Bin Laden News Took Vendors By Surprise


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you're looking to buy an "Osama bin Laden is Dead" T-shirt, don't bother looking until tomorrow.

Street vendors were as surprised by bin Laden's death as anyone.

Capitalizing on global news such as 9/11 or such events as the World Series and Super Bowl through impulse sales is a big way many street vendors, small card shops and tourist-centric stores make their money.

The businesses look to fill instant demand for memorabilia through lightning production of T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, banners, magnets and what-not commemorating an event.

In some cases, such as the World Series, T-shirt production and distribution is negotiated ahead of time (sometimes with winning and losing versions for each team), with vendors ready to stock paraphernalia overnight.

President Barack Obama made a surprise announcement Sunday that Osama bin Laden, leader of the Islamist fundamentalist group al Qaeda and mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was killed in Pakistan by U.S. military forces. It was one of those cases in which demand by the low-inventory stalls and shops wasn't expected and production may take a bit more time.

Several vendors in downtown New York on Monday said they won't have a shipment until Tuesday at the earliest. Most were reluctant to talk.

Among the vendors expecting inventory marking bin Laden's death to arrive Tuesday is Sam Roberts, who sets up shop by Battery Park.

Sales of bin Laden memorabilia are unlikely to be even close to those for large sporting events or 9/11, despite the goods likely drawing attention from tourists and other pedestrians, says Roberts and his partners. They expect to make at least a "couple thousand" from them, selling until demand falls.

"It's going to be [memorable], but not that big because this is not someone we approve of," Roberts says of bin Laden. "The mere fact that we got him is good."

A T-shirt, designed by Roberts and his two partners, will sell for $10. They will also sell hats, sweatshirts and banners, Roberts says. Their printer will make just about anything, they say. For "competitive reasons" they wouldn't reveal the company they work with.

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