Damaged Goods

LSU merchandise. (Credit: Scott Branson)
LSU merchandise. (Credit: Scott Branson)

By Scott Branson | LSU Student

Members of the LSU football team weren't the only people to suffer a loss when the Alabama Crimson Tide dismantled the Tigers in the BCS Championship Game last month.

Businesses specializing in LSU merchandise watched thousands of dollars of profits go down the drain. The losing team's championship gear is illegal to sell.

Tigerbait Sports Apparel in Prarieville, La., where business correlates with the fortunes of the LSU football team, figures the loss cost the store in the five-figure range.

A Tigerbait Sports Apparel employee, who did not wish to be identified because suppliers were involved, noted the store could have "done an extra 10 or 20 grand if we had won."

When LSU participates in Southeastern Conference or BCS title games, merchandisers have the option to purchase championship gear beforehand, or arrange to have merchandise produced after the game and in stores before the store opens the next day.

Small retailers take a calculated risk when deciding whether to purchase or reserve a specific team's championship apparel.

Jewel Fourrier, LSU Sports Shop coordinator, said the store gets a reduced price on championship merchandise from Nike and, depending on the product, has to either destroy the merchandise or return it to Nike when LSU loses.

"It's well worth it to take the chance because we didn't stand to lose as much," Fourrier said. "And we're not stuck with anything."

Suppliers have varying policies about what to do in a championship game situation. The process is easier for bigger businesses because they usually can return the championship gear to the manufacturer, and figure to profit on the winning team's merchandise in the champion team's region.

"[Big businesses] aren't losing money," the Tigerbait Sports Apparel employee said. "Us on the other hand, smaller stores, we have a discounted price we pay for [the merchandise] at the beginning and then we're supposed to destroy it if they lose."

A Dick's Sporting Goods store manager agreed, saying he has merchandise in the store but is not allowed to sell it. The gear is then sent back to the store's distribution warehouse.

In instances where small business retailers arrange to have merchandise produced after the game, print shops begin producing the merchandise as soon as they feel the game is decided.

Shane Norton, assistant manager at Tiger Mania at the Mall of Louisiana, said his store had no championship merchandise in the store because he planned to pick it up the morning after the game.

"We had them on standby waiting to get them if and when [LSU won]", Norton said.

Despite the football season's bitter end, local businesses expect a postseason lull in overall sales and point to LSU's consistent success on the gridiron.

"Of course, we would have been busy afterwards, but I wouldn't say it's any more of a drop since they didn't win than it would have already been," said Candace Ory, store manager of The Purple & Gold Sports Shop on Airline Highway.

Ory said while the store would have certainly been busy following a Tigers championship victory, sales prior to the game were better than normal just due to the fact that LSU was in the BCS championship game.

"They do an incredible thing for our economy, win or lose," Ory said.