The Hudson’s Bay Company has answered the call from Whistler retailers to have Olympic merchandise in their stores this month.
Only a select amount of logo wear will be available and it will be doled out on a first come, first serve basis to retailers.
Despite those drawbacks, local merchants, upon learning the news, expressed excitement that they would be given the chance to sell the Olympic products, which include T-shirts, sweaters, jackets and luggage.
"Fantastic," said McCoo’s owner Jeff Coombs, who was skeptical it would happen. "I think that that’s an incredible opportunity. We’d love to start to get the feel and get the vibe going, especially as we start to see a couple of Whistler athletes head on their way (to Torino) this week."
The move comes after retailers and Hbc representative Jim Reed met in Whistler in early January. At that time Intrawest was the only company in town with a contract to sell the Olympic merchandise.
This week the Whistler Chamber of Commerce released a letter, dated Jan. 31, to the retail community from Hbc. It outlined the conditions of being chosen to sell the Olympic products and gave the retailers three days to respond.
Vancouver Organizing Committee spokesperson Maureen Douglas explained the tight timelines.
The 2006 Games begin Feb. 10. The best time to have the Canadian team logo wear in the stores is during the Games when the Olympics are top of mind.
"In order for Hbc to help ensure the success of the people that want to be in the program, they want to get it into their hands in the timeframe that makes sense," she said.
"They do have to act and respond quickly (but) it means that it maximizes their opportunity."
She expects Whistler retailers will be carrying the goods within the first week of the Games.
Neither Coombs nor retailer George Koning had read the Hbc letter when contacted by Pique Newsmagazine Wednesday morning. Both intended to apply before the deadline.
"Right after the (Vancouver Olympic) announcement everybody was looking for 2010 Whistler product," said Koning. "Now… hardly anybody (is) asking for it. But I think in February you’ll have the same (interest with the Torino Olympics)."
Chamber of Commerce board member Greg Newton, who was instrumental in organizing the Whistler retailers, was at an Olympic procurement workshop this week where the topic of conversation fell to Olympic merchandise. The products are instrumental in drawing people into stores, workshop attendees heard.
"Even if you’ve got a limited selection it still gives you an opportunity to get people in your store and hopefully sell some other wares that you have," said Newton.
"I think (the Hbc announcement is) a great marketing opportunity for retailers in Whistler to drive, hopefully, more business for themselves and for the resort."
This is the first step for the retail giant, which has a $100 million contract as exclusive provider of Olympic clothing, and the local Whistler shops. Once the Torino Olympics are over, the focus will be on the 2010 merchandise. It is hoped more retailers will be able to sell more products in the years to come.
"I think it’s a good start for Hbc and for the retailers," said Newton. "It appears that the quantities are going to be limited but I think everyone’s sort of getting their feet wet and it’s sort of a testing ground."
Douglas said she did not know how much merchandise would available in Whistler.
A new set of 2010 Olympic pins will also be available in the coming days. In all 14 new designs will be available in Whistler at various locations, including the stores beneath the Executive Inn and the Upper Village Market. The suggested retail price is $8.