If it's Carolina blue, it sells

Staff WriterApril 8, 2009 

The Showdown in Motown banished the blues for Triangle merchants Tuesday.

Following the Tar Heels' late night win over Michigan State, shoppers flooded stores looking for championship T-shirts, hats and other apparel.

Some stores, including Omega Sports and Dick's Sporting Goods, opened early to accommodate the rush.

"You're talking about a pretty passionate and avid fan base," said Mike Ewald, spokesman for the 23 Dick's stores in North Carolina. "People are getting excited about it and want their stuff."

The most popular sellers Tuesday were the "locker room" T-shirts that the players wore on television Monday night after their victory. The shirts retail for about $20.

Many fans also wanted the locker room hats, which most stores expect in today. They will cost about $28.

At some of the state's 16 Omega Sports stores, lines were deep with customers buying four or five T-shirts at a time.

"It's a pretty major deal for us," said Alan Lloyd, director for Omega Sports. "Maybe up to 4 or 5 percent of your annual sales you could do in one week -- and it's not Christmas."

At the Sports Fan-Attic store in Durham's Streets at Southpoint mall, the championship T-shirts were being kept behind the sales counter.

For Durham-based Replay Photos, which sells collegiate sports photos and memorabilia online, staff members worked late hours posting championship photos for sale.

But president Sue Harnett said the effort was well worth it. She expected to see $12,000 in orders by the end of Tuesday.

"The first 48 hours are huge," she said. "People are just so caught up in the emotion of winning."

Companies like Replay will try to extend the buying frenzy as long as possible.

Replay has plans to offer a framed copy of the upcoming Sports Illustrated cover featuring the championship and a commemorative photo book that can be customized with a person's name or a message.

The initial rush of spending will probably last about a week, Harnett predicted, but the effects of a national championship can be much longer-lasting.

"Interest will probably go [up] again with graduation and Father's Day, and then it will do really well at the holidays again," she said.

"This definitely beats a normal Tuesday."

sue.stock@newsobserver.com or919-829-4649

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