Soaring Colts, NFL merchandise sales boost local firm’s profits

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Business is booming for Indianapolis-based MainGate Inc. now that the National Football League season has kicked off.

MainGate handles merchandising for the Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins, and Dave Moroknek, the company’s president, said its NFL division is seeing strong double-digit percentage sales increases over last year.

“Overall, through training camp and the first week of the season, we’re up about 27 percent,” Moroknek said.

Merchandising sales increases for the six teams MainGate represents are trending higher than other teams, Moroknek said, though he declined to divulge specifics. He credits customer service, keeping an eye on trends and other “sales philosophies and tactics” employed by MainGate for the company’s success with its NFL clients.

“We realize we may have 10 minutes with these fans,” Moroknek said. “We focus every day on how we make sure when they’re in our store they’re having a good time and that they leave the store with merchandise.”

All that success has led MainGate, which recently won a contract to sell merchandise at the 2014 Super Bowl in New York, to enter talks with other NFL teams about handling their merchandise.

“I think this year we could add at least one more stadium deal,” Moroknek said.

Moroknek declined to rank the teams his company represents in terms of merchandise-sales increases, but said Washington is the leader.

“With Washington, we’re seeing nearly a 100-percent increase in sales,” he said.

Moroknek credited much of the increase to the team’s training camp move from its corporate headquarters to a new sports complex in Redskins-crazy Richmond, Va.

“That move was a grand slam,” Moroknek said. “That’s the biggest training camp we’ve ever had for any of our teams in terms of sales.”

MainGate has been handling NFL team merchandise sales for seven years.

MainGate’s other NFL clients have seen year-over-year sales increases ranging from 15 percent to 25 percent, Moroknek added.

“The popularity of the NFL continues to grow and the licensees and the products continue to get better every year,” he said.

Each market has had factors that have pushed sales for MainGate. For instance, in Minnesota, MainGate moved its Mall of America store to a bigger, higher-profile location. In Detroit, the addition of running back Reggie Bush has fueled sales. Jerseys are selling hot in Indianapolis for Andrew Luck and in Washington for Robert Griffin III, but “they’re not selling quite as well as last year,” Moroknek added.

Popularity in apparel and other items made especially for women is spurring growth in all MainGate markets, Moroknek said. So strong is the sale of women’s items, MainGate for the first time is opening a season-long specialty store for women at a stadium—FedEx Field in Washington.

MainGate tested its Style Lounge, complete with comfy couches and a fireplace for one game in several markets—including Indianapolis—last season. If the concept works long-term in Washington, it could expand to other markets.

In Indianapolis, youth clothing, sideline apparel, and retro shirts and items are big sellers this year, Moroknek said.

“In this [Indianapolis] market, there’s a big retro movement,” Moroknek said. “47 Brand items and other old-school apparel are really selling well for the Colts.”

The early-season success doesn’t mean MainGate is resting on its laurels. Already, Moroknek and his staff are preparing to roll out a new line of merchandise when the temperatures cool off, and they’ll add a line of holiday items in November.

Moroknek is also promising a special line of goods to be released in Indianapolis for quarterback Peyton Manning’s return when his Denver Broncos play the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Oct. 20. While he wouldn’t say what those items would be, he hinted that they would pay tribute to his past in Indianapolis as well as his current position in Denver.

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