published Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Vols gear sales could have slight sales drop

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    Staff photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press An "It's Time" T-shirt with the image of Lane Kiffin hangs inside Tennessee Spirit, a store at Northgate Mall, on Wednesday. The coach announced Tuesday he will replace Pete Carroll at the University of Southern California.

As University of Tennessee fans recovered from the shock of former football coach Lane Kiffin's departure for California, some sports memorabilia stores boxed up Kiffin bobbleheads and T-shirts emblazoned with his favorite catchphrase, "It's time."

But Chattanooga-area sports store managers said sales aren't likely to be significantly affected by the unfolding drama in Knoxville.

Steve Wrate, owner of All Star Sports Cards on Highway 58, said that any negative effect on sales would be minor.

"I've been doing this for 17 years, and my experience is that any publicity tends to drive sales to some degree," said Mr. Wrate, citing increased sales of O.J. Simpson memorabilia during the infamous Los Angeles murder trial.

Some consumers attempted to grab Kiffin mementos before they were taken off shelves, according to Hamilton Place Sports Stop employee Leslie Gilman.

"Tennessee fans are not the same as the other teams fans, it's more about the team rather than the coaches," said Ms. Gilman. "I don't think it will necessarily affect sales, just the conversation in the store."

Joshua Brown, assistant manager at Tennessee Spirit at Northgate Mall, said that with sales already down following Tennessee's bowl game loss, he hopes they won't get any worse.

"People are definitely going to be angry about it, because although he wasn't accepted by all the fans right away, a lot of people got behind him and bought into him," Mr. Brown said.

In Knoxville, store employees were less optimistic. At Tennessee Traditions in the heart of the UT campus, manager Shay Riggs said she was sure that sales volume would fall following Tuesday's announcement that Coach Kiffin would leave for the University of Southern California.

"I think everybody's pretty disappointed, so I don't think they want anything to do with the program right now," Ms. Riggs said. "We're boxing up (Mr. Kiffin's) bobbleheads and T-shirts, obviously we can't sell them anyway, since he's no longer an employee here."

Ms. Riggs speculated that after the items are boxed up, they will likely be destroyed.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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