Take Me Out to the Gift Shop


On Friday morning, at 11:40 on the dot, hundreds of Mets fans flooded into the new team store at Citi Field in Queens. It was the opening day of baseball season, and they were the first ones into the new space, located in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, the grand entryway to the ballpark.

Susan Wiedeman, 65, from Riverdale, N.J., who has attended Mets opening day with her husband for the last 40 years, was giddy with the experience. “We were just about the first ones in,” she said. “That was really cool.”

At 10,000 square feet, the store is twice the size of its previous iteration and filled with new technology, art and merchandise. There are vastly higher ceilings — “Last year I could adjust a lightbulb myself if I needed,” said James Benesh, the executive director of consumer products for the Mets — and a hanging sculpture by Michael Murphy, an artist in Brooklyn. The orange sculpture has the Mets logo intertwined in different cityscapes.

Part of the new store’s appeal is the sheer size of its inventory. “There is a lot of stuff in here,” said Janet Conlon, 75, who lives in Hillsborough, N.J., and is a school bus driver. She already has a closet full of Mets apparel at home, including more than 40 baseball hats. On opening day she wore three layers of Mets clothes — “I don’t like to be cold,” she said — and carried a branded bag and blanket. Still, the store offered bountiful new options.

“I’ve never seen a lot of this stuff before,” she said, laughing. “It’s amazing.”

In the space where 12 T-shirts used to be on display, there are now 52, according to Mr. Benesh. There are also more than 3,000 baseballs on the shelves at any given time. And the store has 40 staff members, double the size that was previously needed.

But the Mets organization has also raised its game in terms of what it is selling, especially to female fans.

“We’ve been getting feedback for a few years now that female fans don’t necessarily want a man’s shirt turned into pink,” Mr. Benesh said.

The team is restricted to selling items from approved M.L.B. vendors, and it has tapped some of the licensed newcomers to make capsule collections sold exclusively at Citi Field. For instance, rather than ceding the market for vintage sportswear to Etsy or vintage stores, the Mets are offering those items in-house. Refried Apparel, a company that makes new clothes from salvageable old items, has a line of jean jackets with vintage Mets logos and numbers that are sold at the team store.

“There is a lot of waste within our industry,” said Joanna Mingo, who is the consumer products coordinator for the Mets. “We have players who get traded, and then we can’t sell their jersey. Now we can send them to this cool company, and they make something that looks like you would find it on Etsy made by a girl in her college dorm.”

Other smaller brands offer bedazzled bomber jackets, corduroy hats, sequined crop tops and satin windbreakers. Personalized jerseys and limited-edition merchandise are also sold, but exclusively to V.I.P. ticket holders.

“This is stuff I can wear out on a walk or to brunch, not just to games,” said Hannah O’Neill, 26, a nurse from Rockville Centre, N.Y., who was shopping the collection on opening day. “Two years ago, you wouldn’t be able to get any of this stuff.” She had her eye on a hat covered in flowers.

Others were frankly mesmerized by the new RFID self-checkout system. Shoppers dump their purchases into a bucket, and a computer reads a RFID price tag attached to the item. The items pop up on a screen, and the buyers tap their cards to pay. “There is no scanning,” Mr. Benesh said. “It goes much faster.”

Still, there were a few growing pains. Some shoppers called over store associates to help them navigate the system.

“I’ve heard a lot of people in line complaining about it, but I’m young and love self-checkout,” said Dani Wasserman, 27, who is studying for a graduate degree in film in Boulder, Colo., and whose dad grew up on Long Island. They bought a Francisco Alvarez jersey.

It was only the first day of a long shopping season for Mets fans, as Mr. Benesh reminded the store staff in a meeting just before the gates opened. “If you hear any feedback, bring it to us,” he said. “We have 79 more games to go after today.”

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