USC Gamecock football fans have been steadily snapping up SEC championship gear in Columbia since Sunday, according to local retailers.
By midday today, at least three businesses, with stores in nine locations throughout the Columbia area, expect to showcase USC championship gear on their racks, mostly in the form of T-shirts.
It is part of the afterglow of the Gamecocks’ stunning 36-14 victory Saturday over the University of Florida Gators in Gainesville, giving the Gamecocks their first berth in the SEC title tilt, scheduled for Dec. 4 in Atlanta.
“Honestly, we could have sold 10,000 of them at the stadium (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Florida) if we had had them,” said Ken Halstead, manager of Addams University Bookstore on South Assembly Street in Columbia. “It was a great time, a great victory.”
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Halstead said he expects shipments of T-shirts today around noon and again on Friday. He expects a rush on those from both local fans and out-of-town Gamecock fans who will be returning to Columbia this weekend for Carolina’s contest against Troy University.
“We normally would have had the shirts here,” Halstead said.
But an SEC championship required a printing authorization that Halstead said his vendor could not secure in time to deliver next-day service to championship-hungry USC fans who undoubtedly were in a Gamecock-spending mood on Sunday.
Deluged with phone calls from fans wanting the Carolina championship gear, Halstead said, Addams will receive a garnet-colored SEC Division Championship T-shirt today, which will sell for $20 each, then a shipment of Under Armor T-shirts on Friday, which he said will sell for $35 each.
Big Thursday stores had the championship gear on sale Sunday, said owner Kip Weiss, and most of the 1,500 pieces they had available in four stores was gone by Monday afternoon. Additional printing already was under way Monday, he said.
“You’ve got to have them (the merchandise) the day after in order to hit a home run,” said Weiss, who received artwork for the T-shirts last week, he said, with printing contingencies in place pending the outcome of the Florida game.
Big Thursday’s two T-shirt designs each sell for $19.99. Weiss said he expects he will carry four different championship T-shirt designs from four vendors before the euphoria for Gamecock championship memorabilia is satiated at kickoff in Atlanta.
The Jewelry Warehouse also reported steady sales of Gamecock championship gear on Monday afternoon, after a flurry of sales to begin the day.
Barry Caton, of West Columbia, left the Platt Springs Road store location shortly after noon, carrying a bag with four shirts in it — two for him and two for his wife, Susan.
“I’ve been a Gamecock fan for some time,” the middle-aged Caton said, “since I was a young ’un, through thick and thin. I wanted to show my pride in my team.”
Like thousands of other long-suffering Gamecock fans, Caton said he was unable to make the five-hour trip to Gainesville to see the game in person, though it wasn’t the trip that caused him the problem. It was the tickets.
Caton, a state employee sporting a black Gamecock shirt under a red necktie with, what else, Gamecocks on it, said he and family — two daughters and a son-in-law — watched the USC-Florida game together at his home.
Avid USC baseball fans, the Catons purchased Gamecock championship memorabilia after USC’s national championship victory over UCLA earlier this year in Omaha, and he said they plan to become USC baseball season ticket holders for the 2011 college baseball season.
As for Atlanta, Caton will once again be watching from a distance. “I’m not a Gamecock Club member, yet. Can’t afford it.”