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Retailer Lids strives for Super Bowl dominance

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Lids Sports Group is emerging as an early Super Bowl winner among local businesses after betting big that souvenir sales would shine.

The chain once known as Hat World is doing brisk business at a handful of temporary Super Bowl shops, most notably its huge retail operations at The Huddle and at Indianapolis International Airport.

Indianapolis-based Lids operated on a much smaller scale at last year's Super Bowl in Dallas but decided to up the ante for its hometown, agreeing early on to donate apparel for Host Committee volunteers and lease space in The Huddle before other tenants were sold on the concept, said Lids President Ken Kocher.

The chain transformed 23,000 square feet on the second floor of the former Circle Centre Nordstrom store into a wonderland of Super Bowl apparel, hats and souvenirs. About 150 Lids associates from across the country are staffing the store, with support from 250 volunteers with ties to the chain's corporate offices. (To view inside the Huddle location, see video below.)

“This has nothing to do with Lids making a nickel off the Super Bowl,” Kocher said. “If we make money, that’s great. But this had everything to do with getting our company and our employees involved with a potentially one-time event for the city.”

The Huddle shop is in addition to three separate storefronts in the Pan Am Plaza office building at Georgia and Capitol streets and an expansive operation at the airport.

Lids' strategy has surprised many of its competitors, including locally based MainGate, which operates Colts Pro Shop locations (now stocked with Super Bowl gear) at Circle Centre, Greenwood Park and Castleton Square malls. MainGate also operates 11 NFL Shop-branded apparel stands at downtown hotels including the JW Marriott.

"What they're doing is very aggressive and impressive," said MainGate CEO Dave Moroknek. "But early indications are there's enough business to go around."

The first Super Bowl in Indianapolis was on track for record merchandise saleseven before most visiting New York Giants and New England Patriots fans arrived in townthanks largely to an energized local fan base that has flocked downtown to check out the NFL Experience and Super Bowl Village.

The NFL Experience was on track to break its all-time attendance record by Thursday, three days before the Super Bowl. Sales at the Super Bowl-transformed Colts Pro Shop at Circle Centre have exceeded goals by 25 percent every day so far.

"I think everyone was surprised this weekend by the phenomenal turnout downtown," Moroknek said.

Fans from all over Indiana and even neighboring states have visited since Super Bowls rarely are played in the Midwest. MainGate's shops have placed "chase" orders to replenish supplies of fast-selling items like the gray matchup T-shirt, shot glasses and credential holders.

Super Bowl sales at Lids are "ahead of expectations," Kocher said, but he declined to provide details.  He said he was not allowed to disclose the price Lids is paying the Super Bowl Host Committee for its space at The Huddle. The rent is rumored to be more than $500,000 for just 10 days of business.

Kocher noted the chain will donate a portion of sales, amounting to a six-figure sum, to the newly formed Lids Foundation, which is focused on supporting "active lifestyle programs" for disadvantaged young people.

Lids' Super Bowl shops also are everywhere at Indianapolis International Airport: baggage claim, both concourses and in the main plaza, where Lids operates a Locker Room three times the size of the chain's typical footprint.

Lids was a natural candidate to run pop-up retail shops at the Indianapolis International Airport since the chain has a permanent shop in the terminal's main plaza, said Jerry Wise, the airport's retail director.

The extra shops opened Jan. 25 and will remain open for at least a week after the Super Bowl, depending on inventory levels, Wise said. Sales have been strong; Lids generated more than $70,000 in revenue on Jan. 29, before many visitors even landed in Indianapolis.

The airport lease arrangement does not charge a base rent but calls for Lids to pay 20 percent of sales for the space. The Airport Authority has the same arrangement with other temporary Super Bowl vendors, including Atlanta-based The Paradies Shops.

Wise said the airport is projecting it will earn between $200,000 and $250,000 on more than $1 million in extra merchandise sales during the Super Bowl festivities, though he added the figures could wind up looking "very conservative."

Kocher said Lids is happy to play a part in the big game.

"The city of Indianapolis has embraced this Super Bowl in an unbelievable way," he said. "This would be hard to replicate anywhere else."

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  • THANK YOU!
    Super Bowl volunteers received shirts, hats, headbands, jackets and gloves all generously donated by LIDS. These are top quality products. Many volunteers have commented about how impressed they are and so am I. Thank you to LIDS for everything they have done to make the Super Bowl in Indianapolis a success. We are grateful and we look SUPER!

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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