Meghan Fenlock lost her job when the Bulls lost their winning streak. Fenlock, a junior majoring in mass communications and education, worked at a store that sold Bulls merchandise. She didn’t want to name the store, she said, since she thought her being let go was “just economics.”
“There was no profit coming in. Therefore, I was the last one on the schedule, so I was the first one to go,” Fenlock said.
Fenlock’s experience underscores a developing trend in USF merchandising.
When the Bulls had a winning streak earlier this year, demand for merchandise surged. When the Bulls had three losses, there was a decrease in sales, which merchandisers say is rounding out with yet another Bulls win.
Louis Vettraino, assistant manager at Sports Fan Attic and a senior majoring in political science, said he has noticed this change.
“The traffic has slowed, but the sales are pretty steady on the merchandise,” Vettraino said. “Everybody loves USF still.”
Bucs and Bulls Heaven’s manager Edmund Davis did not see sales go down at his store.
“It probably went down a little bit, but it was still up there,” Davis said. “I think the students still expected a lot from their counterparts.”
Craig Brunstein, owner of Bulls Outfitter, said sales dropped tremendously after the three losses, though they are doing better than last year.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Bill McGillis believes that lower sales do not mean a lower amount of school spirit.
According to McGillis, the USF-Cincinnati game, which came after two Bulls losses, sold as many student tickets as the UCF game. People are still attending the games, he said, but are not buying as much USF gear.
“I think we have a really solid student fan base now, in my opinion, permanently established,” McGillis said. “There is a core group that is very strong.”
He said that after the wins against Virginia and UCF, USF products experienced a hot market, which can last for only a fixed period of time. He said that current sales have increased dramatically compared to last year’s.
“Our sales, percentage-wise, this year has gone up more than any other university in the country that we are aware of,” McGillis said.
He also said more retailers want to sell USF merchandise.
In 2006, five Wal-Mart stores in the greater-Tampa area sold USF merchandise. This year, 39 stores are selling Bulls merchandise. Last year there was only one Dillard’s that sold University gear. This year, there are five.
“Whenever you get really hot, merchandise sales go up, and when you come back down to Earth they fall back down to a more normal level,” McGillis said. “But that more-normal level is going to be a lot higher than what the normal level used to be.”