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Merch Madness: Gear Demand Increases, Bookstore Expands

Baylee Corona | The PHOENIXThe bookstore on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus has expanded into the empty space next door to accommodate for increased sales following the basketball team’s March Madness success, despite losing to Michigan Saturday night.

Despite the Loyola men’s basketball team’s loss to University of Michigan in the Final Four March 31, Loyola’s merchandise sales have skyrocketed since it qualified for the Sweet 16. On the  Lake Shore Campus, increased sales have caused the bookstore to expand into the space next door, which previously housed Go Grocer.

Loyola gear such as shirts, sweatshirts, “Harry Potter scarves” and Sister Jean socks are being sold in three different locations on campus: the “L Stop” inside the Damen Student Center, the bookstore at the Lake Shore Campus and the bookstore at the Water Tower Campus.

There are also two “pop-up shops,” which are temporary retail shops, selling Loyola merch — one in the former Hershey’s building on 822 N. Michigan Ave. just blocks away from the Water Tower Campus, and one at Loyola’s Health Sciences Campus in Maywood.

Stacy Zapko, Bookstore Group vice president — Loyola’s partner company that operates and orders products in Loyola’s bookstores, online stores, pop-up shops and local campus stores — said the merchandise sales at the Lake Shore Campus bookstore have increased 2,000 percent compared to last year’s sales at this time.

The Lake Shore bookstore has sold more than 26,000 clothing items in the store and online versus 1,500 clothing units last March, a majority of which were bought since the Ramblers entered the Sweet 16 March 23.

“I mean, it’s been outstanding,” Zapko said. “As soon as we get product in, within hours it’s out and we’re continuing and continuing to re-stock.”

Zapko said there’s still been a significant number of online orders since Loyola’s season ended. The Lake Shore bookstore is even expanding its store next door to accomodate the product demand.

Loyola’s stores are seeing all kinds of customers buying merchandise, including alumni, faculty, staff, students and people coming from the city to campus, according to Zapko. There are even people coming from neighboring states such as Wisconsin and Indiana.

Zapko said it’s been busy at the Lake Shore Campus bookstore nearly every day since the tournament started March 15, with lines forming before the stores even opened at 8:30 a.m.

The staff working at Loyola and Follett have also implemented a “soft closing” time for customers, staying extra hours and extending the close time to 7 p.m. for customers who want to come in later.

“We’re actually running 24-hour shifts to try and keep up with the online orders and re-stocking the store,” Zapko said. “Every time we get a new shipment in, we can’t get it out to the floor fast enough.”

Mari Medina, a representative for ramblersgear.com, an online store selling Loyola merchandise, said in an email to The Phoenix that sales have seemingly doubled since March Madness.

Loyola alumni Frances and John Thuet, who both graduated in 2006 and now live in the Rogers Park area, came to Loyola to buy Final Four shirts for themselves and their two children. The family watched Loyola’s spectacular win against University of Nevada from the Damen Student Center March 22.

Junior history major Matthew Lewis bought himself a scarf and shirt, and said he’s purchased different merchandise for family members and friends.

“[Collectively], they’ve spent over $600 in merch,” Lewis said. “I’ve bought stuff for a wealthy doctor who wanted merchandise… [the doctor bought] like six T-shirts that are easily over $100.”

Lewis said he’s even had people on the street offer him money for his scarf, otherwise known as the “Gryffindor scarf.” The maroon-and-gold-striped scarves sold out extremely fast. Lewis said he sometimes hides it in his backpack to prevent people from stealing it.

Bill Kohne, a Chicago sports fan who lives in Wrigleyville and taught at Benet Academy in Lisle, came to Loyola to get Final Four T-shirts and “Believe” posters.

Kohne said he was very excited for Loyola, especially because head basketball coach Porter Moser used to be his student at Benet Academy.

“[There is] a lot of enthusiasm all over town [for Loyola],” Kohne said. “Toss in Sister Jean and you couldn’t want anything more.”

Emily Martin, a junior environmental science and public health double major, said she bought shirts for her parents and a sweatshirt for herself.

“[Loyola’s entrance into the Final Four] pushed me to finally buy Loyola gear because I was a transfer [student] and I didn’t have any [merch] before,” the 20-year-old said. “I feel like people are prouder to go to school here than they were before.”

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