New Trackside Superstore enhances retail experience for race fans

LONG POND, PA - JULY 31:  A general view of the NASCAR Trackside Superstore ahead of practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 31, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

LONG POND, PA – JULY 31: A general view of the NASCAR Trackside Superstore ahead of practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 31, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

LONG POND, Pa. – When fans arrive for Sunday’s Windows 10 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway (on NBCSN at 1:30 p.m. ET), they are guaranteed to see something they’ve never seen before—and it won’t happen on the race track.

That large white modular 60,000-square-foot tent in Pocono’s Fan Fair isn’t just a new fixture at the track. It’s a completely new concept in the trackside retailing of racing merchandise and memorabilia, one that’s designed to make shopping significantly easier and more efficient.

Instead of standing in line in the sun or rain in front of the window of a merchandise hauler and ultimately pointing to the item they’d like to examine, fans can browse through the covered 16×10-foot modules dedicated to particular drivers or specific teams.

All the merchandise is centrally located in the NASCAR Trackside Superstore, operated under a 10-year agreement by Fanatics, the largest online retain company on the planet.

“It’s a better opportunity for fans to see and touch in a retail experience at the race track,” says Fanatics CEO Ross Tannenbaum. “It’s a much stronger overall experience for the fan base.”

Accordingly, the Fan Fair at Pocono has a completely different look this year. The Trackside Superstore has supplanted most of the individual merchandise haulers that used to populate the area behind the main grandstand at the 2.5-mile track.

There are still haulers for the manufacturers, and the two Team Penske drivers—Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano—still have individual haulers because of contractual obligations with Speedway Motorsports, Inc., through the end of this year.

Otherwise, driver merchandise is consolidated in the Trackside Superstore. It’s easier to find. And it’s much easier to examine.

For drivers such as Martin Truex Jr., whose merchandise typically has shared space in a hauler with other drivers, the Trackside Superstore concept is a welcome addition to the retail landscape.

“I thought it was awesome,” said Truex, who did a walk-through of the new facility on Friday morning. “Just from my perspective, I thought it seems a lot simpler. It seems more modern and just a nicer area to be in. There is shade, there is a little bit of air flow. It is not standing out in the sun sweating walking around to try to find your driver’s hauler or things like that.

“The biggest thing that stuck out for me, we have a souvenir hauler that we share with other drivers. I’m constantly getting messages on Twitter and on Facebook and my fans asking me at the racetrack ‘Where do we get your hats? Where do we get your t-shirts?’  It’s like, well, I don’t know where that trailer is at this weekend. It’s just a lot more simplified especially for us. I thought it was a really cool atmosphere out there. It should be fun for the fans. I think they’re going to enjoy it.”

Indeed, fans were lined up at the entrance of the Trackside Superstore for a ribbon-cutting ceremony early Friday morning. Afterwards, they streamed into the facility and began to pore over the merchandise.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans had plenty to look at—about 20 percent of the retail area was devoted to NASCAR’s perennial most popular driver.

But fans of Cole Whitt and Matt DiBenedetto, for example, also found merchandise that was prominent and accessible, without running from hauler to hauler trying to locate it.

If you want a particular hat, the New Era Headware module features 10,000 hats featuring 24 drivers. All told, 58 drivers and 25 teams are represented within the $2.5-million retail inventory. The Lionel Diecasts area in the Collectibles Shop features 1,400 items.

And when it came time to pay for purchases, there were more than 60 point-of-sale registers in a separate area to make the process fast and efficient.

Currently, Fanatics uses three different modular superstores in rotation. On race weekend at Pocono, a modular facility already was under construction at Watkins Glen. A different superstore will be in place at Michigan, and when the Pocono race is over, Fanatics will strike the facility in Pennsylvania and transport it to Bristol.

In addition, the superstores can expand and contract according to the size of the event. Throughout the rest of the season, Fanatics and NASCAR will work together to refine and improve the operation.

“For us, we’re going to nit-pick this thing to death,” Tannenbaum said. “All of our staff is going to be at the first four races.”

But what the fans will see on Sunday is already radically different from the retail experience they’ve had in the past.

And both NASCAR and Fanatics are convinced it also will be a dramatic improvement.

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