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Why Merch Sales for a North Carolina Fair Spiked 1,200%

October 22, 2019 | Joseph Myers

Change can prove difficult to accept, but it can also end up being pretty lucrative. Organizers of the Dixie Classic Fair, which is changing its name for next year, learned the latter recently, as the 137th edition of the North Carolina gathering netted a 1,200 percent increase in merch sales over 2018’s tallies, with the pending name change surely the cause.

The Winston-Salem City Council’s Community Development/Housing/General Government Committee meeting rechristened the fair, first held in 1882, on Tuesday, with an account by the city’s WXII noting that the “Dixie” element became expendable once community members dubbed it divisive.

Those who attended the Oct. 4-13 fair had known that officials would be pondering a swap during the fair, so they bought merch to the tune of $46,985 through their days at the annual observance. The fair’s organizers initially ordered around four times the amount of products that they normally would, but soon realized that even this increased haul would not be enough to accommodate the merchandise-hungry crowd. After the opening weekend, they had to order more.

“I think people definitely wanted to collect a piece of nostalgia and, you know, have the logo around for the rest of their lives,” spokesperson Siobhan Olson said of the merch sales explosion.

She makes a great point with respect to brand signifiers. Times change, and with them come reevaluations of terms that once held considerable sway. Since the use of “Dixie” became a point of contention, end-users knew they would have an opportunity to be the final fairgoers to see the aged logo on novelties such as baseball caps, cookbooks, sweatshirts, T-shirts and Mason jars. They went on to epitomize how emotionally connected consumers can become to artistic representations on products and other forms of brand distinction, an allegiance that we have covered here at Promo Marketing.

Next year’s fair will delight North Carolina dwellers and visitors as the Carolina Classic Fair, and it stands to reason that merch sales for that assembly will be strong, too, since products will bear that name for the first time, making them sought after for posterity purposes. It will be interesting to see how promotional products industry professionals benefit from the alteration and what new products they might think to introduce to the festivities.

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