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Winter Olympic Souvenirs Sell Out Fast


One of Vancouver's biggest attractions is shopping at the Hudson's Bay company store. The only official Vancouver Olympic store.

One of Vancouver's biggest attractions is shopping at the Hudson's Bay company store. The only official Vancouver Olympic store.

In downtown Vancouver, one of the biggest attractions is not an Olympic venue - it's a department store. The Hudson's Bay company store is the only official Vancouver Olympic store, and fans are willing to spend hours in line to take home a piece of Olympic history.

The word 'souvenir' comes from a Latin word that mean's to bring to mind. Souvenirs are usually small items, or trinkets that remind people of an experience. But souvenirs have become a major business as well, and at the 2010 Winter Games, souvenirs require almost as much strategy and patience as winning a medal.

Outside the Hudson's Bay company store in downtown Vancouver, a line of people stretches down the block.

Hudson's Bay company store employee Brian McLelland rearranges a black t-shirt on a display figure

Hudson's Bay company store employee Brian McLelland rearranges a black t-shirt on a display figure

In a huge double-pane window stands a phalanx of mannequins wearing official Canada shirts and exercise pants, hoodies, scarves, hats and mittens. Store employee Brian McLelland snaps the arm off one faceless figure and rearranges its black t-shirt.

At the head of the line outside, an employee wearing a Vancouver 2010 fleece jacket greets visitors, making sure to thank them for their patience.

Just a few meters from the door is Riley Hunter, who says he has no idea what he wants to buy, and the line is moving fast. "Oh only like 10 minutes. Oh just official Canada stuff. Oh I have no idea, just spend a bunch of money, I guess," he said.

Hunter is closer to the truth than joking. Some of the hottest items offered at the Hudson Bay Store include a $44 long sleeve t-shirt, a $50 men's hooded fleece and the top priced item - a $400 authentic Team Canada Vancouver 2010 hockey jersey.

A little farther down the line on Seymour Street, Erica Harrison from Calgary, Alberta stands in line behind a baby carriage. A bubbly, smiling woman in her early 20s, Harrison says that she is so excited that the Olympics are in Canada, she just wants to own a piece of it. "There's a snazzy jacket and I am going to get a pair of mitts for my brother," she said. "You betcha I'm excited! It's great."

Stephanie Tarasoff, wears a pair of commemorative red mittens worn by the Canadian National team in the Opening Ceremonies February 12

Stephanie Tarasoff, wears a pair of commemorative red mittens worn by the Canadian National team in the Opening Ceremonies February 12

The mits she refers to are special commemorative red mittens worn by the Canadian National team in the Opening Ceremonies February 12. The mittens have a white maple leaf in the palm, in a reverse color scheme from the Canadian national flag.

On Granville Street outside the Royal Canadian Mint pavilion is Stephanie Tarasoff, who wears a pair of the mittens. Her mother Cathy also has the mittens, and Stephanie says she got them before the Games began in Victoria, British Columbia. "It's nice to have like, everybody wearing the same mittens because you've got this whole … unity, Canada unity! At Christmas time it wasn't hard to get them, maybe now, but not when I got them," she stated.

A little farther down Granville Street is the Granville Sports Corner shop, a small, dimly lighted shop with every centimeter from floor to ceiling crammed with commemorative team gear - not just Canada, but also Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, the United States and Finland. Manager Mike Jackson says the Olympics are really good for business.

"Actually all the countries are going really well, we're running out," Jackson said. "Finland, USA I've sold out three times. Russia's really going. Latvia's sold out. Swiss I'm almost sold out. The Czech I am almost out. I am almost out of Sweden and most of that stuff we can't reorder."

Jackson says in the first few days of the Olympics his business has sold almost three times the merchandise as at Christmas. Business has been so good, Jackson says he wishes the Olympics would come to Vancouver about every eight years.

And team gear is not the only souvenir available in Vancouver - there are also the official Olympic mascots, including a Sasquatch or yeti called Quatchi and three other figures that combine aboriginal mythological figures.

There are also hats, scarves, magnets, mouse pads for computers, blankets, bookmarks, coffee cups, pens, and replicas of the Inukshuk stone statue that adorns the official Olympic logo.

And fans will buy them to remember their Olympic experience. And with the gift, novelty and souvenir industry generating billions of dollars in revenue each year, marketing Olympic memories gives a whole new meaning to the phrase go for the gold.

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