Vendors Capitalize on Obamamania

Vendors Capitalize on Obamamania

As 2 million people flood the streets of Washington D.C. today to witness Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th president, at least 1,700 street vendors are on hand to cash in on the public’s obsession with any and everything Obama.

Buttons, t-shirts, caps, knit hats, flags, blankets, scarves, hand bags–even personal crafted paintings–anything with Obama’s image was featured.  Everyone was selling, and everyone was buying. Merchandise included shirts for $10, calendars for $1, flags for $5, and buttons for $5.

“T-shirts! Get your Obama T-shirts here!” vendors announced.

D.C. licensed vendor Jonathan Gadson and his associates have been promoting their Obama merchandise of key chains, hats, and t-shirts since 2 a.m. in L’Enfant Plaza, and business has been booming, Gadson says.

“We got a black president, and I’m out here selling shirts with his face on them. It’s a real good feeling right now, and I’m happy to be part of it,” Gadson said.

Lisa Ruiz, a licensed vendor from Alexandria, Virginia, snagged a spot near the Ronald Reagan building hoping to unload $300 worth of buttons. She hopes to generate double that amount in revenue.

“I don’t think the licensed vendors along the (Washington) Mall will have enough merchandise,” she said, due to the overwhelming public interest in Obama products. “It’s a great experience for everybody.”

Vendors interested in generating some extra revenue from inauguration had to either be licensed by D.C. or apply for a temporary 2009 inaugural vending badge, only valid for today. Back in December, D.C.’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) received approximately 5,000 applications competing originally for 500 coveted spots. That number was increased to 700 by mid-December. The deadline for applications to enter the inaugural vending zone lottery was Dec. 30.

DCRA held three computer lotteries on Jan. 6 to distribute open spots. The first lottery was for local licensed vendors who would be affected by the parade. Vendors not affected by inaugural activities competed in the second lottery. Out-of-state vendors vied for remaining spots in the third lottery.

On Jan. 7, DCRA published the three lists for the Inaugural Vending Site winners. More than 700 spots were awarded–a 500% increase over the number of sites allowed during previous inaugurations, according to local weekly newspaper The Washington Informer. These sites are within four inaugural vending zones, all active downtown roads: G Street, F Street, K Street, and L’Enfant Plaza. Three of these zones are located near the parade route, and the other close to the National Mall.

For those who fell short in the lottery and/or received a temporary badge, 1,000 overflow sites were designated directly adjacent to major pedestrian-rich transportation hubs throughout the city, including Union Station, according to DCRA.

Licensed vendors who typically conduct business in areas outside the inaugural vending zone were not required to obtain any