As fans' hopes for a Final Four appearance by the Kansas University basketball team soar, retailers' and suppliers' hopes for a surge in Jayhawk-related memorabilia sales also are taking wing.
And while Jayhawk T-shirts, caps, banners and flags are not yet flying out of stores, retailers still are bracing for the memorabilia mania that's likely if the Jayhawks continue their winning ways in the NCAA basketball tournament.
"If they win tonight and Saturday then you're going to see everybody in town with Jayhawks merchandise," predicted Mike Reid, manager of KU Bookstores. "In fact, we'll probably have shirts in the store by Sunday if they win tonight and Saturday."
KU, one of 16 teams still in the tournament, plays Indiana tonight in a Southeast Regional semifinal game in Charlotte, N.C.
The number of manufacturers of shirts and other souvenir items applying for licenses to use KU's trademarks "probably is up three times during the last month," said Reid, who also is KU's director of licensing.
As do most entities with trademarks, the university requires manufacturers wishing to use Jayhawk logos and names associated with the university to be licensed. There are about 300 licensed manufacturers nationwide who pay the university 6.5 percent of their wholesale sales.
LAST YEAR, the university received about $117,000 in royalties on its trademarks, Reid said. Already, this years' royalties have exceeded that by about $40,000, he said. The fiscal year ends June 30.
Local screen printers also are gearing up for potential sales spurred by more tournament victories.
"It's kind of just a stand-by-and-be-ready type of thing," said Doug Hamilton, sales manager for Screen-It Graphics, 315 NE Industrial Ln. "If they win you've got to be ready to roll. We would print through the night and get the shirts there first thing Monday morning."
He said the company has two designs ready to go and could turn out about 400 shirts an hour to meet demand.
Hamilton's company is one of several under "contingency contract" to supply Final Four shirts to the Jayhawk Bookstore, 1420 Crescent Rd.
Carol Muczko, a supervisor at the store, said sales of Jayhawk stickers, buttons, flags and clothing increased in the past week, but she was unsure by how much.
"We've had a lot of alumni in this week," she said. "I think they are getting ready for parties tonight."
But Tom Wilkerson, owner of Jayhawk Spirit, 935 Mass., said sales had not increased dramatically at his store.
"I'M NOT saying we haven't sold an extra one or two shirts," he said. "I'm comparing it to what we did in '86 and '88. Maybe it's the war. Maybe that slowed us down and took a little bit off of the tournament. I don't know."
He said sales to this point were similar to those at the same point in 1988, the Cinderella season that saw KU win a national championship.
So what happens to all the plans if the Jayhawks fail tonight or Saturday?
The stores will continue selling what they can, the screen printers will try their hands at Sweet 16 T-shirts and life will go on.
"We'll do nothing different," Wilkerson said. "We'll just go on about our business and be thankful we went as far as we did."