ANDERSON, Ind. —
The NFL is big business these days.
And for local retailers that geared up for the Indianapolis Colts’ training camp this year, it's been a big boon to their cash registers. After all, those virtual seas of blue Colts jerseys and caps have to come from somewhere.
Squeeze Play, a store that sells sports apparel and memorabilia, has been one of the biggest local beneficiaries of the influx of Colts fans into Anderson. Owner Jeremy Parker estimates his business sees a 30 percent increase when the Colts are in town.
“We definitely have had an increase in foot traffic,” Parker said. “It’s not been quite as big as last year, but we’re still way up.”
Parker’s business has been profitable enough to warrant expansion of the small chain. This year, Squeeze Play added a location at University Plaza near the training camp site at Anderson University to take advantage of new customers. Parker said locations in Muncie and Noblesville are seeing sizable increase in business as well.
“The start of the NFL season is always good for business,” he said. “We always do well with Colts stuff, and what we’re seeing now is a lot of people from out of town who remember coming in last year. We’re doing a lot more business online, too.”
This year, Squeeze Play has capitalized on the popularity of Colts punter Pat McAfee, whose now-infamous drunken swim in the Broad Ripple canal last year garnered national headlines. McAfee has since become one of the Colts’ more well-known players, and shirts bearing his likeness and the motto “I swam with Pat McAfee” have been strong sellers.
“Pat’s dad got those shirts out there. People seem to like them a lot,” Parker said.
Other popular merchandise includes jewelry and women’s clothing, an ever-growing sector of NFL apparel sales. KT Pawn owner Ken Kocinski estimates that 60 percent of all the NFL merchandise he sells is geared toward women.
KT Pawn prepared for training camp by putting out a large amount of Colts-related apparel in the parking lot of its store on Scatterfield Road. Kocinski also owns KT Sports store in the Castleton Square Mall, and the success he’s had this year has convinced him to expand as much as possible.
Kocinski said he is going to establish a permanent selection of NFL merchandise at KT Pawn and believes it will do well enough to keep going.
“It’s not just Colts stuff,” he said. “Steelers stuff sells more than just about everybody else.”
KT Pawn has seen business from customers as far away as Florida and Washington state during training camp this year. His establishment, he believes, has its own niche in the NFL economy. Kocinski has a long-range goal to hold a business presence in “every major city in Indiana,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t have the discretionary income,” he said. “We’re selling stuff a lot cheaper than everybody else. We get things on closeout. ... For example, we’ve sold as many Colts winter coats as we have jerseys this year. You can buy this kind of stuff lots of places, but when it comes down to dollars and cents, we can beat pretty much anybody out there.”
Part of the reason he believes business has been so good for KT Pawn is that the Colts apparel draws in shoppers who then purchase other merchandise.
“Lots of people are coming in and telling us they don’t have places like this in their hometowns,” he said. “We’re doing really well and we’re making lots of great deals.”
Contact Michael D. Doyle: 640-4805, email@example.com