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Will Tiger Woods' line of sports apparel still sell?
Gordon Morgan tried on a Tiger Woods shirt at Edwin Watts Golf but ended up putting it back on the shelf.
"We're banned from buying any," he said — adding, by way of explanation, "the wives."
It's unclear just how well Tiger Woods apparel will sell in the weeks and months ahead in the wake of a sex scandal that prompted the pro golfer to take a hiatus from the game. Stores in Central Florida were either mum about the numbers or said they hadn't seen evidence of dropping sales.
But at least one marketing expert thinks Woods merchandise likely will get stuck on the shelves unless prices are slashed.
"When people go to buy it, they may think a second time — 'I'm putting money into his pocket, and this guy's a liar, a cheater, he's dishonest,''' said Eli Portnoy, an Orlando-based branding consultant. "I do think there's going to a backlash here."
Much of Woods' wealth and fame comes from his power as an endorser, which experts say has been significantly weakened. In a survey released last week by Argyle Executive Forum, which runs conferences for top executives, 76 percent of more than 600 marketers who responded said they would cancel, reduce or suspend their business relationship with Woods if they had an endorsement deal with him.
Announcements over the weekend that Accenture is dropping Woods as a sponsor and Gillette is taking a break from using him in ads prove that point, Portnoy said.
"Whether it's merchandise or anything else, people are now backing away," he said. "There will be some people who will buy it as collector items [because] they figure it won't be made any more, but the vast majority of it will end up on clearance shelves."
Nike would not comment about how much Tiger Woods-brand apparel sells each year. But according to SEC filings, Nike Golf, which includes apparel featuring Woods and many other golfers as well as golf clubs and other equipment, has had sales of $648 million in 2009.
While the Woods line probably brings in millions of dollars annually, Portnoy said, it's a small percentage of Nike's empire, which has generated $19.1 billion in sales this year.
"Nike has so many brands going on," Portnoy said. "Kids don't emulate wearing golfing clothes. You're talking more the country-club set. That stuff is a lot more expensive to start with."
Nike's line of Tiger Woods apparel includes high-quality shirts and sweaters that often retail for between $70 and $125. The hats with his TW logo sell for about $25. Shoes can sell for more than $200.
And because of those high prices, "it usually doesn't sell all that good anyway," said Fred Woods, who works at the pro shop at Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Course near Disney.
At a Nike factory store in Prime Outlets-Orlando last week, Tiger Woods shirts were on clearance. A store manager referred calls to Nike's corporate office, which had no comment.
At Golf Galaxy in the Dr. Phillips area, Woods apparel was selling at 25 percent off, but so was Greg Norman clothing. An employee at the store said the items went on sale before the scandal broke and referred questions to corporate headquarters, where a spokesman said that the store isn't doing anything differently with Woods merchandise.
And at the pro shop in Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge, "nothing has changed" in pricing or display of Woods merchandise, marketing manager Leigh Ann Mace said. This is the course where Woods has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational six times.
Mace said she did not know whether sales had stayed steady. When asked if she could find out, she replied, "I don't think that would be something I would want to do."
The Edwin Watts Golf store on Turkey Lake Road was selling Woods items for the same price as before last week, and assistant manager Marvin Snyder said he doesn't expect any slowdown.
"I think golfers buy clothing because they like how it performs and looks," he said. "I don't think it matters that Tiger's associated with it."
But Gordon and Sharran Morgan, tourists from Wales browsing in the shop with friends, disagreed.
"Whereas before I thought, this is really nice, I don't think I should endorse a product like that," said Sharran Morgan, 53.
In choosing between brands, "before, you would say, Tiger straight away," said the Morgans' friend Chris Hughes, 48. Now, he said, "you'd probably go with the Greg Norman stuff.'
Sandra Pedicini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5240.