London 2012: Organizers Hope to Sell $1.55 Billion in Olympics Merchandise

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Retail experts are doubtful, citing high prices and "esoteric" products.

LONDON - Whatever records the athletes may set over the next couple of weeks, the 2012 Summer Olympics here have already set one: the 10,000 official merchandise items for sale mean the largest selection of souvenirs tied to the Games ever.

Organizers hope to sell £1 billion ($1.55 billion) or more of Olympics paraphernalia - from rubber ducks, umbrellas and toys to T shirts, hats and egg cups, the Wall Street Journal reported. Most of them are adorned with the British Union Jack, the Olympic logo or the London 2012 mascots Wenlock and Mandeville

But retail industry observers express some doubts. Verdict Research has estimated that the Olympics could generate £100 million ($157 million) in merchandise sales this quarter, according to the Journal.

"I'd be amazed if they got anywhere near that," Bryan Roberts, director of retail insights at research firm Kantar Retail, told the paper when asked about the £1 billion target.

And online vendors have Olympic merchandise on sale even though the Games only formally kick off with the opening ceremony Friday night.

"Everything is expensive; why should tourists buy it?" Paygar Sediqi, a store manager here told the Journal. He highlighted that Olympic T shirts cost £20 ($31), more than twice the price of most other T shirts. He said they are not selling.

"The logo and the mascot[s] have not exactly been taken to heart by the British public," said Roberts, adding that some products offered are "fairly esoteric."

Art critic Stephen Bayley has criticized the Olympics merchandise more than most. He called the London Olympic logo "one of the most superlatively awful devices of all time," and the mascots "computer-generated Smurfs," the Journal said.

The London Olympics organizing committee has said that if merchandise sales hit its £1 billion target, they would provide it with an £80 million ($125 million) profit windfall. The Journal said the organization wouldn't detail retail sales to-date or say what would happen if it fell short of the target. But the committee told the Journal that sales are "on track" and would peak during the Olympics.

The £1 billion goal "felt ambitious at first, but we've got great confidence," Simon Lilley, the London organizing committee's head of retail. "If you've got $5 or $500, there's something for you."


Twitter: @georgszalai