Who says Americans don't get soccer? U.S. fans have embraced the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with so much verve that ESPN can't keep up with the demand. U.S. Soccer continues its march into the knockout rounds Tuesday, and retailers are benefitting just as much from the wellspring of support.
Jacksonville, Florida-based Fanatics, the world's biggest online retailer of officially licensed sports gear, has sold more U.S. Soccer apparel in the first five days of this year's tournament than during the entire 2010 tournament. On the heels of the team's success, merchandise of U.S. captain Clint Dempsey has been the second-biggest seller of all players (Brazilian phenom Neymar holds the top spot).
Brick-and-mortar retailers are getting in on the action too. Dick's Sporting Goods is taking advantage of its fan shop partnership with ESPN to highlight World Cup offerings like country-specific balls and uniforms. Meanwhile, Modell's stores tripled their U.S. team inventory from 2010 and have still been selling out.
"If they advance, which they have a great shot, in the next round, it's going to be Christmas in June," Modell's CEO Mitchell Modell told CNN before last week's match against Germany, which saw the Americans make it out of a difficult group.
Unsurprisingly, game days have seen big spikes in merchandise sales for competing teams. On the other hand, one common misstep for many retailers was large pre-orders for jerseys with U.S. star Landon Donovan's name, who didn't end up making the roster. It's good for bargain hunters, cheap number 10 U.S. shirts are now available, but less so for stores.
Sports retailers aren't the only ones snagging a present or two from under the World Cup tree. Sports bars in general have done well, but Buffalo Wild Wings in particular has had standing room only for some U.S. games, while Hublot, official timekeeper for the 2014 tournament, rolled out the Big Bang Unico Bi-Retrograde Chronograph, a watch that allows fans to time each 45 minute half of games themselves.
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