Will Soccer Sales Score?

NEW YORK — Consumer enthusiasm for the 2010 FIFA World Cup has been a boon for soccer retailers in the past few weeks, but analysts said the overall impact will depend on the outcome of the tournament.

Storeowners polled last week said they are seeing a noticeable uptick in sales, particularly at stores in areas with a large Hispanic population.

“It’s like Christmas every four years for us,” said Luis Orellana, co-owner of soccer specialty chain Niky’s Sports, which has several locations throughout Southern California. “It’s a time when we usually triple or quadruple our [sales] numbers.” The retailer is in the midst of its sixth World Cup in 25 years. According to Orellana, it has consistently been the most profitable period for his stores, with sales starting to trend up as early as the beginning of this month.

“The Hispanic population drives the soccer market in Los Angeles because it’s a major sport embedded into the culture,” Orellana said.

In Boston, athletic footwear boutique Bodega is also seeing a lift from the World Cup as a result of the local culture, according to co-owner Jay Gordon. “Soccer is popular in Boston because [the city] is surprisingly diverse,” he said. “There’s a huge Brazilian and Caribbean population.” The Brazilian national soccer team has won the World Cup five times and is once again a frontrunner this year.

According to Edgar Alvarez, co-owner of Chicago Soccer, the World Cup has been like a “Red Bull for sales.” Alvarez is hoping for a 50 percent increase in sales this month and a 20 percent jump for the full-year.

“Sales have been amazing for us, and I think it’s because of the diversity in this area and because soccer is huge here,” Alvarez said. At press time Thursday, the team with the top-selling merchandise at Chicago Soccer was Mexico, followed by Germany, South Africa and Greece.

SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell said that in regions such as the Southwest and Chicago, an interest in soccer can definitely fuel sales, but he did not foresee a large change nationally.

“[The World Cup] probably won’t have a significant impact on retail,” Powell said, “unless the U.S. wins.”

Although recognition of the sport is not as high in the U.S. as in other countries, Longbow Research analyst Jonathon Grassi said soccer’s popularity has increased with each passing World Cup year.

“Impact on retail will be relatively marginal,” he said. “But it all depends on how far the U.S. advances in the tournament.”

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