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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