Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets gear pops up everywhere

If fans can't come to the three local stores, there's a porta-store that will come to them

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It has worked for years for hotdogs, french fries and perogies, so why not hockey jerseys and caps?

The Winnipeg Jets unveiled a new retailing concept last weekend when the Jets Gear Powered by Reebok merchandise trailer rolled up at the Stonewall Quarry Days.

The 24-foot trailer is a portable store -- effectively the fourth Jets Gear location -- that will be towed to various events around the province and feature a good mix of Jets jerseys, apparel and novelty items.

"It's a way to get out in the community with our Jets products so people who don't come down to the stores can see what we offer," he said.

The porta-store will make appearances as long as the weather co-operates and will have a full schedule of events for the entire summer next year, he said.

If the Jets can translate their merchandising success to the ice, they'll really be in business.

A year after outselling every other team in the NHL with hundreds of items during their inaugural season, the Jets were once again one of the league's top retail performers in Year 2.

The NHL has confirmed sales of the team's gear during the lockout-shortened season is "on par" with the top 10 teams in the league.

Dan Suga, director of retail development for True North Sports & Entertainment and the Jets, said the first year -- where absolutely anything with a Jets logo flew off retail shelves -- was "something special" that won't ever happen again.

Merchandising for 2012-13 season started out slowly due to the lockout but once the new collective bargaining agreement was signed, sales picked up "immediately."

"Once the season started, it was like a spillover from Year 1. People were excited that hockey was back. We didn't experience the dropoff at the start of the season that some teams did. Sales continue to be strong, they're consistent. We do expect that to continue into Year 3," Suga said.

Sales during the Jets second year were powered by secondary items, such as hoodies, T-shirts, toques and caps. Jerseys, particularly the dark blue home uniform, were the big drivers during the first year and while they remain strong today, people are looking for more accessory pieces now, Suga said.

That includes the Centre Ice Collection of Reebok apparel worn by the players, trainers and coaching staff, he said.

Gerald Haasbeek, owner of Royal Sports, agreed. He said demand is still strong but it will never surpass the frenzy during the 2011-12 season.

"It was off the charts," he said.

(It's Haasbeek's understanding the only team to even come close to the Jets that year was the Toronto Maple Leafs.)

Even though the market may appear to be saturated, many fans are now starting to replace gear that they've simply worn out.

"A lot of people are into their second or third ball cap. Or they might have a Burmistrov jersey but because he's not on the team anymore, they want to get a new one," he said.

New products with Jets logos are coming on the market all the time, including ear buds, golf ball markers, lawn chairs and bar stools, he said.

There's probably only one thing that would send jersey sales back to the moon -- the introduction of a third jersey, likely a retro one with one of the original Winnipeg Jets logos. (Jets owner Mark Chipman has indicated previously that he's partial to the mark worn by the WHA team during its first season in 1972-73.)

"I'm sure there are discussions going on (regarding a third jersey) but there's nothing official. We're probably at least a year or two away from the introduction of a third jersey, " Suga said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2013 B4


Updated on Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 7:12 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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