New shopping experience at NASCAR tracks explained

Fanatics Authentic president Ross Tannenbaum said he wasn't surprised by the visceral and immediate reaction by scores of NASCAR fans when his company, Fanatics, announced a 10-year deal to become the official souvenir retailer of the series. The deal means merchandise haulers fans have come to love will be phased out in favor of a superstore tent.

NASCAR fans often are slow to adjust to change and misgivings about one company taking over sales left many on social media complaining about the loss of the traditional individual driver haulers and concerned about the possibility of elevated prices.

But ultimately, Tannenbaum said, "I think the fans are really going to love it."

He explained why to USA TODAY Sports' Brant James:

Q: Were you surprised at negative fan reaction?

A: "We were not surprised because we had a pretty good indication that the core, diehard NASCAR fan has become pretty accustomed to shopping in the hauler model. And the haulers are very cool. They're good-looking. They're very strongly branded. And they've been around so long they're sort of a mainstay at races. We're pretty much prepared for the first response to be kind of shock or disappointment and 'Why did you do this?' I can tell you that anybody we met with, anybody inside the industry, anybody outside the industry having any role in this, is blown away with what we are trying to accomplish.

"All we would ask is the fans give us a chance and give us a chance to grow and deliver a great experience. Grow with us as we tweak it and make it better and any issues or problems will be addressed. What they will find is they will have a much stronger selection of product, a much more normalized sort of shopping experience where you can move your away around and not be in a line at a hauler and then finally, again, waiting in line and having all that pressure when there's a bunch of people and everyone is waiting for you to get done and move on."

Q: When will the merchandise tent debut?

A: "Right now, the plan is to run the hauler model the first half of the season and launch the tent in Daytona in July. There may be some smaller testing to get some information and data."

Q: Will there be more than one tent?

A: "It will depend on the track. We are in the process right now of scheduling trips and heading out to every single track to understand the needs, look at the footprint and layout for the superstore and how many additional locations we need.

"At Daytona, we will have the super store — a huge tent model — in a great centralized location and then there will probably be three other small, standard-type tents that will be located to strategically take advantage of the traffic areas that might not have direct access to the super tent. The model will be to try and drive people to the main tent.

"And then you will have other tracks like Richmond where it's much more centralized, there is a main entrance and a big area out front and it may be possible to do something small somewhere else."

Q: Will every track have room for the superstore

A: "Martinsville is probably the best example because it is the most challenging of the tracks. The tent is designed to have flexibility to be longer, smaller and we can probably run long in a place like Martinsville. That's why it's so important to go over a whole checklist of things and get ready for July."

Q: Can you replicate the carnival experience fans seem to regret losing?

A: "What's cool about the tent layout is it still has a sort of courtyard model. It has that feel anyway. Once people see it and realize how big it is, I think they will be excited about it. There will be as much if not more driver interaction as there is today. We'll (be) bringing customization into play. And finally, we think we are going to have things that are normally not available, like shipping to your home, free. Getting it there very quickly, not having to carry it, there will be a shipping solution."

Q: Two big fan concerns have been availability of merchandise for all drivers and speed of checkout lines. Thoughts?

A: "The fact of the matter is, we will carry more drivers merchandise than the current hauler model, so we want drivers represented. We've committed to 60 to 100 (point of sale) checkouts and our goal is to try and guarantee checkout times of under five minutes, in fact we want it under three. I'm not surprised that's their concern. It should be their concern about the products. We will make sure it will 'be hassle-free.' "

Q: Will one supplier mean higher prices?

A: "You can alleviate everyone on that concern. The core product they are buying today will be the same or similarly priced. It's not going to be about raising prices. What you are going to find is we are going to bring in some better products as well."

Q: What are the customization options?

A: "We're going to have a customization hauler and offer a customized product. What it will enable us to do is to try and get pre-licenses on special events and be able to produce some quantity as the race ends, race wear products that you could buy on your way out of the track. You won't see that in July, right now we are most concerned with logistics, but you will see as we go on we will take advantage of that.

"It will be limited quantities, but within 10 minutes of the end of the race through the next half hour, we can have the presses running. And once they understand that's going on you're going to have people come wait the next half hour to get that gear."

Q: Will there be an option to order via app?

A: "Our goal is in 2016, fans will be able to place orders and have it waiting on the way out. It will be difficult to do, but what we can do is you can place your order and pick it up on the way out, we will have it ready to go. That's why you want to work with a technology company in retail moving forward. That's why we want to be involved in NASCAR. It's going to come to NASCAR because we are going to bring it to NASCAR." USA Today

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