Gift Shop Stories
Imagine your college experience captured in bottle of perfume or men’s cologne. What would it smell like?
Katie Masik, founder and CEO of Masik Collegiate Fragrances, is in the business of doing just that. Her team works directly with universities to come up with a formula unique to their campus, mascot, colors, geography and other factors that might stand out about the school.
“(The University of) Alabama, for example, is in Tuscaloosa and they’re the Crimson Tide,” Masik said. “Everything is a crimson color, so we used that as our primary inspiration. There is fresh apple with very red and crisp aromatics and also water chard to keep it very fresh. It tends to be very hot there, so we didn’t want anything too heavy or overbearing.”
For the scents designed for the University of Texas, Masik, who holds a degree in chemical engineering, used hints of leather, smoke, ginger, mandarin orange and bluebonnet flowers. “For many of us, the college experience is a very memorable part of our lives. We wanted to embrace that with our fragrances.”
Masik Collegiate Fragrances currently offer scents for 20 universities — more schools are in the works — with a 1.7-ounce bottle retailing for $39.50. They are among the seemingly unlimited number of products in the collegiate-licensed merchandise industry, one that accounted for more than $4.5 billion in sales during the 2013-14 school year.
Cirrus Fitness produces exercise equipment, including yoga mats, medicine balls and stability balls. The Boston-based company has licensing agreements with most major universities, as well as the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer organizations. While alumni of varying ages may possess more buying power, finding new products that appeal to college-aged and 20-something buyers is key in setting trends.
“Like any industry, college sports and college licensers are always looking for unique and interesting items,” said Cirrus CEO Jay Sapovits. “The college kids are trendsetters, and, in a lot of ways, the most active consumers that exist. If you have a product that can appeal to college-aged users, you can potentially capture somebody for a lifetime.”
Sapovits feels his company may have the next big thing, at least in fitness-based merchandise — the Bottle Band, a strap that attaches to any size beverage container to allow to those on the go to carry the container by hand, ready to drink, without having to worry about gripping or dropping it. Sapovits is currently working toward securing college-licensing agreements for the Bottle Band, which retails at approximately $10.
“We just introduced it at the Campus Market Expo with unbelievable success,” he said. “Over 100 stores committed to carry it … It’s an every-person product. It’s light, it’s neutral and I think it’s going to be absolutely huge.”
Glory Haus is poised to introduce a new line of licensed dry-erase, magnetic boards to the market. The magnets will be fashioned with school logos.
“This item is unique to the market and we can’t wait to see the customer reaction,” said Bill Tanner, who oversees Glory Haus’s collegiate division.
As many unique items as there are available, apparel still accounts for two-thirds of all college-licensed merchandise sales. T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, coats — if you can wear it, you can likely find it with your college logo of choice.
IMG College is the largest college sports marketing firm in the country and oversees the College Licensing Company, which handles trademark licensing for more than 200 universities.
“Licensees continue to be creative with designs, including colors and themes,” said Andrew Giangola, vice president of Strategic Communications at IMG College. “Color preference is typically driven by a fan’s favorite school’s team colors.
“The new buzzword is the marketplace is ‘athleisure,’” he added. “While typically styled as yoga pants, leggings, racer-back tank tops and full zips, these items are no longer just for the gym, they’re also being worn by female consumers to class, to run errands, or at home. Fashion prints on leggings are extremely hot and are seen in morning-to-night pieces that can be coordinated and paired with anything from a T-shirt to a long blouse.”
Giangola added the “jersey crew” style shirt, which is “essentially an oversized long-sleeved T-shirt with an institution’s name in large raised letters across the back” will likely be a big seller again this year, and men’s performance gear — polyester blend T-shirts, fleece, shorts and polo (shirts) — are on the rise.
The CLC reports 75 percent of college-licensed merchandise buyers made a purchase to give as a birthday gift, while 62 percent gave a collegiate product as a holiday gift. Graduation gifts (28 percent of buyers) and Father’s Day or Mother’s Day (27 percent) also are big-selling times.
While University of Texas merchandise generated the most revenue during the 2013-14 school year, most stores are better off stocking school products geographically near their location, as opposed to trying to appease the masses.
Sapovits said he doesn’t even attempt to advise wholesalers on which schools to stock because “they know their market better than I do.”
“You’re not going to tell the guy in Oklahoma he’s never going to get a Texas fan in his store, but it’s probably going to be 90 percent looking for Oklahoma stuff,” Sapovits said. “A lot of the fan stores tend to be mom-and-pop places. They’re behind their counter, and they know their customers.”
Retailers selling collegiate merchandise should be aware there are a lot of non-licensed products, often referred to as counterfeit, out there. Selling non-licensed merchandise with trademarked university names or logos can lead to seizure of the products or worse, said Georgia-based attorney Angie Avard Turner, who specializes in licensing.
“Whether (retailers) are aware of it or not, they are potentially liable when they purchase goods from a wholesaler/manufacturer who is selling items that are not properly licensed,” Turner said. “They can be sued for trademark infringement. This is potentially a very costly situation for the retailer.”
Giangola said the first thing retailers should do when considering buying collegiate merchandise from a wholesaler or manufacturer is to look for the officially licensed product hologram on the product.
“Other than seeking out the hologram, retailers can simply ask companies if their product is licensed,” Giangola added.Continue Reading »
North Carolina’s capital city is located in the heart of the state’s Research Triangle and boasts a vibrant social, sports, cultural and arts scene. Along with an increase in culinary offerings, retail is alive and growing in the Raleigh area. Boasting 11 major shopping areas, the region is a mix of independent stores and major chains. Continue Reading »