CLEMSON — Purveyors of Tigers gear are waiting and hoping right along with Tigers fans for a big win Friday.
Two of Clemson’s best-known venues for specialty T-shirts, Tigertown Graphics and Mr. Knickerbockers, are offering their own versions of commemorative T-shirts and other items for tonight’s Orange Bowl duel between Clemson and Ohio State in Miami, Fla.
Aaron Massey, a manager at the Mr. Knickerbocker store, said sales of their Orange Bowl specialty T-shirts were “going pretty good” Monday, but sales tailed off as tonight’s big game neared.
“We’ve been through three or four shipments, which is good,” Massey said Monday. “The bowl games are a little different from most specialty shirts because a good number of people buy them who might not be going to the game.
“It’s a different sales pattern than you see for a home game,” Massey said. “On specialty shirts for a home game, the sales pick up as you get closer to the game. With the bowl-game shirts, (we) had good sales with the game several days away.”
Sales traffic at both College Avenue stores was strong during the Christmas shopping season, as usual, but dropped off afterward. Students, alumni and other Tigers fans who were on their way to south Florida accounted for some of the decline, but one of the shop owners said there is more to it.
“I think more of it is a wait-and-see attitude,” said John Earle, co-owner of Tigertown Graphics. “People want to wait and see if Clemson is going to win before they make that purchase. We saw the same thing last year with the Chick-fil-A Bowl, where people waited until after Clemson won to buy the bowl shirts.”
The bowl items aren’t big sellers, but Earle said Clemson football fans expect to see them on the racks. That puts his store, with its own print shop in the back, and other producers of Clemson gear in a tricky position for a big event such as the Orange Bowl.
“We pay a 10 percent royalty to the Collegiate Licensing Company (which handles such payments for Clemson and other universities) ... and for these bowl games you have to guarantee so much in royalties up front, so we’re taking a chance that we’re going to hit the mark” and sell enough special bowl gear to make a profit, Earle explained.
Nonetheless, the vendors expect to do well with the Orange Bowl specials.
“We’ve still got a good stock,” said Brett Schoonover, one of Massey’s co-managers at Mr. Knickerbockers. “We recently reordered more shirts. We’re out of the long sleeves, but other than that we’re all right.”
And what outcome does Schoonover expect?
“We keep them in stock so when Clemson wins, we’re still selling them; in the unlikely event that doesn’t happen, we’ll put them on sale,” Schoonover said.