The Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case has left much of the Penn State community hurt and shaken, and now the scandal may also be hurting Penn State merchandise sales.
In the week immediately following the release of the grand jury report, sales of Penn State embellished clothing and accessories plummeted 40 percent compared to the same week last year, industry analysts said. As of Nov. 23, sales had risen slightly but still stand at 36 percent lower than this time last year.
Matt Powell, an analyst with sports industry research organization SportsOneSource, said a drop like this is almost unprecedented.
“Most of the time when a school has an issue sales actually go up. The sales improve as fans sort of rally around the team,” Powell said.
Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, is charged with sexually abusing young boys. After the grand jury report was released, former interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley were each charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse.
Powell said it takes a big upset such as this one to see such a drastic decline in merchandise sales.
“The only other time I’ve seen this sort of drop in sales was when Michael Vick was accused of dogfighting and sales dropped on his merchandise very quickly,” Powell said.
While it’s clear that the scandal plays a large role in the declining sales statistics, Penn State merchandise sales were already trending downward, Powell said.
“This downward trend can often be based on how teams are doing and things like their prospects for championships,” Powell said.
Some downtown State College merchants, such as Lions Pride, 112 E. College Ave., say they have not noticed a change in sales, while others report that however minor, there has been a decrease.
“It hasn’t been significant, but there has been a slight decline,” Jonathan Estable, floor supervisor for Old State Clothing Company, 101 E. Beaver Ave., said. “There’s still very much a high interest and loyalty within the community, but we do see more of a decline with outsiders and visitors.”
Penn State usually ranks in the top 10 in college merchandise sales, Powell said.
But only time will tell if and when sales numbers will rebound.