After a lackluster holiday season for the retail industry, one particular niche has seen good news recently. Sales of merchandise related to Barack Obama have been strong. Amazon.com has created an Inauguration Store to feature a number of presidential products available for sale.
This is the most consumerized election in recent memory, but it’s understandable. A good portion of the American public — and of people throughout the world — has been unhappy with the current administration. With imminent change, many citizens are elated. There is a desire to share in the experience of change and be a part of the festivities in Washington, D.C., even if hundreds of miles away. For those who voted for Obama, there is a sense of pride in involvement in the outcome.
Beyond this is the desire to be a part of history. Regardless of political affiliation, everyone must agree that the election of an African-American individual to the U.S. presidency is a historical achievement given this country’s history with racial issues.
These sentiments create a perfect opportunity for retailers to sell merchandise, and consumers have been buying up limited edition tee shirts, bumper stickers, posters, and collectibles quickly. Sales of some of the merchandise, like the products offered by the Presidential Inauguration Committee, goes to offset the costs of producing what must be the largest presidential festivities created. Other sales benefit non-profit organizations. Keep in mind that if you buy products from a street vendor or if you do not know the source of the products, your money might not be benefiting any organization in particular other than the seller.
While the consumer aspect of the inauguration seems to be excessive this year, it has existed since the first presidency. Even George Washington offered souvenirs during the celebration of his ascendancy. Celebrating political change has been intricately linked to American culture since the beginning, and retailers saw a great opportunity in this year’s zeitgeist.
Published or updated January 19, 2009.