The European Championships may have reached the quarter-final stages but Austrian stores selling official fan goods say business is still brisk, even though they are starting to lower prices.
Flying off the shelves
Overall, selling UEFA Euro 2008 merchandise is more a long-term investment in marketing than a way to make a profit within the few weeks of the championships, companies say.
Intersport, the sporting goods group operating the official store in the Vienna fan zone, sold 250,000 euros ($388,000) worth of Euro-related products last Monday, spokesperson Christian Mann said.
Business was higher than usual that day, because host Austria was playing Germany.
Overall sales figures are hard to come by, as vendors' agreements with UEFA prevents them from releasing such information.
"Demand is far higher than expected," Mann said.
Intersport Eybl, the part of the Intersport that is UEFA's exclusive vending partner of sporting goods for the Euro 2008, expects revenues of "mid-level single-digit million euros," another spokesperson said.
Inside the official Vienna fan shop the other day, the atmosphere was busier than in the fan zone surrounding the store.
Customers seemed to be interested mostly in buying T-shirts commemorating past games, as they were marked down to 5 euros.
But fans were also buying pricier items, like team jerseys or the official ball, store manager Alexandra Sallmann said.
"One wouldn't believe the things people are buying," she said, pointing to little replicas of the Henri Delaunay trophy.
Jerseys of teams that failed to move to the quarter-finals are already selling at half price, except for the Austrian team colours.
The host's T-shirts were still being bought, Sallmann said.
According to Mann, the Euro would be a financial "zero sum game" for Austria's largest sporting goods retailer.
The reason why costs would equal revenues was that Intersport's regular stores already started devoting part of their retail space for Euro 2008 products last year, he said. Setting up the temporary store in the fan zone had cost as much as opening up a regular new store, he added.
"This is really about the image value," Mann said. Being seen as the exclusive sporting goods partner of the Euro would help to build the brand and to expand it in the European market, where Intersport shops have a share of 20 per cent.
Stores are satisfied with sales
At the Billa supermarket chain, another official UEFA sales partner, Euro 2008 products have been marked down by 50 per cent since the kick-off of the championships.
In the small Euro 2008 display area in a Billa store in central Vienna, soft toys of mascots Trix and Flix cost only 4,99 euros, compared with 20 euros in the fan zone store.
The discount was not due to slow demand, nor would the supply with merchandise be stopped, corporate spokesperson Corinna Tinkler said.
Her company was "satisfied" with sales figures so far, she said.
The discounted merchandise was intended as an "additional bonus" for customers.
When asked whether her company would make a profit from selling products such as Euro T-shirts and stationery, she said that it was "hard to say," as the final accounting would be done after the championship finals.
But she also stressed that Billa had chosen to become an official UEFA partner because of the positive effect it had on the brand.
Another factor eating away at profits are the retailers' advance costs for obtaining the right to become official UEFA partners, several sources within the industry told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
"It's one more example showing that UEFA has a knack for making money," a manager of a retail chain that does not sell official Euro products said.