By Kim Artlip, Columnist
Not long before there was an IGNITE Wrestling, there was a quiet little merchandise company called Wrestle Swag. Basically fulfillment of tee shirt orders, it moved aside when IGNITE Wrestling went from vision and planning to reality. But my love of merchandising was there and it flares up every few months as fans make requests and cool innovative ideas come to mind.
Now I’m not going to bore you by listing all the types of merchandise there is but I want to talk about the old standard. The Tee Shirt. We’ve all got ’em, and if you are like me then you have an entire drawer and section of your closet devoted to them.
What fans may not realize that tee shirts account for about 40% at least for most wrestlers when it comes to income. That is why you see them out there literally supporting their family’s daily living expenses so that they can be on the road week in and out.
With traditionally only shows on weekends in the States, a big portion of the money that wrestlers bring home minus travel expenses comes from the sale of merchandise.
One of the people who really has got the merch game down is LuFisto who placed in the number five spot for 2014 in the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Female Top 50. With experience in web design in real life, she has built a great website to move merch when she’s not on the road.
“It’s basically our salary. We don’t wrestle every week, but we can sell merch every week, like I do on my website,” she said. “It’s a way for us to get a little bit more. It’s always fun to see the fans wearing our tee shirts and support us that way. If you show up and you see a bunch of your tee shirts in the crowd, you already know they’re behind you and support what you do, which is amazing.”
Now you may not be as well known but sales generally increase after solid matches, because a lot of people aren’t familiar with who you are, then watch you wrestle, and are like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa! I like those guys. I want to go and support them.”
Honestly, this is how I fell in love with the Ugly Ducklings and the Gymnasty Boys. Their matches were so solid and the fans were so enamored that they wouldn’t wait to rep those ducks! Fans love that one on one interaction and their shirts are so different and always changing that you are obsessed with getting them.
So start investing in your own tee shirts, mugs, koozies, you name it. You have a chance to connect and be represented through your branding and merchandise. There is nothing more satisfying than going to another show whether it is NXT or an indy show and see your tee shirt there in the crowd. Cue the proud moment. Nothing compares.
Three years ago, when IGNITE Wrestling launched our own line of trading cards we were openly ridiculed. I heard it all from skeptical wrestlers, promoters and fans. Who would want those cards? Well I’m here to say that our card sales eclipse any other merchandise we sell and shows no signs of slowing down as we are preparing for a new updated line coming out this fall.
So get smart, ask questions, find out who has the best deals and take advantage of deals posted online. Check into companies like Fully Gimmicked, Pro Wrestling Tees, Pollyanna DIY and more. See what other wrestlers are moving at their table and take the time to make it look appealing. Don’t just toss stuff on a table and sit there with your bored expression and look like you would rather be anywhere but that table. (I see this soooo often). This is the time to interact, work that room and make yourself approachable.
You can do it.
Look at Pinterest and go to workshops on merchandising if you get the chance from Joseph Schwartz from The Bomb Shelter. Learn from workers who totally get it and want to help you expand and grow your merch game.
Get fired up, purchase a little at a time and build up that inventory. You got this. I know you do. So until next time, ignite your fire, and follow your dreams.
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