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MU merchandise sales climb with football team

Friday, November 30, 2007 | 5:15 p.m. CST; updated 10:43 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — As MU’s team soars to the top of the rankings, so do merchandise sales.

Tiger Spirit employees are scrambling to answer the online and telephone orders for MU merchandise.

Steve Dillard, vice president of Tiger Spirit, said his employees have been too busy to count the number of orders that have come in.

So far, the in-store traffic has not matched the online and phone sales.

Jennifer Reiss, Kohl’s customer service representative, hasn’t had the same experience.

“Almost every person that comes to check out has Mizzou apparel,” she said. The MU victory over Kansas came as a surprise to Reiss, and she’s not sure if Kohl’s supply of MU gear can meet the demand.

“We didn’t plan on them winning. I think it’s very possible that we’ll sell out,” Reiss said.

Kohl’s isn’t the only store having problems holding on to MU merchandise.

“We are sold out of the Chase Daniel jerseys”, said Karla Rinehart, a J.C. Penney sales associate.

Tiger fans searching for MU gear have spun the store’s sales into a frenzy. “It’s quadrupled at least,” she said about the sale of MU gear. Michelle Froese, public relations manager for Student and Auxiliary Services, has been feeling the rush as well.

“We’ve received 1,000 online orders in one day,” she said.

Christian Basi, associate director of MU News Bureau, said the licensing fees are also adding up for this year.

Companies must pay licensing fees to manufacture MU products. On average those fees bring in $750,000, he said. Basi said he expects a 25 to 30 percent increase this year.

“We expect to top out over a million,” he said.

Linda Gilbert, licensing and trademark administrator, plays a crucial role in this black and gold mania. She is responsible for reviewing designs for MU products before companies can begin manufacturing them. She said she has seen more than 250 new art designs just in the past two weeks.

“We are in crunch mode right now”, said Gilbert. “There are over 400 licensees across the U.S.”

Sales increases are also heavily represented online. Brian Swallow, vice president of sales and marketing for footballfanatic.com, said that the MU apparel sales have at least doubled from last year.

“This is the highest they’ve been ranked since the Internet,” he said. Internet commerce didn’t become popular until the 1990s and MU football hasn’t ranked very high in the last decade, he said. “Should they beat Oklahoma these will be the biggest numbers ever for MU.”

Alumni from across the nation are responsible for a huge chunk of the increase, Froese said.

“Alumni are realizing ‘Hey, we’re No. 1, and I want to buy something for my office,’” she said.

Froese recently received a phone call from someone who wanted to purchase a Christmas ornament for her husband who is an MU alum, and Froese said she gladly directed her to the online Web site.

Julie Miller of California, Mo., who graduated in 1991, was shopping for her latest MU gear Thursday at University Bookstore.

“It’s great that we’re No. 1,” she said.

As for current MU students, Froese said she was informed that the athletic department wants everyone to wear gold shirts on game day.

The University Bookstore had T-shirts that said “2007 We’re # 1” and commemorative MU vs. KU shirts that said “We’ve got your number” earlier this week, but they sold out after two days on the shelves. A new order of these shirts arrived Friday along with Heisman hopeful merchandise. If the team wins, Big 12 champion shirts will be available Sunday. The bookstore expects bowl game merchandise to be available Monday. National championship merchandise will also arrive Monday if the Tigers win Saturday.


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