Saturday , October 25 2014
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It’s Time for a New NASCAR Storefront at the Track
(Credit: CIA)

It’s Time for a New NASCAR Storefront at the Track

Signed up for the FREE Frontstretch Newsletter? If not, let’s give you a sneak preview of what you’re missing out on. S.D. Grady writes her Fan’s View Commentary, every Tuesday for our dedicated readership and this week, she’s taking a second look at souvenir row.

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This past week, NASCAR announced that it is looking into revamping souvenir row — the collection of colorfully decaled semis that sell the T-Shirts of your favorite drivers, appearing at each Sprint Cup event throughout the season.

My first gut reaction was, “Oh no! Not the haulers!”  I do enjoy taking time on Friday or Saturday to meander around, looking for a unique item to add to my ever-expanding collection of NASCAR memorabilia. Each truck would contain something special related to the representative team, and the mile of walking to reach all the corners of souvenir row was always worth the hike in the heat. But hey, I just returned from Michigan a few weeks ago with nothing but a Michigan Moose and a fridge magnet. What happened? Where’s the pile of new T-shirts and assorted diecasts? Oh, that’s right. I did buy one T-shirt. I paid $3 for a discontinued Ricky Stenhouse one. Otherwise, my wallet stayed closed.  Why is that?

Ever since Motorsports Authentics bought out all the haulers at the track, selection has become… dismal.

If you’d like a stuffed dog for your kid, you only have to decide which team number it should have on its shirt. You won’t find a different puppy at each hauler. The No. 18 sells the same one as the No. 24 as the No. 99 as the No. 55.  This uniformity applies to hats, shirts, keychains, etc. Simply replace the team number and car driver on each graphic and you’ve got the merchandise available at this trailer versus the next.  It’s beyond disheartening, a lack of variety that certainly has to contribute to the downward spiral of NASCAR keepsake sales for every team that signs a contract.

If I want something special, I must head over to each driver’s personal website, where you may or may not find apparel available at any other retailer.  However, there will be a premium price applied for the Fan Club-only wear, driving up the cost of following a favorite.  And there is a limit on how much my card can take… honest!

I used to look at souvenir row as a NASCAR mall, lots of little different stores all lined up for my personal retail therapy session.  Now it is like entering a Simon’s Mall with only JCPenney’s, over and over again. Why bother to walk around except for the fact that I want a Jeff Gordon shirt, not Kyle Busch.  Nowadays, I look at T-shirt shopping as more of a long walk with minimum pleasure associated with it.  I don’t even like most of the designs.

So if NASCAR wants to discard the haulers in favor of a single or a couple of large tent stores, that offer up all the stuffed dogs in one pile, where I only have to dig in the bin to find the team number I want, I’m all for the revamping of my retail experience. However, if the sport ever wants to regain a little bit of their “shopper’s paradise” glory days, they might be shocked at my suggestion: diversify the suppliers.

By having only Motorsports Authentics produce and sell the souvenirs, we’ve lost the depth of creativity and originality that used to mark the wonder of shopping at the track.  Nothing looked the same! Diecast varied in craftsmanship from team to team.  Maybe I wasn’t a huge Roush fan, but they had the best cars, so I’d buy a couple.  Maybe Jeff Gordon had boring shirts that year, but I couldn’t turn away from something I spied at the No. 42 hauler.  My house and wardrobe were plastered with an ever-evolving NASCAR brand.  No longer.  Days go by when I am sponsor-free.

So yes, it’s time that NASCAR looked at their marketing program in this area.  Changes should be made.  Perhaps all the money they save in driving 22 mini-stores around the nation can be diverted into paying for a few more options instead.  I like coming home with bulging shopping bags but right now, I can’t remember the last race where that happened.

2014 Sonya Strictly by the Stats

Top Three Rookies for 2014 Coke Zero 400

1.) No. 3 Austin Dillon - Started 23th, Finished 5th*

2.) No. 23 Alex Bowman - Started 43rd, Finished 13th*

3.) No. 7 Michael Annett - Started 32nd, Finished 21st

* – Career Bests at the Sprint Cup level

Athlon_Link

Why did Aric Almirola’s win save NASCAR from a forgettable Daytona weekend? Find out as Matt Taliaferro from Athlon Sports breaks down the third plate race of the year.

