Browns merchandise gives retailers the blues Colors and official news blunt its sales appeal

The Nfl Returns To Baltimore

February 10, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

They are a drab shade of brown with garish splashes of orange, and they have been marked down 50 percent.

Yes, at Dick's Clothing & Sporting Goods' White Marsh store, the hunting vests are on sale. The same is true of the Browns merchandise across the aisle, but those jackets and shirts aren't much more fetching than the hunting gear. And these days they probably serve less of a purpose.

Orange and brown may be the colors that stir souls in Cleveland, but purple, teal and black are the hot colors in sports merchandising. In Baltimore these days, you can hardly give away Browns stuff.

"They're not exactly eye-catching colors. I don't think anyone would buy them for the looks," Michelle Chambers, clothing manager at Dick's, acknowledged. "You want to buy some?"

Browns merchandise sold well in Baltimore -- but only briefly -- after owner Art Modell's announcement in November that he intended to move his team to Baltimore.

"We sold tons," said Dan McClure, co-owner of East Coast

Screen Printers, a T-shirt wholesaler with a small retail shop in southwest Baltimore. His best customers, he said, were bars buying in bulk for Monday night football giveaways.

"Everyone was excited about the Browns," he said. "We were wearing those dreadful colors."

His company also designed prototype Baltimore Browns T-shirts and sent them to the NFL to get a head start on licensing approval. He made about 50 of them, and now they're in a stock room.

Yesterday, he unveiled a new shirt -- one with the names Stallions, Colts, Ravens, Bombers, Browns, Bays and CFLs, crossed out, followed by, "Next?!"

Scott Rittler, assistant manager at Herman's World of Sporting Goods in Marley Station Mall, said that he hasn't sold any Browns merchandise since before Christmas.

At Dick's, the initial demand was great enough that the chain's Cleveland stores shipped Browns merchandise to Baltimore. Yesterday, Chambers shook her head and added, "That seems like a long time ago."

Browsing the new line of Orioles jerseys yesterday at Dick's, Jim Gentile, 23, said, "I have no interest at all in Browns merchandise. I'm waiting to see what the new team is called."

But at least one sale was made yesterday. Donald J. Gilmore, a retired judge who earlier in the day had filled in to handle criminal arraignments in Baltimore Circuit Court, settled on a Browns cap.

Chambers, the store's clothing manager, said prices likely will be slashed further on Browns merchandise. And if it still doesn't sell?

"I would send it back to Cleveland," she said.

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