No Matter Who Takes the Game : Sellers of Super Bowl Items Are Sure Winners

Times Staff Writer

Super Bowl tickets might be hard to find, but with at least seven wholesale distribution companies now operating in San Diego, there's no shortage of National Football League merchandise.

That wholesale operation is supplying thousands of retail outlets in San Diego County with everything from Super Bowl pens and pennants to T-shirts and bumper stickers. Nearly 50 kinds of NFL-licensed products have appeared in drug, convenience, grocery and liquor stores, as well as in department stores, tourist shops and hotel lobbies.

NFL-licensed Super Bowl merchandise also has been popping up in tents at shopping center parking lots around town and the parking lot at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

"It would probably be easier to say where you can't buy (products) than where you can" buy them, quipped Bob Hood, president of Gateway Promotions, which is distributing official league products to about 400 retailers around town. Official NFL merchandise is being distributed by several local companies and a handful of out-of-town distributors.

Hood suggested that fans buy merchandise from "the people you regularly do business with because that way, the money stays in town. And, if you have problems with the merchandise, you can bring it back."

Fans at the stadium Sunday will be able to buy merchandise at 70 temporary stands that are being assembled by ARA Leisure Services. The Philadelphia-based company won exclusive retailing rights at the stadium by guaranteeing a $402,501 payment that will be split 50-50 by the NFL and the City of San Diego.

ARA began selling merchandise earlier this week at booths in the stadium parking lot. Sales have been fairly brisk, according to Kirk Dupre, a vice president with ARA.

The company has hired 400 vendors, including 310 San Diegans, to sell merchandise Sunday. "Most of them are experienced," Dupre said. "You can't have beginners on a day like this because of the volume."

In addition to the banners, pennants, bumper stickers and pens, ARA plans to offer jackets, sweaters, footballs and teddy bears.

The logistics of supplying ARA's 70 merchandise stands are a "nightmare," according to Dupre. ARA has an off-site warehouse but the company "won't be able to bring things in on game day," Dupre said.

6 Trailers of Merchandise

Consequently, the company has filled six huge tractor trailers inside the stadium with merchandise. Those makeshift warehouses will hold enough merchandise to restock shelves during and after the game, Dupre said.

Merchandise that doesn't get sold in San Diego will be shipped to Hawaii, where ARA will handle merchandise sales for the NFL's Pro Bowl game.

Dupre, who declined to discuss ARA's anticipated dollar volume, said his company would sell about 100,000 Super Bowl items at the stadium by Monday night.

ARA won the exclusive retailing lock at the stadium by outbidding Service America, which normally sells merchandise at the stadium. On Sunday, Service America will concentrate solely on its food and beverage sales at the stadium.

However, Service America will offer NFL-licensed material at several roadside stands that will be erected in time to catch traffic in and out of the stadium Sunday. And, Service America has established a wholesale arm that will distribute products to nearly 50 retail locations across the county.

In the wake of last year's Super Bowl in Pasadena, fans across the country bought 2.2 million NFL-licensed Super Bowl items.

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