 

About S.D. Grady

S.D. Grady
S.D. Grady is a lover of men, music, movies and fast machines. A beautiful gown stirs her blood as quickly as a NASCAR race. An author of historical and fantasy romance, she never hesitates to switch gears and plunge into the real world of sports commentary. She lives in her house on the hill with her husband of 18 years and their cat, Betty. During work hours she runs a movie theatre and, when not writing, enjoys crocheting yet another colorful afghan. Several times a year you can find them at the track in their RV.

8 comments

  1. Rusty Shackelrod

    I’m with you. Each time we go to Richmond, my buddy and I do our mid-day hauler walk with a cooler of beer. Now we go more to people watch and check out the car and other displays. The last two races I didn’t see anything I liked enough for me to buy, at least for myself. And I’m not shy about opening my wallet on race weekend if I see something I want, and used to consider purchasing a souvenir or three a must do at each race. Now, my only “must buy” is some sort of a toy to take home for my little boy to play with.

  2. The prices charged for low quality made in china crap,no thank you.I stopped buying years ago!

  3. Merchandise Row is one of the best parts of going to the track. It’s really the only time you have a chance to find a variety of NASCAR stuff in person. It’s rare to find NASCAR stuff at regular stores/malls. I can understand the need to cut costs, but they should look at doing shops based on teams not drivers (e.g. a tent just for Hendrick or Gibbs, etc.). One big tent would just kill the experience. However, in a tent setting it could be easier to look at shirts on other stuff on your own, maybe add fitting rooms.

  4. Toni Montgomery
    Toni Montgomery

    I have many items bought in the 90s and early 00s of drivers who were not my favorite because I loved the items and liked the drivers well enough to get one. I would also point out that they’ve never done well with ladies items. There are usually two ladies T’s shoved off to the side and 17 big ugly men’s ones. I am petite. I look like I’m wearing a burlap sack in those giant, men’s cut shirts. Plus most of them are gaudy and ugly and overdone. Which is the next point I agree with you on–I don’t even like most of the designs. Apparently the designers at Motorsports Authentics and I do not share similar taste (although the designs on the ladies shirts tend to be a bit better when you can find one). One other point I’d raise is the prices. At $15 a shirt, even if there wasn’t a design I was crazy about, I’d buy my driver’s T’s because I wanted the newest one. Or I’d buy some other driver’s stuff because I liked it and it wasn’t that expensive. At $35 each, I better like it or I’m not opening my wallet, and if it’s not my driver, I’d better really, really like it.

  5. I am sure that it means an extra dollar in NA$CAR’s pocket. That is bound the be the only reason that they would change this.

    I am with you. They should be giving responsibility for this to each team. Let them handle all of their souvenirs and the trailers. That way, you wouldn’t find the same exact item everywhere.

  6. It’s just another layer of sameness penetrating every part of NASCAR. The variety is being sucked out, move-by-move, decision by decision. They ran off the vintage item dealers, cut it to one supplier…how long is it before they sell only Hendrick “fan apparel” at the track?

  7. going to the haulers was part of the being at the track experience. you’d always be able to find drivers at their haulers. even the non-favorites. i can’t begin to remember how many times i saw robbie gordon sitting at his hauler waiting for people to walk by (never a crowd there). when carl edwards was starting out, one time at ams, he walked up to the line of folks waiting at his hauler to open and just started chatting away. of course now it’s all pr person and schedule driven.

    what’s next na$car, not allowing fans access to pit road with pit passes?

  8. Bit by it, year by year, the NASCAR experience becomes a little less enjoyable. I used to love being the only one around with some obscure driver tee I bought off the haulers. Now I suppose the haulers will become a thing of the past, just like crowded stands. I keep asking myself why I keep watching when it seems obvious that NASCAR is only interested in attracting the 20 something ADD crowd. Psssst, NASCAR, they are not that interested.