Photo Credit: CafePress
These days, political-themed merchandise is no small business, and it’s not just the bumper stickers of yesteryear that are flying off shelves. From graphic tees to iPhone cases, people of all ages and political persuasions are turning to retailers for help getting their opinions out in the open. Meanwhile, at least one of those retailers is paying close attention to how those sales might relate to the ups and downs of this election season.
Since the beginning of this year CafePress -- an e-commerce site that powers user-designed merchandise -- has been tracking its sales of political T-shirts, buttons and even jammies. Boasting more than 130,000 new designs per week, CafePress is considered something of a cultural barometer. According to their sales of the politically-oriented clothing and tchotchkes, President Obama had a clear lead -- at least in the beginning.
The incumbent president sold more than eighty-four percent of political items during the first week of January, but the sales gap between he and Republican rival Mitt Romney has been closing in recent weeks. By the end of May, sales of merchandise supporting Romney had almost doubled from the meager fifteen percent he’d started out with while sales of Obama-related items had fallen by more than fifteen percent during the same time frame.
The closing gap doesn’t come as much of a surprise. As Romney’s GOP primary rivals have slowly left the race for the GOP nomination, it would make sense that his base of support is growing. What is unexpected however, is how one of those rivals has consistently and significantly out-sold him -- Texas Congressamn Ron Paul.
So will sales of election-themed merchandise translate into a true predictor of who will win the White House this fall? It's probably safe to say that mugs and t-shirts have never single-handedly landed a presidential hopeful in the Oval Office. But it sure will be fun to watch!