The day after VCU beat Kansas 71-61, more than 600 people waited in line at the VCU Barnes & Noble Bookstore, hoping to be among the first to purchase a Final Four T-shirt. Those shirts sold out within a couple of hours. The demand for VCU merchandise is at an all-time high, officials say. The VCU bookstore on West Broad Street has sold more than 20,000 T-shirts celebrating the school’s remarkable run in the NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament.
From Alexander Chang, Capital News Service
The day after VCU beat Kansas 71-61, more than 600 people waited in line at the VCU Barnes & Noble Bookstore, hoping to be among the first to purchase a Final Four T-shirt. Those shirts sold out within a couple of hours.
The demand for VCU merchandise is at an all-time high, officials say. The VCU bookstore on West Broad Street has sold more than 20,000 T-shirts celebrating the school’s remarkable run in the NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament.
T-shirts for the tournament’s Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four rounds all sold out within a day of their arrival at the VCU bookstore. The store expects to sell 50,000 more shirts by the time VCU plays Butler University in the semifinal game on Saturday, according to Amy Randolph, manager of the VCU Barnes & Noble outlet.
“We had our store inventory the Friday before Sweet 16, and I know that half our inventory was in our back rooms,” Randolph said. “I have no merchandise in the back rooms now, and what’s on the floor is only half full. We barely have a T-shirt in the store right now. We’re running out of hats, mugs, pendants; we’re running out of everything.”
The VCU Barnes & Noble Bookstore isn’t the only retail outlet benefiting from the booming interest in Rams paraphernalia.
A decade ago, VCU-branded merchandise was carried only by five retail distributors. Today, shoppers can find such products in 60-75 stores, including Wal-Mart, Kroger and Target. And that doesn’t include dozens of online retailers, said Rebecca J. Jones, marketing and public relations manager for VCU Business Services.
Even before the NCAA tournament, sales of VCU merchandise had been growing: Revenues jumped 37 percent from 2005 through 2010.
But in the past few weeks, interest in products bearing the Rams logo has been “surreal,” said Jones, who oversees the licensing of such merchandise.
“All licensed products that eventually end up in a store have to go through VCU Business Services for approval to ensure the brand is upheld,” Jones said. “Usually I get a few a week – maybe 20 requests a week for T-shirt design approval. But over the past two weeks, I’ve gotten 100 requests a day – every single day. I wasn’t expecting that at all.”
As a result of surging demand, Jones said higher-end manufacturers and larger distributors are beginning to look more closely at VCU products.
“If some companies don’t see you as a profitable school, they’re not going to even try to make the product,” Jones said. “Companies don’t see the point of going through the advertising and sales pitch to local stores if they think they’re only selling a couple items. However, if you show you have a presence in the marketplaces, then there’s a valid point for investment.”
And VCU definitely has a presence.
Randolph said the staff at the VCU Barnes & Noble Bookstore has been working 16-hour shifts trying to meet customers’ demand for VCU merchandise. “The bookstore staff was really on edge when that shipment didn’t show up on time on Monday,” Randolph said. “We had news outlets shooting footage from the loading dock, waiting for the shipment truck to show up. And when the courier came, there were all these video cameras on him, and everyone was shouting and clapping.
“I don’t think the driver had any idea what a hot commodity he had on his truck.”