Everything changed when it was announced this summer that the NHL was returning to Winnipeg. That is to mention nothing of the excitement that swept over this city when the team adopted the fan favourite ‘Jets’ name.
Even before Winnipeg Jets merchandise was made available to the public, it was apparent that things would be different moving forward for the retail arm of True North Sports and Entertainment. Formerly named ‘Off The Rack,’ the newly christened ‘Jets Gear’ would see a massive spike in business throughout the remainder of the summer, and the brisk sales show no signs of slowing down now that the season is well underway.
“In the Moose days, we had a 1,100 square foot main store with one kiosk per game, and we carried a staff of 15,” says Director of Retail Operations Dave Blackmore. “Now we have two stores, one 1,100 square feet and one 450 square feet, plus eight other locations which add roughly another 1,000 square feet of retail space. We also now have an average of 42 staff working on game nights.”
While fast-paced sales are welcome and appreciated, there are by-products of such an increase in sales in a very short time which present many challenges for Blackmore, and Director of Retail Development Ryan Rogers.
“Game days are a particularly challenging time,” says Rogers. “On a non-game day sales are spread out, but on a game day we’re dealing with sales within a concentrated time.”
There are specific times within a game day in which an extremely high volume of customers visit Jets Gear outlets.
“When doors open an hour and a half before game time we have to try and service everyone before puck drop,” says Blackmore. “Then in intermission, we have 18 minutes to service the entire line up of people.”
“We want retail to be part of the fan experience,” adds Rogers. “We don’t want it to take away from the experience. We are cognisant of the time constraints involved, so we strive to achieve a high speed of transaction so people don’t miss any action on the ice.”
Another challenge is bringing merchandise from basement storage areas to the stores for sale, as well as shuttling products from one store to another if necessary. This becomes particularly hectic during the aforementioned busy times, and Blackmore and Rogers are quick to point out that they have a great staff in place to help with this, and any other challenges that are thrown their way.
The rewards of the job far outweigh the stresses and challenges in the cases of both Blackmore and Rogers.
Putting a smile on a kid's face when they walk out of the store with their favourite player's jersey - seeing the elation and being a part of that is awesome.
“The enjoyable part for us is the connection with the customer, and the community,” adds Rogers. “Putting a smile on a kid’s face when they walk out of the store with their favourite player’s jersey – seeing the elation and being a part of that is awesome. Our retail and everything we do as Jets Gear is an attempt to add to that fan experience while they are in the building.”
Recognizing meeting the demand for Winnipeg Jets merchandise on non-game days would be challenging out of the 1,100 square foot Jet Gear Team Store at MTS Centre and the Jets Gear Pro Shop at MTS Iceplex alone, a second Team Store was opened recently at St.Vital Centre.
“Very early we identified the need to have a second Team Store concept in the community and the response has been overwhelming” says Senior Director of Marketing and Brand Management Dorian Morphy. “Our Jets Gear stores are able to offer fans unique Winnipeg Jets products such as game-used equipment and exclusive team items,” he added. “We now have more space and capacity to do this with the addition of our St.Vital Centre location.”