Affinity merchandising is big businesses. It’s all part of what academics call fandom, and includes everything from sports team jerseys and caps to action figures, bobbleheads, games, and more from television shows, artists, and anything else the collective hive deems cool.
That’s pop culture for you. It’s hard to put a finger on that pulse and extract a dollar value, though, because it’s typically all lumped together with other merchandise. But you know it’s popular because you see it all the time.
Time To Expand
Which explains why Walmart has decided to expand its test market for the Netflix Hub it launched a year ago to include 2400 stores. That’s a little bit more than half of all Walmarts in the States. Shoppers will now be able to purchase wearables, collectibles, and otherwise useables based on their fave Netflix shows, like Stranger Things, Squid Game, and others. Previously these products were hard to find, sometimes found in places like Spencer’s, Hot Topic, and online.
It makes sense, because there is a degree of exclusivity about shows you find on Netflix and other streaming services. You have to subscribe, which automatically eliminates some people. If you subscribe and if you watch, you are now in the cool group. Well, as long as the zeitgeist declares the show to be cool.
And as we all know, there are some shows on streaming services that resonate far beyond anything the old-school network stations, and even cable networks, can ever hope to score. They spread virally, and as it does, Netflix, for example, greets us upon login with what is trending. It’s fuel on a fire.
Rock And A Hard Place
In a rare example of available data, 40% of Hard Rock Cafe’s revenues come from sales of affinity merchandise. That’s pretty solid, meaning that for nearly every buck you spend on food and drinks, you spend the same on stuff. And this is the stuff that has badge value, because it means you more than likely picked it up while on travel. You also have equally good taste in popular eating establishments.
Other streamers are getting in the game, but online. The Hulu Store has tons of cool merch, especially from shows I watch, like Only Murders In The Building and What We Do In The Shadows. HBO Max also has a lot of cool items from its shows, including The Righteous Gemstones. I am sure there are others.
You know what’s going to be on my Christmas Wish List, so feel free to go ahead and start your holiday shopping.
Give And Take
Any time a collaborative project pops up, it means that somebody has to do a little giving. In this case, it is Walmart. It has to trade out some otherwise utilized retail floor space in exchange for Netflix’ merch. It’s not like Walmart has 50 or 100 square feet of space sitting idly by. There is naturally an opportunity cost associated with this move.
It is relinquishing whatever sales and profits were generated from this space before Netflix shows up. But Walmart must think this is a good move, one that will yield a net positive. That’s how retail works, because you have to try to maximize sales per square foot across every square foot.
As for Netflix, it signals their commitment to diversifying its revenue stream. This now includes advertising as well as busting up little password-sharing viewing cartels. Stir in a bunch of Funko Pop figures from Squid Game and Stranger Things, and this could be golden.
All Together Now
At the end of the day, we really do not need any of these things. We just want them. Sure, we could argue that an affinity hoodie meets part of our clothing and staying warm needs. But I am speculating the odds are good that the people who buy these, as well as all the team jerseys they wear to games, already have closets full of regular clothes.
As further sweetener on the Walmart-Netflix partnership, snack foods will be available at the hubs, as well as Netflix gift cards. This reminds me of the video rental stores of the past that also sold theatre-sized boxes of Goobers and Raisinets so you could replicate the viewing experience at home. Think of the gift card as a starter pack to get new subscribers sucked in.
This is sheer genius, and both companies are wise to move ahead with this one. I’ll be looking for it and ways to spend my money on things I don’t need. But man, they’re cool. And I will be too.
Dr “Hawkins High School For The Win“ Gerlich