Increase in Orioles merchandise sales a boon for local shops, online retailers
Playoff chase has boosted sales of O's gear nearly 300 percent
Tammy Kolb helps her 13 year old son Ryan Kolb try on a jersey at the Majestic Team Store, in the warehouse at Camden Yards. With the Orioles possible headed for the play-offs the sales of team merchandise has been skyrocketing. (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun Staff / September 24, 2012)
Last Friday, though, the store manager stood in the central aisle, flanked by orange on one side and black on the other.
"It's a totally different feeling this year," Scroggins said.
Nationwide, sales of Orioles merchandise increased 278 percent year-over-year for a period of four weeks spanning late August and early September, according to an analysis by SportsOneSource, a research firm focused on the sporting goods industry.
Orioles gear still accounts for only 2.2 percent of the Major League Baseball market, but that's a big increase over last year, when that number sagged to 0.5 percent. Only one other team made such significant gains: the Washington Nationals, who have gone from 0.8 to 3.2 thanks to their playoff chase.
"This is probably what everybody always worried about with the Nationals moving to D.C.," said Matt Powell of Charlotte, N.C.-based SportsOneSource. "They're probably stealing customers from each other, but both are clearly better off."
The sales increase isn't a significant financial boon for the Orioles because MLB shares revenues from licensed merchandise. So take solace in knowing that the Yankees, who corner 33 percent of the market, subsidize the rest of the league.
The Orioles do see some direct benefit from the uptick because they own a store in York, Pa., and split revenue from Camden Yards shops with Delaware North, their food and shop concessionaire. Greg Bader, the team's communications director, said the Orioles won't discuss revenue or sales numbers.
Sales at the Sport Shop stores — there's also one in Towson — are up 25 percent to 30 percent this summer, driven largely by Orioles goods.
"Generally, we'd have a significant drop off," owner Mike Durham said. "This year we've had a spike, and really it's been more intense because of how long it has been since the fans could get excited this time of year."
Fall baseball is fresh in Baltimore. Fans haven't experienced a pennant chase since 1997.
Three types of fans, in particular, have flocked to buy hats and shirts: the displaced, the casual and the young.
According to online retailer Fanatics.com, sales of Orioles gear increased 565 percent during the first 18 days of September, with 67 percent of sales coming from outside Maryland. Orioles merchandise sold at a higher clip than all but the Yankees and San Francisco Giants.
Josh Adams, a York native who later lived in Baltimore, has seen more Orioles gear in Brooklyn, where he now lives.
"People are going online, getting stuff because there's some pride," he said. "I always wore it, but now you're seen not with pity but as an enemy."
At the Sports Shop, women's apparel has been more popular since late August; Fanatics.com reported 61 percent of sales on its sites have been of merchandise for women.
"They always enjoyed going to the game, but that was just because it was a cool place to be," Scroggins said. "But to be really into it, they want to show that pride and wear the colors. The fans are engaged now."
At Kohl's in Laurel, children's team wear sold quickly, said James Modeste, a supervisor. The store carries both Nationals and Orioles gear, and young fans of both clubs found reason to pick up gear this summer or for back-to-school.
"We get more Orioles fans, and I think those kids, they've heard that the Orioles used to be good," Modeste said. "For Nats fans, it's totally new."