Horses

WEG merchandise sales seem recession-proof

All Pro Championships President Ben Erps, left, and Crissy Joy arranged souvenir clothing on hangers at their tent on Tuesday at the Kentucky Horse Park. All Pro is the official licensing organization for the Games and is selling products in Walmart, Kroger, Cracker Barrel, Macy's and elsewhere.
All Pro Championships President Ben Erps, left, and Crissy Joy arranged souvenir clothing on hangers at their tent on Tuesday at the Kentucky Horse Park. All Pro is the official licensing organization for the Games and is selling products in Walmart, Kroger, Cracker Barrel, Macy's and elsewhere.

Even though factors such as the recession have tempered some of the expectations for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, among the initial targets still predicted to be met is merchandise sales.

Sales of everything WEG — from T-shirts and caps to more unusual items such as collectible horses and walking sticks — have already exceeded the sales of merchandise at the 2006 Games. And that plateau was passed about two years ago, said Ben Erps of All Pro Championships, the Louisville-based official licensing organization of the Games.

"They just did on-site sales, and the outside they did was in two locations," Erps, All Pro's president, said of the Games held in Aachen, Germany. By contrast, All Pro has pushed WEG merchandise into a wide range of stores including Walmart, Kroger, Cracker Barrel restaurants and Macy's.

Kroger has the merchandise in 25 stores in and around Lexington, said spokesman Tim McGurk.

"We always enjoy supporting local events by having apparel and items that our customers would be looking for," he said, adding that the chain has sold several thousand WEG shirts.

And everything up until now is just the prelude to the biggest sales period — the Games themselves. Erps said All Pro will have close to 10,000 square feet of retail space at the Horse Park.

The variety of merchandise offered there will be in stark contrast to what was available at the Games in Aachen.

"In Aachen, I was looking for something like a baseball hat or a shirt, but I couldn't get them," said Alltech President Pearse Lyons, who wound up with a high-end scarf and tie. "They didn't do the things that you and I are familiar with in the United States."

Based on the success so far, sales of merchandise at the Games are predicted to meet expectations, said Terry Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing for the Games' organizers.

"All indicators are we'll hit our budgeted revenue expectations of merchandise," Johnson said, noting the Games' organizers get a cut of the merchandise sales.

The length of the Games also gives an advantage to All Pro Championships, as its workers get the opportunity to observe what become hot sellers.

"After the first weekend here, I have the ability to go back to the well and get more apparel," Erps said. "That will help us to more accurately hit our inventory ...

"Normally you just throw it at the wall and see what sticks."

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