into Olympic merchandising.
The retailer created a line for the Beijing games last summer, which was “very successful,” a spokeswoman said.
Polo Ralph Lauren’s latest line is also available in 200 select Macy’s stores.
It marks the department store’s first Olympic-themed collection, and a way to get it on the buzz of a major pop culture event and capitalize on a merchandising opportunity.
“We saw a groundswell of our customers excited about the Olympics,” says Martine Reardon, executive vice president of national marketing for Macy’s.
The Olympics draw a global audience, and as with the Oscars, “any time we can be part of something like that, we will,” she says.
The line was also timed to spice up Macy’s sales floor with merchandise during the post-holiday retail period. That’s when sales hit a lull, with merchants in clearance mode.
The collection packs a visual punch at Macy’s Herald Square flagship store in New York City, where it is sold on three floors.
The first floor of the flagship store has been remade with looming Olympic signs and dramatic displays. In the men’s tie department, mannequins sporting the line are posed with a bobsled.
The collection also plays a starring role in Macy’s windows on Broadway.
So far, “we’re very pleased” with its performance, says Reardon. “We’re selling out of it in kids,” while men’s and children’s fleece is “probably the hottest category.”
Nike hopes to capture the imagination—and dollars—of star-struck shoppers by tapping into the celebrity power of Olympic athletes decked out in the sports brand’s clothing.
Nike is selling a version of the apparel, footwear and accessories the athletes will wear on the medal stand in Vancouver in its stores and on nike.com.
The athletes’ Nike training garb is also for sale.
Nike Olympic product can also be purchased at Nike stores across Canada.
“This is a key sports moment on the calendar—we’ll take advantage of that,” says Derek Kent, director of North American communications for Nike. “What you’ll see is us taking advantage of moments when athletes do win gold,” he says.
“Let’s say you’re a consumer watching the Olympics, and you love Shani Davis, the long track speed skater, and he wins gold.”
The retailer will then beam that image of the winning Nike-clad athlete at the podium across the airwaves, online and in media interviews.
“Generally, when the consumer sees the product on an athlete that they admire, and if they like the product, that generally helps with sales. It creates awareness and authenticates the product,” Kent said.
Both the US nikewomen.com site and the niketraining.ca site in Canada currently feature Olympic content with athletes, interviews and training tips.
While a store clerk at the Niketown store in midtown Manhattan said Olympic hoodies were flying off the shelves, the line will unleash its true sales potential when the Olympic games kick off on Feb. 12, Kent said.
Target’s Olympic tie-in builds on the retailer’s trendy edge.
The cheap-chic discounter is selling retro, Olympic-themed t-shirts with vintage-inspired looks in its young men’s department in all of its 1,740 stores.
The t-shirts—which range from prints with the Olympic rings to sport-specific themes, such as hockey and skiing motifs—are officially licensed through the U.S. Olympic Committee, “are exceeding sales expectations,” says Jana O’Leary, a Target spokesperson.
“This type of merchandise is about generating excitement with our guests, and having a chance to be a part of the fun, too,” says O’Leary.