As fans of the popular HBO series "Game of Thrones" brace themselves for episode five of the final season Sunday evening, marketers and business owners around the world will continue to relish in the profit spikes that come with the excitement of a new — and final — season.
Chris Beasley, owner of Jalic Blades in Red Bank — the only company in the world that has exclusive rights to manufacture replica weapons and armor from the HBO series and George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" book series — is one fan and business owner who has reaped the benefits of the show that popularized the book series over the past eight years.
Jalic Blades facts
Jalic Blades started retailing swords and knives in 2003.
*Information provided by Jalic Blades owner, Chris Beasley.
"This is our Christmas right now," he said, standing inside Jalic Blades' retail store at 2011 Dayton Blvd.
Displayed near the front window is a mannequin wearing "unsullied armor" that sells for $700 and is a popular item for the company, Beasley said. Around the neck of the armor worn by former slave soldiers in the show is a sign that reads "Free Hugs."
It's funny, because anyone familiar with the show knows "The Unsullied" are probably the least likely to show affection.
"He's lonely," Beasley joked.
Whether a viewer relates more with House Targaryen, House Lannister or House Stark, there's merchandise out there for almost anyone who loves to watch the hit series that drew 17.4 million viewers for the season eight premiere. HBO said it was the network's biggest night ever for streaming.
The show's earlier seasons cost roughly $6 million per episode, but the price tag has increased to $15 million an episode for the final season, according to Variety magazine.
For companies who want to cash in on the Game of Thrones craze, the possibilities seem endless. There's a $250 Game of Thrones-themed make-up palette from Urban Decay Cosmetics and the shoe brand Adidas came out with a line of sneakers for $180 a pair. There are Game of Thrones-themed Oreos, graphic tees and beer with names like "King of the North" and "Mother of Dragons."
While Beasley did not want to share revenue figures for Jalic Blades, he said he's selling about 100 Longclaw swords a day right now. Longclaw is the sword used by actor Kit Harrington for his character, Jon Snow, on the show, and it is the most popular item that Jalic Blades carries. The swords sell for $250 each.
Every season, business gets even better, according to Beasley.
"I really built inventory over the last five months, bringing in 5,000 (longclaw swords) thinking it's going to be enough," he said. "It's not. We are going to sell out here in a couple weeks."
Jalic, which is an acronym for "Just a Little Internet Company," was launched in 2003 by Beasley in his East Lansing, Michigan apartment, with a $1,200 investment to begin selling medieval swords popularized in the books written by Martin. In 2006, Beasley was able to get the license to manufacture such swords from Martin before HBO optioned his books for the Games of Thrones TV series. Beasley moved to Chattanooga in 2015, where his wife Marie is a child psychiatrist, to be closer to where the swords are made for the company.
As the final season wraps up, Beasley reminisced on the show and his business' success since the first season premiered in 2011.
Jalic Blades' was one of HBO's first licensee's for merchandise from the show. With three full-time employees and some part-time help, Jalic Blades sends merchandise around the world, bringing more into the U.S. than is sent out, Beasley said.
While Jalic Blades has a retail store in Red Bank, 99 percent of its business comes from online sales. Jalic Blades' Facebook page, called "Valyrian Steel," is followed by more than 175,000 people.
"I knew it was going to be popular, but I didn't know it would break the genre," said Beasley about Game of Thrones. "Not just popular for a fantasy show or fantasy genre, but popular for a show period."
BoxLunch at Hamilton Place Mall has a large collection of pop culture merchandise available for customers, including Game of Thrones-themed board games, T-shirts, jackets, coasters, beanies, pint glasses and more.
BoxLunch manager Jackie Absalom said sales always pick up with a new season, and there's an uptick in customers every Sunday there is a new episode.
"People just come in and load up," she said.
When the final season ends, Absalom said the store will still keep Game of Thrones merchandise and expects it will still sell well. After all, she said, they get new Harry Potter products all the time and the popular movies and books by J.K. Rowling ended years ago.
Beasley is also looking to life after Game of Thrones. He expects Game of Thrones merchandise will always be popular, but until HBO starts making prequel series or Martin writes more books, his company needs to find a way to keep making money.
"It's a little scary," he said.
Beasley said HBO also has five prequel series in development, and one has been ordered to shoot a pilot. Martin still has two more books to publish, and Jalic Blades' license with him goes until 2026.
Beasley has unsuccessfully talked to Disney about becoming a licensee for their films, but the family-friendly network didn't want Beasley to create weapons, he said.
"The helmets and shields don't sell as well," he said. "It feels like it would be shoving a square peg into a round hole just for the sake of doing something on Star Wars or Avengers."
Plus, it's a crowded product market already for those movies, he says.
Dealing with networks and streaming services and knowing who to ask for what license can get confusing, but Beasley has successfully obtained a license to manufacture replicas for the NBC-produced show The Last Kingdom, which streams on Netflix.
In the past, Beasley has obtained the licensing rights for the Warner Brothers 2017 film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and for the New York Times bestselling series by Patrick Rothfuss called "The Kingkiller Chronicle." Jalic Blades is also in the process of getting a license for the "Witcher" video game series, which is being adapted for a series on Netflix, he said.
Game of Thrones helped make Jalic Blades what it is today, though.
"Game of Thrones will decline, but it's not going to fall off a cliff," he said. "There's still going to be people who discover the show for the first time on streaming, so there's still going to be interest."
For more information, visit jalic-blades.com.
Contact staff writer Allison Shirk Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org, @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.