Does A Team’s Attendance Correlate To Their Official Store Offerings?

nhl storeWhen I started writing on The Hockey Writers, I thought that it would be appropriate to get some Florida Panthers shwag. Shwag, or “schwag” depending on your preference, are the shirts, hats, jerseys, and other team gear that we love to wear in support of our favorite teams. It’s a very technical term! My search for Panthers shwag took me to their official online store, and I began browsing. The store had some interesting items, but it was a surprisingly small offering. There were a few good t-shirts, a couple of hats that I liked, and a smattering of other things, but it left me underwhelmed. I decided to look at some other team stores in order to see what different selections they would offer. I did have a hunch that the historically well-followed teams would have some more gear, and I was right. The Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Pittsburgh Penguins were among the leaders in variety and quantity of shwag.

All of this online shopping got me thinking about a question – what dictates the amount of offerings in each team’s online store? Is it their success on the ice? Is it their attendance? Is it the importance of hockey in the city? Most likely, I thought that it had to be a combination of these factors which actually led to the most important question – how much money is a fan base willing to spend on their team? Whether the fan base is spending money on a team because it’s winning, because it’s the only team in town, or because hockey is the most important sport in the city is just a factor in the bigger picture.

With these questions in mind, I created a small study. I wanted to see how team attendance correlated to the amount of shwag in each team’s store because I believe that attendance is a good indicator of how much money a fan base is willing to spend on their team. With that in mind, I first added up the total amount of men’s items, women’s items, and hats in each team’s store and ranked each team from most shwag to least. Then, I looked at attendance for each team in the past three years. I focused on the percentage of seats that each team filled on average during that time span. I ranked the teams from highest percentage to lowest percentage. Below, you’ll see the “Shwag Ranking” and the “Attendance Ranking.” Just a quick note – I did not look at the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise because obviously the store offerings and attendance figures would no longer be related. Also, the quantity of goods in each NHL store is up to date as of Monday, October 10, 2011.

Shwag Ranking Team Shwag Attendance Ranking Team % Capacity
1 Chicago 353 1 Chicago 109.4%
2 Boston 344 2 Toronto 102.7%
3 Pittsburgh 320 3 Minnesota 101.5%
4 Detroit 313 4 Pittsburgh 101.4%
5 NY Rangers 305 5 Vancouver 101.2%
6 Philadelphia 304 6 Ottawa 101.0%
7 Washington 303 7 Philadelphia 100.5%
8 New Jersey 275 8 NY Rangers 100.4%
9 San Jose 257 9 San Jose 100.3%
10 Minnesota 244 10 Calgary 100.0%
11 Colorado 216 11 Edmonton 100.0%
12 Buffalo 208 12 Montreal 100.0%
13 Vancouver 201 13 Buffalo 99.0%
14 Toronto 195 14 Washington 99.0%
15 Dallas 177 15 Boston 98.7%
16 Los Angeles 176 16 Detroit 98.2%
17 Montreal 175 17 St. Louis 95.7%
18 NY Islanders 159 18 Los Angeles 94.2%
19 Calgary 154 19 Anaheim 91.0%
20 Carolina 153 20 Dallas 89.9%
21 Edmonton 153 21 Nashville 89.8%
22 St. Louis 153 22 New Jersey 87.2%
23 Anaheim 151 23 Carolina 85.8%
24 Ottawa 140 24 Tampa Bay 83.8%
25 Columbus 133 25 Columbus 82.0%
26 Phoenix 130 26 Colorado 81.8%
27 Tampa Bay 124 27 Florida 80.5%
28 Nashville 111 28 NY Islanders 76.8%
29 Florida 94 29 Phoenix 74.9%

How do we figure out what this means? To do that I subtracted each team’s “Attendance Ranking” from its “Shwag Ranking.” This shows us whether my hypothesis that the amount of money a fan base spends on their team, as measured by the team’s attendance, correlates with the amount of shwag in the store. So for example, the Chicago Blackhawk’s “Shwag Ranking” is 1 and their “Attendance Ranking” is 1. Thus, the difference between the rankings is 0, and we understand that it makes sense for the Blackhawk’s store to have the most goods because they have had the highest attendance. The fan base is willing to spend on the team in the arena, so they have the most offerings in the store because they’re most likely also buying from the store. Below are the rest of the differences as shown in the column labeled “Difference.” The rankings are from most negative difference to most positive difference. A negative difference shows that a team is ranked higher in the quantity of items in their store than in their attendance. Alternatively, a positive difference shows that a team is ranked higher in their attendance than in the quantity of goods in their store.

Rank Team Difference
1 Colorado -15
2 New Jersey -14
3 Boston -13
4 Detroit -12
5 NY Islanders -10
6 Washington -7
7 Dallas -5
8 NY Rangers -3
9 Carolina -3
10 Phoenix -3
11 Los Angeles -2
12 Pittsburgh -1
13 Philadelphia -1
14 Buffalo -1
15 Chicago 0
16 San Jose 0
17 Columbus 0
18 Florida 2
19 Tampa Bay 3
20 Anaheim 4
21 Montreal 5
22 St. Louis 5
23 Minnesota 7
24 Nashville 7
25 Vancouver 8
26 Calgary 9
27 Edmonton 10
28 Toronto 12
29 Ottawa 18

What do we see? We see that Chicago, the San Jose Sharks, and the Columbus Blue Jackets have a perfect correlation between their attendance and amount of shwag. Alternatively, the Ottawa Senators are under represented in the team store because their attendance ranks sixth while their shwag ranking is much lower. By the same token, the Colorado Avalanche is over represented in the team store. Their attendance is much lower than the quantity of goods in the store.

For me, the most interesting finding is that the Canadian teams all have positive differences showing that they have a higher “Attendance Ranking” than “Shwag Ranking.” Most interesting is that the five highest differences are all from the Canadian teams. Why are they ranked so highly in attendance but have much fewer shwag options than teams like the Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, and Boston Bruins who have a disproportionately positive amount of shwag to attendance? Perhaps it shows the spending habits of the fans that are not coming to games? Perhaps it has something to do with the size of the cities or the fan bases?

Overall, the study shows that for the majority of the teams, we can assume that attendance shows a propensity to spend and the offerings in the stores are based on that propensity to spend. Sixteen of the twenty-nine teams examined had a difference between negative five and positive five and were in the right neighborhood. This included my Panthers who had a positive difference of two, so the Panthers low attendance correlates appropriately with their few offerings.

If you’re wondering, here is the hat that I ended up purchasing!