Love your “I love My Ducks” T-shirt? John Henzie of Triangle Graphics is worried that with the UO’s new request for proposals (RFP) for apparel licenses asking for a half million dollars as a “minimum annual guarantee,” small, local businesses like his won’t be able to compete and make spur-of-the moment T-shirts anymore. The RFP does not affect Nike.
Henzie says if area businesses such as Triangle Graphics or McKenzie by Sew-On lose the license then both Duck fans and employees lose. Duck apparel is about 20 percent of his sales, he says, and if he’s unable to be a licensee, then he anticipates laying off one full-time employee and a part-timer — 25 percent of his staff. He also wouldn’t be able to hire college students at Christmas to help with the extra work that making shirts for Duck football bowl games brings in — a time period Henzie calls “the hot market.” To those kids, the jobs are “a big deal,” he says.
He also says that without small, local companies able to turn out new designs and T-shirts quickly, creativity will be lost. In addition to “I Love My Ducks,” he cites the popular “Welcome to Autzen: Where Teams Go to R.I.P.” grim reaper T-shirt he printed for a 2009 Halloween game that became an overnight success. It was an idea thought up not by a large company, but by a Duck fan from Gresham.
To get the UO’s $500,000 minimum, the licensee would have to sell $5 million worth of merchandise to retailers. Even if he got a sub-license from a big company, Henzie roughly estimates that T-shirt printing profits could drop from $1-$3 a shirt to 8-10 cents a shirt. He also thinks larger companies will seek to save money by printing overseas. The RFP brings up a lot of questions, he says, and proposals are due June 21.
Matthew Dyste, UO’s director of marketing and brand management, says the change in the apparel licensing came about after Oregon did a study on its licensee program two years ago. He says that the changes reflect “diligent work to promote the UO and explore alternative sources of revenue.” He adds that, “A good licensing program supports the promotion of the institution.”
Dyste says, “It is not a finished process, by any means.” The RFP asks respondents to say what benefits Oregon businesses, such as banks, might get, and he says it allows for partnerships or conglomerates among businesses. Could local businesses still be involved? “It’s a possibility,” Dyste says.