Small Firm Nails Big Merch Deal With Cream At MSG

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Steve Gerstman, president of merchandising company Steve Gerstman Services, made the most out of a long association with guitar legend Eric Clapton when his boutique company secured the schwag contract for Cream’s three-night run at Madison Square Garden on October 24-26.

Given the success of the Cream reunion show at London’s Royal Albert Hall earlier this year, as well as the fact that these performances will be the legendary power trio’s only North American appearances in years, merchandise sales could easily set an MSG record.

“The Royal Albert Hall Cream dates turned out to be quite a story,” Gerstman said in an interview with Billboard.

Gerstman, who has handled merchandise for Clapton for years, is a veteran of large firms such as Winterland, Signatures and Brockum. Clapton was also the debut client when Gerstman opened SGS’ doors in 2001.

SGS partnered with Chris Cooke Management for the London Cream shows, and saw merchandise per capita soar to over $40 per head. The 5,500-capacity Royal Albert Hall is equal to only about one-quarter the size of MSG, where the product line will also be about one-third larger with as many as 25 items.

“We looked at the numbers at Royal Albert and broke it down into [different] items and what sold well,” Gerstman told the magazine. The top seller in London was a black T-shirt with the “Disraeli Gears” cover on the front, and event info on the back. A similar shirt will be sold at MSG with its own event-specific info.

The entire product line at the New York shows will range from a $10 keychain to a $400 leather bomber jacket.

“There will be a lot of people who will see the jacket and say, ‘I want that, I wish I had the money,’ and there will be a few people who say ‘I want that, and I do have the money,’” Gerstman told Billboard.

The event-specific merchandise, while it will be a big part of the sales drive, will create its own problems, according to Gerstman.

“In an ordinary tour with a run of 20-40 dates, you start out with opening inventory and then you make your adjustments,” he told the magazine. “You want a full product line on your last date and no product left over after.”

Excess inventory from the shows will be sold at cream2005.com, just as it has been from the London dates. When asked if anything would be exclusive to the concert-goer, Gerstman answered, “Yeah, everything we run out of.”

“The trick is we’ve got to be prepared,” he told Billboard. “We have to come in loaded for bear, and there is a bit of risk involved with doing that. Not only do you not know overall what kind of business you’ll do, but you don’t know what will sell in what proportion.”

To ensure large sales, MSG will be setting two large merchandise stands in the arena’s mezzanine that will open to the public at 2 P.M. each day so that “people that don’t even have a ticket can come in and buy something,” Gerstman said.

The fact that these shows are a one-off eliminates a lot of accounting, labor and transportation expenses as well.

“The cost-to-sale on this one is very, very nice,” Gerstman told Billboard. “But on the other side of the ledger, we don’t have the luxury to be able to say, ‘Let’s print 500 of these and see how they go.’ You’ve got one shot.”

Steve Gerstman Services can be contacted through www.sgerstman.com. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers

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