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iehard sports fans never seem to get tired of showing off their pride, whether donning a team jersey or decorating their homes and offices with team colors. That’s why sports museums and halls of fame around the country are finding new ways to appeal to local fans and sports-minded travelers alike with best-selling items for which are worth cheering.

Adjacent to Gillette Stadium, Patriot Place features more than 1.3 million square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment. Here in Foxborough, Mass., major fashion retailers mingle with live and interactive entertainment, eateries and a four-star hotel. You don’t have to be a sports fanatic to visit, though plenty of New England Patriots fans make this a go-to stop for team merchandise.

At the Patriots Pro Shop on the first floor of the three-story Hall at Patriot Place, adjacent to Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, fans can pick up the newest in team merchandise, everything from player jerseys and pennants to popular accessories.

“The Pro Shop, which doubles as the gift shop for The Hall at Patriot Place, is 16,000 square feet and features the most Patriots-branded apparel, novelty items and gifts available anywhere in the world,” said Jeff Cournoyer, the venue’s director.

He admitted that it’s not easy keeping merchandise from flying off the shelves, especially during football season. “One of the most consistently top-selling items available in the Pro Shop is the gray hooded Reebok sweatshirt made famous by legendary Patriots head coach Bill Belichick," said Cournoyer. “The sweatshirt has become so synonymous with Belichick that some fans refer to him simply as ’The Hoodie.’ ”

Keeping the fans in mind is a sure-fire way to make sales. And during those times when the hometown team wins the Super Bowl, special collectible items and apparel are always sure sellers.

The Smallest Sports Fans

At the gift store for the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon, kids rule. “Our best-selling souvenirs are the kid-related items (i.e., toys, pencils, etc.),” said Natalie Thrash, the shop’s manager. She said that small souvenirs, like key chains, magnets and postcards, all seem to sell well at the 1,500-square-foot shop.

“The reason is because of our school tours,” she explained. “The kids want some inexpensive souvenirs. Some guests want something to show where they have been that’s small and inexpensive, and for the college fans that can’t find certain items elsewhere.”

Cost is an important factor for Thrash when she selects merchandise for the shop each season, particularly during the school year. “I try to keep up with the trends and I also look at the cost and the quantity,” said Thrash. “I try to calculate how much can be made from the merchandise. I also try to have a particular item in mind; I look for items in particular versus random searching. I try to look for small quantities of noticeable items with a decent cost that I make at least 25 percent off of.”

Visitors throughout the year vary, so Thrash also has to determine how much product is needed and when. “It varies by season. If it’s vacation or holiday time, or the city is having a big event, we see more visitors,” she admitted. “Anything can affect the visitation; bad weather, big televised events, or other events happening in areas that aren’t near us.”

National Pastimes

In the sports world, horse racing owes much of its popularity to Southern American history where the Kentucky Derby still inspires people to wear their hats and sip Juleps. And at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., the space is dedicated to the Standardbred industry with education exhibits and a gift shop that carries some of the most unique items related to this longtime racing field.

Gail Cunard, the museum’s director, admitted that T-shirts always seem to be popular among tourists and enthusiasts alike.

To be sure that a product will sell, she said she always checks the product history with vendors to find out about sales among other retailers. With a limited space (400 square feet) the shop can’t afford to carry merchandise that lingers on the shelves and racks for too long. “We have a website catalog,” said Cunard, as a way to offer a bit more merchandise to enthusiasts who can’t always make it to the museum unlike the 10,000 visitors who come through the doors each year.

If horse racing is a Southern tradition, then in Canada, hockey is king. And at the Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum in Toronto – one of the largest in the world – fans are eager to get their hands on the latest souvenirs.

“Two of our best-selling items are Hockey Hall of Fame logo tees by Reebok and logo caps by New Era Cap Co.,” said Craig Beckim, manager of merchandising and retail operations. “They are very popular as both are destination souvenirs that can only be purchased at the official store of the Hockey Hall of Fame.”

The 4,400-square-foot Spirit of Hockey store offers both popular items at favorable price points, said Beckim, $13 each or three for $33, “which,” he said, “makes them a nice option to pick up as gifts for people back home.”

With plenty of space to fill with merchandise, Beckim said there really is no scientific method when it comes to selecting new items. “A lot of it is gut feeling,” he admitted. “Primarily, I would say it is important to work with good, honest vendors. It’s important to get feedback from them at times. They can tell me that product X is having a good sell through in other museum stores, therefore it becomes something I will likely lean towards trying.”

But he said buyers need to be careful about vendors who may be trying to hype products that don’t always have a good track record. “What you don’t want is a vendor that will say anything just to make the sale,” he said. “You need good relationships. I can’t say I have any real formula for picking things. It’s a combination of observing what guests (300,000 visit each year) to our store are wearing, saying, asking for and being aware of what other museums are selling in their stores.”

A Baseball Legend

For any baseball fan, Babe Ruth is considered one of the best players to ever step up to the plate. And even though “The Babe” may have died decades ago, that doesn’t prevent fans of all ages to visit the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum and The Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore, Md., to learn more about this baseball great.

Taking home a piece of baseball history is what makes the 3,000-square-foot gift shop a popular destination for more than 60,000 tourists each year at the famous Camden Yards. And among the best-selling items are T-shirts.

“Some are classic shirts of Babe Ruth, the Ravens and the Orioles,” said John Hein, director of business development for the museum. “Others are current and changing shirts depending on who’s hot and new slogans that arise.”  

The secret to the success at this birthplace museum is maintaining a balance between the past and present. “Change it up to keep up with the times,” said Hein. “Try small quantities of new things to see if it will work. Never be afraid to sell items on consignment to reduce the risk of inventory.”

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