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Sports mementos made in the USA.

, Courtesy of WinCraft

Last seconds of Super Bowl are money for Winona firm

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT
  • Star Tribune
  • February 2, 2013 - 7:12 AM

As the final seconds of Super Bowl 2013 tick down Sunday, workers at a Minnesota manufacturer will be rushing into action.

WinCraft of Winona will roll out a slew of "2013 Super Bowl champions" merchandise the moment a clear victor emerges in the game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens. Pennants, key rings and other trinkets will be out the door by Monday.

Retailers can't wait weeks for Super Bowl mementos to be produced by overseas producers, which is why U.S. companies like WinCraft are asked to respond swiftly while the euphoria from the game is high.

"It's a very short window of opportunity," said WinCraft CEO Dick Pope. "Surprisingly short."

Not long after the big game, shipments from WinCraft will be flowing to dozens of retailers in the winning team's market. Decals, pennants and signs are shipped first. Other products, including wastebaskets and flags, take longer to make and arrive in stores later in the week. T-shirts are often produced at plants in the town of the winning team to get them to fans as quickly as possible.

"We sell memories of great moments," Pope said. "People want to identify with the winning team."

Although most of the merchandise will go to California or Maryland, WinCraft has orders in 38 states if the 49ers win; 36 states if the Ravens win.

"There are a lot of displaced fans around the country," Pope said. Apparently, there aren't that many 49er or Ravens fans living in Minnesota. Pope said his company hasn't received a single order from within the state.

WinCraft has been selling NFL goods for 45 years and is one of the largest and oldest of the league's licensees. The company also sells licensed products for Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and NASCAR. It also made the Homer Hankies for Twins fans.

"This is not a seasonal business," Pope said. "Every sport has a season. Our people handle championship events year-round."

Super Bowl merchandise is the biggest seller, followed by baseball. WinCraft's made-in-the-USA business model has given the company an advantage over others, said Ray Crump Jr., manager at Dome Souvenirs in Minneapolis.

"They can move stuff quicker than almost any other commemoratives company," he said.

WinCraft does not manufacture truckloads of "Super Bowl champs" merchandise for both teams in advance of the game. The company makes a small number of items to be used in the on-field presentations and in the locker rooms on Sunday.

"It's not cost-efficient to produce a lot of merchandise that has to be destroyed," Crump noted.

Pope expects this year's Super Bowl revenue to be about average compared with previous years (The best? Packers-Steelers in 2011). Pope is hoping fans will at least buy more than last year's Patriots-Giants matchup, which "was not a great seller," he said.

WinCraft was founded in 1961 as a four-person operation. Today, the company employs 475 workers in Winona and its sales exceed $80 million.

Looking ahead to Sunday's big game, Pope declined to pick a winner, but said he hopes to be with the company when it makes national championship pennants for his favorite teams.

"The Vikings or the Cubs would make me very happy," he said.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633

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