Will this be the successful transit store that has always eluded the TTC?
The TTC takes its latest shot at selling branded transit merchandise with TTCshop.ca, an online store that was unveiled today.
The timing coincides with the peak shopping season of the year, so gift-buyers who missed out on Black Friday deals can purchase something for the urbanist on their gift list. Among the items available are TTC-branded T-shirts ($29), streetcar USB flash drives ($25), mugs ($10), toques ($9), and even a subway stations shower curtain ($90). Shipping is free on orders over $50.
Over the past 10 years or so, private sellers have proven that there is a strong market for transit-branded merchandise in the city. In particular, Spacing‘s TTC buttons and magnets proved to be popular and lucrative. Building on this success, Spacing opened a bricks-and-mortar store at 401 Richmond in 2014. Other individuals have made their own merchandise available for sale on online platforms like Etsy.
The TTC’s attempts at capitalizing on a resurgent interest in their brand and history have not gone well. From 2006 to 2010, TTC merch was sold out of a dinky store called Transit Stuff in Union Station. The store, which was run by a Woodbridge-based apparel company, only made the TTC around $6,000 in 2009. By then, when the TTC realized there wasn’t much money to be made in the merch game, the commission stopped trying to stamp out independent retailers and artists and gave their approval.
After making some merchandise available in March 2013 at the TTC’s Customer Service Centre located at Davisville station, the commission opened an online store in July 2014, selling a handful of posters and maps.
The TTC is trying a different approach this time. In an email to Torontoist, the head of TTC customer communications, Cheryn Thoun, notes that previous attempts to launch TTC merch were done without any substantial market research. “We took our time to develop the merchandise with a retail and external mindset, rather than simply putting TTC logos on various products.” She adds that the merchandise is Canadian- or Toronto-made whenever possible.
The TTC is partnering with Toronto-based SVS Marketing on this attempt at a store. The commission retains all branding and approval rights, while “not holding any risk to inventory or cost management,” according to Thoun. SVS has a three-year contract for the TTC store, with the TTC holding the right to exercise two option years. The TTC will earn a percentage of the sales and report on revenue generated by the shop.
This attempt at TTC-approved merch is more modern (that is, nice) than Transit Stuff and more extensive than the 2013–14 store. It likely won’t net the TTC much money, so don’t expect a fare freeze due to sales, but as a means to celebrate transit, it’s long overdue.