Tokyo Olympics merchandise sales dry up amid pandemic

TOKYO – These are lonely moments for thousands of memorabilia in dozens of Tokyo 2020 Olympic stores, which attract few customers with games postponed for more than a year and facing an uncertain future.

And these are worrying times for organizers in Tokyo, who hope to generate $ 100 million by selling 5,500 “licensed” products, including official Olympic wands, Olympic umbrellas and large plush mascots of up to. nearly $ 200.

The pandemic and the uncertainty have emptied Olympic stores of customers. And a big question looms to increase anxiety: Can postponed matches really take place?

Organizing committee chairman Yoshiro Mori said if they couldn’t take place on July 23, 2021, they would be canceled – not rescheduled.

Strangely, a cancellation could boost souvenir sales, leading to demand for 2020 Olympics memorabilia that didn’t happen – not once, but twice – because of the pandemic. Conversely, pent-up demand could also boost sales if the games eventually take place.

The Olympics were canceled during the war years – 1916, 1940 and 1944 – but never because of a virus.

“If there is no Tokyo Olympics in 2021, the value of goods already created in 2020 will rise and grow even faster if the existing product is taken out of retail,” David Carter, who teaches commerce sports at the University of Southern California, said in an email to The Associated Press. “The fundamental question is who will capture this official / unofficial income? “

“Many will view the Tokyo 2020 merchandise as a novelty product representing everything 2020 stood for on a global scale – a global topic of conversation for those around the world,” Carter added.

Organizers and the International Olympic Committee maintain the games will take place, although many scientists and health experts argue they shouldn’t go ahead without a vaccine.

If they go ahead, will athletes be quarantined first and fans allowed to attend? How about packing 11,000 athletes from over 200 countries and territories to the Athletes Village on Tokyo Bay? How will athletes train safely? And how will they travel the world to get to the qualifying events?

If there are no fans at the Olympics, what will happen to the projected revenue from ticket and merchandise sales, which together are expected to generate around $ 1 billion in revenue for local organizers. Fans who have already purchased tickets – organizers say 7.8 million tickets were available – will they be refunded?

Tokyo organizers said nearly 90 licensed souvenir shops were open across Japan at the end of April. It is not known if everything will continue to work until the opening of the Olympics in 14 and a half months, online sales are sure to stay.

“As long as sales remain adequate, it may be best to stay open – or at least partially open – until a resolution is more focused,” Carter said. “After all, this is still a significant income to be generated given the collective uncertainty.”

Tokyo organizers and the IOC decided in March when the games were postponed to 2021 to keep the 2020 brand. This avoided scrapping tons of 2020 merchandise, which could have created a secondary market for 2020 items. abandoned. It could also have stimulated the market for “knock-off” items that would reduce the income of the organizing committee.

Sponsors preferred to keep the 2020 brand, which has been seen all over Tokyo for years – on billboards, taxis and subways. Local sponsorship deals are worth $ 3.3 billion for the Tokyo organizing committee – at least twice as much as any previous games.

Overall, Japan officially spends $ 12.6 billion to organize the games, although a government audit indicates that is double. Everything but $ 5.6 billion is public money.

Separately, the IOC has 14 long-term sponsors like Intel and Toyota that would pay around $ 100 million each to display the Olympic logo.

An Olympic store in a Tokyo mall, lined with dozens of shelves filled with t-shirts, caps and stuffed animal mascots, was mostly empty of shoppers this weekend. Those who browsed were in no rush to buy.

“I am not interested in buying Olympic memorabilia,” said Misako Sato. “But I would be more interested in buying something if the Olympics were canceled. Then they would be a topic of conversation, a curiosity.”

Her friend Yasuko Kitadai added: “It is probably too early to buy even though they have been held this year, as the Japanese tend to wait until the last minute to buy before the event.”

They both agreed that maintaining the 2020 brand was the right move to cut expenses. It was also the feeling of a customer who only wanted to be identified by his first name, Daisuke.

“Of course I will buy something before the Olympics are over,” he said. “But it’s too early now.”

More than 400 days too early.