SALT LAKE CITY -- Although the 2002 Winter Olympics don't start until later this week, retailers have felt the Olympic buying frenzy for months, according to local operators.
Associated Food Stores here started rolling out Olympic-themed general merchandise in July to test the response, and the sales pace and foot traffic have picked up in the weeks leading up to the XIX Winter Games, according to Gordon Thompson, seasonal category manager.
"We're getting people in here like you wouldn't believe," Thompson said.
Sales for Olympic-related baubles were especially strong during the holiday season, he noted.
He said at least 50 to 60 Associated stores surrounding the Salt Lake area are carrying a wide assortment of merchandise sporting the Olympic logo, including socks, vests, resin dishware, mugs, pens, patio flags, magnets and Dutch ovens. Prices range from $1.99 to $49.99.
"We anticipate a huge sales spike, particularly in the GM category," he said. "It will really be a boon to a lot of the stores, especially to the stores near the venues."
He said Associated would like to see 20% to 30% sales gains, but "it will be interesting to see sales results."
While many stores displayed 4-square-foot sections of Olympic merchandise, Thompson said the larger stores merchandised up to 8 square feet of space in high-traffic locations.
Meanwhile, Grant Blanchard, nonfood manager, Macey's, Sandy, Utah, said the retailer has sold a "ton" of four-for-$1 postcards and Olympic shot glasses, in addition to snow globes, mugs and window clings.
"I'm hoping it will all benefit by having more traffic, more people from out-of-town," Blanchard said.
At a Harmon's unit in West Valley City, sources said the store is merchandising an array of Olympic goods such as magnets, key chains and drinking glasses near the business center.
A Smith's Food and Drug store here had displays of sweatshirts, hats, blankets and pins, according to one store official.
With 1.4 million tickets already sold for the 167 events, according to recent reports, more than 70,000 visitors are expected to descend upon the region.
Thompson said Associated beefed up its trial-size health and beauty care offerings for the influx of travelers.
According to marketing consultant Larry Durst, chief conceptor, Einson Freeman, Paramus, N.J., major sporting events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics bring strong retail sales, primarily from the local market. "The local market adopts it as their own," he said.
Durst said low-ticket, commodity-type items like T-shirts and hats work best in supermarket settings because they are "more impulse-driven" items.