Are you looking for ways to share your love of Burnsville with everyone you meet? Or perhaps a gift for that hard-to-please relative who grew up in the south metro suburb and now lives far away?
Burnsville fans now can show their pride with pajama pants and polo shirts, along with 17 other items, emblazoned with the city slogan and available for sale through its new online store.
The store is part of the city’s recent branding effort, which officials have worked on with a marketing company since the spring. In September, they debuted the new slogan — “Burnsville: You Belong Here” — which is featured on most of the online merchandise.
While many cities sell one or two branded items, the range of Burnsville items is uncommon. And few cities have an online store.
“We’re trying to innovate and find ways to set ourselves apart,” said City Council Member Vince Workman. “It’s not something that you hear about or see [cities doing] often unless it’s tied to an event.”
Since Burnsville is a built-out suburb, Workman said, it takes a “bit of extra effort to draw the eye back to the community.”
North St. Paul, Belle Plaine and Lauderdale each sell a few items either online or in a store, including sweatshirts, visors and framed prints.
An informal survey found that Edina sells city flags, Eagan offers historical books and that city-themed T-shirts were sold at last year’s West St. Paul Days.
Workman said Burnsville has received calls from other suburbs asking about the new store and its wares.
The store debuted in late November and advertised Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. As of Friday, officials said they had received 10 orders totaling $692 in sales.
“We wanted something that would be low [to] no risk,” said Burnsville spokesman Marty Doll. “The online store really met our needs to at least give it a try.”
The online store offers on-demand ordering, free shipping and a 10% return to the city. A company called Blatant Athletics makes the swag.
Some of the prices, which range from $12.99 for socks to $74.99 for a man’s Therma-Fit hoodie, are a bit higher than if the city bought in bulk, Doll said.
The items can be given out at community events, conferences or in welcome baskets for new clients and families moving to the school district, said Andrea Boe of AE2S Communications, the company working with Burnsville on its branding. There are dozens of city employees who may receive the items as gifts or purchase clothing for work, she said.
An online store makes more sense than selling things at City Hall, she said, since there’s not much foot traffic there.
“I do believe cities will go forward with the digital storefront,” Boe said. “I think it’s just more efficient.”
Tested in North St. Paul
Laurie Koehnle, community relations coordinator in North St. Paul, said the city offered an online store for several years that sold about a dozen items bearing the city’s familiar snowman logo, ranging from laptop covers to lapel pins.
The store was discontinued recently but some items are still available at City Hall; others can be ordered.
“It’s not like they’re flying off the shelf, but it’s nice to have if someone asks,” Koehnle said. “Aesthetically, they’re just kind of adorable.”
The snowman logo, a nod to the city’s giant stucco sculpture, is one reason people want them, she said. Parents sometimes buy them as presents for kids away at college.
Sales hurdles include determining interest and producing small numbers of items quickly with low overhead, said Paul Burke, owner of Graffic Traffic, the company that makes North St. Paul’s merchandise.
“What’s the demand?” he said. “How many people are running around Burnsville saying, ‘I wish I had a Burnsville shirt?’ I don’t know.”
Burke recently pitched an online store to Moorhead, but doesn’t yet know if he got the contract. He sets up online stores for companies too.
With an online store, a city doesn’t have to order and store $20,000 worth of T-shirts, he said, and city employees don’t have to staff a sales counter.
Burke said selling such items is a “great way to build a brand,” especially if a city has a new slogan or logo. Many types of merchandise can be produced, though most cities are pretty conservative with what they offer.
“Don’t do G-strings, OK?” Burke said. “Not a good idea.”
Erin Adler • 612-673-1781