The Spirit of Hockey store offers Hall of Fame service to all who come in
While it certainly helps, you don’t have to be a hockey fan to appreciate The Spirit of Hockey store in the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) in Brookfield Place, Toronto, Ontario. The store is a little unique in comparison to other sports Halls of Fame, where the only reason you would be in the store is if you were visiting the museum. There is nothing else within the vicinity of these facilities.
With The Spirit of Hockey, they get traffic from people visiting the museum, but they are also a licensed sports store in the heart of downtown Toronto where a quarter of a million people come in to work every day. Because of that, they get a lot of traffic in the store from people who don’t even go into the museum. Taking that factor into account, they relocated and expanded the store in November 2010 to meet the demand of the fans.
The Cold Facts
The Hockey Hall of Fame itself is a museum that exists to honor and preserve the history of the game of ice hockey, and in particular, those who have made outstanding contributions and achievements in the development of the game. It’s a place of entertainment offering interactive, audio-visual, multimedia and traditional presentations and exhibits, continually introducing new features designed to entertain and educate the public while stimulating a constant flow of repeat visits – not just to the museum, but to the store.
The new store is a 4,300 square foot facility located on the ground level of Brookfield Place. There are three ways to enter – up the stairs from the inside of the museum, if you have paid to enter the facility; through the doors from the atrium inside Brookfield Place; or through the Front Street door from the street.
“The move gave us an extra 800 square feet of space,” said Craig Beckim, manager of merchandising and retail operations, “and being on the ground level gives the store a more visible presence from both the street and inside Brookfield Place. Having multiple entrances made us much more accessible for customers.”
They carry a large mixture of both licensed product – National Hockey League (NHL), International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), Team Canada – and custom branded HHOF product. The store is also an extension of the museum in that there are a few display cases to showcase artifacts (that are not for sale.) Visitors have a chance to get their photo taken with the Stanley Cup championship trophy and can then purchase copies of the photo in the store.
“Many of the jerseys displayed in the museum, both contemporary and vintage, can be purchased in the store,” Beckim said. “In addition, we have items like a T-shirt that lists all of the Honored Members of the HHOF, books that detail info on the Honored Members and some of the artifacts and trophies we have on display.”
But what category earns MVP honors at the Spirit of Hockey store? Apparel. NHL jerseys are a big seller, and their own branded HHOF apparel is very popular with out-of-town tourists who buy both for themselves and as gifts for family and friends back home.
“We carry all the latest jerseys or licensed products that are available and constantly change up designs on our apparel,” Beckim said. “We make sure to carry all of the hot market opportunity products such as Stanley Cup Championship product, Olympic product, Winter Classic/Heritage Classic merchandise, etc.”
In addition to apparel, they also stock a variety of glassware/drinkware, books and DVD’s, novelties (keychains, lapel pins, mini sticks, pucks) and collectables (framed photos/artwork, photos, mini masks and trophies). The store also carries a commemorative tee, cap, hockey puck and lapel pin for the annual HHOF Induction ceremony each November.
Beckim said things in the hockey world are generally pretty consistent, although certain teams will become popular for a while or fade in to the background depending upon how well they are playing or which superstars play for them. He has noticed a steady increase over the past several years in the demand for women’s product, especially apparel, as well as a continually growing market for NHL vintage/retro product.
“We will basically do special displays based more on individual teams or hot market opportunities,” Beckim said. “For example, during the season on a Saturday we will put some of the merchandise in a window display for whatever team is in playing the [Toronto Maple] Leafs and do a display of product within the store as well.”
They also did a very large display of Team Canada product leading up to and during the Olympics, so they cut back on the NHL apparel and brought in more Team Canada items. Beckim will spend a lot of time on the store floor, sometimes helping at the cash desk or doing receiving/stock work.
“I find being in the store gives you a good feel for the ‘pulse’ of the licensed industry,” Beckim said, “especially by dealing directly with customers- hearing their comments, answering questions, even just seeing what they are wearing or how they react to seeing certain products on display.”
But remember that you don’t have to be a fan of hockey to be a fan of the store. Beckim sees a lot from people visiting that are just along for the ride and might not have any real interest in hockey. However, they always know someone who does love hockey.
“You will always see someone buying a gift for a child, parent, spouse, boyfriend, etc.,” he said, “so you could say we offer these people the opportunity to be a hero to someone back home!”
The custom HHOF branded merchandise tends to appeal most to those who might not be hockey fans or follow a certain NHL team, as these are more souvenir or destination pieces, as opposed to hockey-specific pieces. But they do carry a lot of products – mugs, keychains, zipper pulls, pens, etc.- that have a personal name on it or some general names/titles, such as 2010, No. 1 fan, Goalie, Hockey Mom, etc.
“Because these are on items that are sort of your pure souvenir-type pieces,” Beckim said, “they appeal to anyone regardless of whether or not they like hockey.”
The economic downturn has been a major factor for attractions in Toronto, and not just the Spirit of Hockey store. There are simply fewer U.S. tourists, and Beckim suggests that a reason for this is that the dollar has been around par (as opposed to the days where it worked very well in their favor) and new standards have been implemented for crossing the border with passports and such. Regardless, Beckim knows that they’re ready for anything and willing to adapt to the situation.
“I think flexibility is the key with anything,” Beckim said. “Obviously rules and policies are put in place for a reason, but every situation can be unique and needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. For example, if you have a 30-day return policy, are you really going to fight a customer who tries to return something on day 32?”
Beckim said the key is to try and surround yourself with good people – both your staff and your suppliers. After all, you don’t have to be a fan of hockey to be a fan of great service and great sales.
By Abby Heugel