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January 6th, 2009Obamabilia craze is boon to retailers

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by Reyhan Harmanci

Can President-elect Barack Obama save the economy? Well, it’s true that he has assembled a crackerjack team of economic advisers, but that’s only one way Obama can help America get back on track.

American entrepreneurs and salespeople of all stripes have recognized the opportunity in Obama’s win – namely, that anything associated with the soon-to-be first family seems to turn to gold. And with the inauguration two weeks away, it seems that the offerings are becoming more plentiful and increasingly creative.

The San Mateo online retailer CafePress, which allows users to sell their own T-shirt designs and other merchandise, offers 3.3 million pieces of Obamabilia – with more than 6,000 items alone dedicated to terrier (the dog breed) support for the president-elect. The New York Times estimated that $200 million in Obama stuff had been sold by late November. Every day, it seems there are more television commercials, stores and street vendors hawking things Obama – hats, T-shirts, buttons, spoons – in every American city.

Since the election, several spaces at Berkeley’s Ashby BART Station flea market, for example, are filled with Obama earrings, clocks, framed pictures of the first family-to-be and the ubiquitous commemorative ceramic plates.

The official online inauguration store – not to be confused with the Obama campaign store – opened Thursday with designer T-shirts and totes from Zac Posen, Tory Burch, Alexander Wang and others in addition to the usual commemorative buttons, coins, photos and cuff links.

The phenomenon has gone global. In France, a businessman has created bubble-gum-flavored Obama soda in a red and blue can emblazoned with the “Yes We Can” motto. And the Times of London recently reported that an inflatable Nativity scene featuring the Obama family was a holiday best-seller in Naples, Italy.

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