Editor’s note: This story was originally published by Missouri Business Alert, a member of the KC Media Collective, which also includes Startland News, KCUR 89.3, American Public Square, Kansas City PBS/Flatland, and The Kansas City Beacon.
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Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears brought together two powerful fanbases: Swifties and Chiefs fans. Then, Kansas City retailers saw a business opportunity.
After pop star Taylor Swift made a surprise appearance at the game, her fans that previously weren’t connected with the team began to tune in. Swift was shown on TV in an Arrowhead Stadium suite, cheering on Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce alongside his mom, and she was seen with him after the team’s win.
The Swift-Kelce connection brought increased interest in the Chiefs. Demand for Chiefs tickets surged on the secondary market, sales of Kelce’s jersey shot up, and Heinz even announced a limited-edition condiment bottle inspired by fan interest in Swift’s game day dipping sauces.
Kansas City businesses have picked up on this trend and want in. When customers walk into Raygun, an apparel retailer with a store in Kansas City, they are greeted with a table of red shirts labeled “Taylor Swift loves Kansas City” and “In My Arrowhead Era” beside local news articles about the pair.
The store had plans to make the shirts before the Sunday game, store manager Xavier Ross said. That decision came after Travis’ brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, mentioned Travis and Swift being an item.
After Sunday’s game, production started on the shirts. Ross said Raygun’s staff has a lot of Swifties, or fans of Taylor Swift, and designed the shirts around references to her lyrics.
“It was like a really quick production — like a one-day turnaround for those shirts,” he said.
The shirts, which arrived Tuesday, have gained a lot of attention from customers.
“A lot of men are coming in, buying it for their wives who are fans of Taylor Swift or fans of Kelce because it’s really cute,” Ross said.
Ross has also noticed customers stopping by to take pictures with the shirts.
Raygun plans to keep up the momentum with this. The store is currently working with local artists to make Kelce and Swift stickers to sell.
For stores that sell traditional Chiefs merchandise, fans are flocking to Kelce’s jersey, according to Carly George, an inventory specialist for Rally House on the Country Club Plaza.
“His jerseys were flying off the shelves Monday,” she said. “It was kind of ridiculous.”
“Tween girls” were also coming in specifically asking for Kelce and Swift merch, she said.
At The Bunker, another apparel store in Kansas City, more customers have been coming in to buy the Travis Kelce “prayer candle,” general manager Drew Barr said.
“It’s got a graphic on it and says Saint Kelce. It’s pretty funny,” Barr said. “And that’s one that has definitely seen a pick-up.”
The Bunker decided on Monday to produce several shirts referencing the couple, in response to requests from customers. One shirt in particular will feature Kelce’s jersey number, 87, with the phrase “I loved him first.” Barr said the shirts should be in store by the end of the week or early next week.
“I think once they’re actually on the store shelves that we’re gonna see a very quick sell-through,” he said.
Kansas City-based apparel brands like Charlie Hustle and Forever Cherry Co. are also selling merchandise themed around the two. On Charlie Hustle’s website, the “In My Red Era” shirt and sweatshirt — which refer to a Swift album and the Chiefs’ primary color — are nearly sold out.
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Pink Dinosaur, a Kansas City boutique, is hosting a “Tay x Trav Tailgate” at the store for the Chiefs’ game on Oct. 22.
With Swift and Kelce being such a new phenomenon, stores said it is difficult to assess the financial impact of fan interest in the celebrity pair, especially with many items landing on shelves only days ago.
But the Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce era appears likely to continue for these businesses. Swift is reportedly planning to attend the Chiefs’ road game against the New York Jets this Sunday.