NBA lockout hurts catalogers of basketball gear

Now that the professional basketball season has finally gotten under way following a 193-day National Basketball Association lockout, sporting goods catalogers are hoping that sales of hoops products begin to rebound.

The NBA claims that worldwide sales of its licensed merchandise topped $3 billion in 1997. But according to Sporting Goods Intelligence, a Glen Mills, PA-based newsletter, NBA merchandise sales fell 50%-60% during the lockout. And catalogers have seen a similar decline in their sales of NBA goods.

J.C. Penney’s Simply for Sports catalog, which sells licensed apparel and athletic footwear, estimates that its sales of NBA merchandise are down 40% from last year. “And in cities that have an NBA team, sales are down 70%-80% compared to last year,” says Stephanie Brown, spokeswoman for the Plano, TX-based cataloger/retailer.

“Across the board, catalogers and retailers have seen an obvious lack of interest among fans, particularly during the Christmas season,” agrees Harry Colcord, president of Wassau, WI-based sporting goods cataloger Eastbay. “Shoe sales for kids in high school and college basketball are up. But sales of NBA player shoes and team jackets and jerseys are dramatically down.”

Secaucus, NJ-based Genesis Direct, which mails several niche sports titles, such as Soccer Madness and Hot Off the Ice, didn’t even bother to mail its basketball catalog, Nothin’ but Hoops, this past fall. “We didn’t feel it was appropriate during the lockout to mail a book that was as targeted to the NBA as Nothin’ but Hoops,” says chief marketing officer David Sable. Instead, Genesis rolled some of its NBA jerseys and jackets into its “broad-based” sports title, 1-800-Pro-Team.-MDF

Following fellow apparel catalogers Lands’ End and Coldwater Creek, to name a few, L.L. Bean has spun off a bed and bath title.

L.L. Home Furnishings for Your Bed and Bath debuted in mid-January. Targeting women between the ages of 35 and 55, the spin-off sells linens, bedroom furniture, and sleepwear, says spokeswoman Jolene McGowan, who describes the merchandise as “casual American classics for the primary and secondary home.”

Although L.L. Home targets the same upscale professional women as Bean’s new women’s apparel title, Freeport Studio, the books differ in their approach. Unlike Freeport Studio, which sells more fashion-forward apparel than the core Bean book, L.L. Home doesn’t downplay its association with its Maine-based parent.-MDF

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