Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002

Jayhawk success boosts economy

March 30, 2002


It doesn't take a rocket scientist for businesses to figure out how to capitalize on Kansas University's Final Four appearance  put a Jayhawk on it.

For the approximately 425 businesses that hold a license to market KU merchandise, there's no need to buy one of those "secrets of success" business books this month.

"Anything we can figure out how to put a Jayhawk emblem on, we want to put it on," said Shawn Brown, store manager of the Sixth Street Hy-Vee Food and Drug Store. "If it has a Jayhawk on it, it sells."

Businesses all over Lawrence  from rental services delivering an increasing number of big screen televisions to hotels catering to out-of-town Jayhawks who want to be close to Mount Oread during the big game  are reporting March Madness windfalls.

A Jayhawk windfall

None, though, may be bigger than the university itself. Paul Vander Tuig, director of licensing for KU, is estimating the Jayhawk's Final Four appearance should net the university an additional $200,000 to $250,000 in additional licensing revenue. That's an increase of about 50 percent over the typical $500,000 KU receives in licensing fees during a normal year.

"It's all about how much they choose to buy," Vander Tuig said. "Everything I've heard, though, is that people are really excited about what's going on, and they are speaking loudly with their wallets."

It's music to Bill Muggy's ears. As the owner of the Jayhawk Bookstore, Muggy is estimating his revenues will double during the next two months and sales for the year will be 10 percent to 20 percent higher.

"I'm specifically gearing up for six months' worth of impact from this," Muggy said. "It's not nearly as much of an impact after the first three or four weeks, but there will still be lots of freshmen coming on campus for the first time this summer and about 20,000 visitors, too, and that may be the first time they have a chance to buy Final Four merchandise."

If they're KU fans, it's likely they'll be in the buying mood.

Leon Dreiling, vice president for Midwest Graphics, said KU fans are among the best in the country when it comes to buying basketball memorabilia.

Dreiling's firm is one of only about 20 firms in the country licensed by the NCAA to produce T-shirts and other items with the official NCAA logo. That means his downtown Lawrence business is busy every Final Four, but even more so when the Jayhawks are in it.

"From a merchandise standpoint, this is the best four teams we have had in recent memory," Dreiling said. "Kansas, Indiana and Maryland buy lots and lots of merchandise."

'Everybody makes money'

But businesses who aren't printing up T-shirts or don't have a license to plaster the Jayhawk on their merchandise need not worry too much. Other business owners said money and March Madness almost go hand in hand when KU is in the Final Four.

"I think everybody makes money this time of year," said Sean Gerrity, owner of Henry T's Bar & Grill. "You don't have to get that creative right now to be making money."

The biggest innovation Gerrity has come up with is adding gas heaters to the deck of his sports bar to more comfortably accommodate larger numbers of people because there are plenty of customers coming through the door, even when a game isn't on the television.

"It affects everything  lunches, dinners, late afternoons," Gerrity said. "People are out and about and just drop in because they want to be around the sports stuff. ESPN had the shoot arounds on (Friday) and we even drew a real good crowd for that."

Gerrity estimated most bars and restaurants in Lawrence likely would see a 25 to 50 percent increase in business for the week.

Some folks are staying home to watch the games, but even that has the potential to make money for businesses. Shawn Henderson, manager of Lawrence's Rent to Own Center, has been stocking up on big screen television sets ever since the Jayhawks played their way into the Final Four.

"We have rented about all that we have," Henderson said. "We've had about seven of them go out the door, but if I had a 100 of them, I think I could have rented them."

And even though the game is being played some 700 miles away, Lawrence hotels are finding a way to capitalize as well.

At SpringHill Suites by Marriott, at least 35 of the hotel's 85 reservations are held by out-of-town basketball fans looking for tournament fun, said Stephanie Bowler, general manager.

Bowler's considering opening up the ballroom  and its big screen TV  Monday to guests traveling to Lawrence for basketball.

"Personally, I believe we'll sell out Monday if KU wins Saturday," Bowler said. "It's the whole thrill of the tournament. People want to be in the town where they've won the championship.

"I had one gentleman call from Chicago. He graduated from KU and never got a championship while he was here, so he said he's coming here to get one."

Staff reporter Mark Fagan contributed to this story.

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