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Nationals Lead Orioles In Merchandise Game

Novelty Helps Washington's Team To Top 5 Ranking in Sales of Licensed Goods

By Annys Shin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 2, 2005; Page E01

At the City Sports store at Gallery Place on a recent weekday evening, a black Baltimore Orioles windbreaker hung on the end of a rack, on the other side of a display of men's yoga pants. The orange sticker on the price tag said it all: $35, reduced from $50.

The Orioles may have sluggers Sammy Sosa and Miguel Tejada, but at Washington area retailers, they are striking out.

At area stores like City Sports at Gallery Place in the District, Nationals merchandise is hot. The team's novelty is driving sales of most anything bearing its logo. "Newness sells," said Marty Brochstein, executive editor in New York of the Licensing Letter. (Photos Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

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Despite the deep discount, the Orioles jacket languished while a dozen or so customers made a beeline for the rows and rows of Washington Nationals gear in the front of the store.

The scene repeated itself at Westfield Shoppingtown Wheaton.

At Head 2 Head, Nationals hats have been flying out the door, while a white nylon jersey stitched with Tejada's name has been hanging on the wall for a year, said store manager Peggy Tenorio.

Across the mall at Footaction, retro Orioles caps sit on a $4.99 sale rack, along with unsold throwback hats for the New Jersey Nets and the Buffalo Braves.

With the season a day away, the Nationals are trouncing their would-be rivals, the Orioles, in sales of licensed merchandise, several local and national retailers said.

In three months, the Nationals have catapulted into the ranks of the top five franchises in terms of licensed merchandise sales, said Howard Smith, senior vice president of licensing for Major League Baseball.

Retailers would be foolish not to push Orioles merchandise to the back of the store for the new team in town, said sports marketing experts. Associating with Major League Baseball's return to Washington after 34 years is a guaranteed windfall.

"Newness sells," said Marty Brochstein, executive editor in New York of the Licensing Letter, a trade publication, who had his brother in Bethesda mail him a Nationals hat. "What this is all about is emotion, the feeling that 'they're ours; we have a team.' Now it's cool to be wearing Nationals stuff.

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