BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - John Lett has been an LSU football fan for decades, ever since he moved from Missouri to Baton Rouge to get his degree from the college. And even though he's seen some great Tiger teams that won college football national championships, he said he's never seen anything like this year's roster.
Because the Tigers have been so good this season, Lett said he's been buying more purple and gold merchandise. He recently bought a new home in Ponchatoula, so he's been decorating his "man cave" with LSU football gear.
"I don't want to know how much I've spent this year," he said. "For Christmas, I spent $700 on things for my wife, my five grandsons and my two daughters."
LSU merchandise was a hot seller across Baton Rouge during the holidays. And those strong sales are expected to carry on into early 2020, with the Tigers facing Clemson in the College Football Championship game on January 13.
About 500 businesses are licensed with LSU to produce official products, ranging from T-shirts and caps to original artwork.
Brian Hommel, director of LSU Trademark Licensing, said the team's 14-0 record has contributed to an increased demand for purple and gold items. But the exact size of that increase won't be known for a while.
"At this time we are only one quarter into the current fiscal year and will not be able to compare our fall 19 sales and royalty data until early 2020," Hommel said in an email.
In fiscal 2019, LSU generated $4.8 million in gross royalties from merchandise sales. In contrast, in 2011, the last time the team played in the college football championship game, gross royalties topped $5.6 million. And in 2007, the last time the Tigers won the national championship, gross royalties were $5.3 million, Hommel said.
The increased demand for LSU products has meant some items have been hard to find, such as replica jerseys for the Tiger's Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow. Nike, which makes the officially licensed adult LSU jerseys, only produces one run of replicas that stores order a few months in advance of the season. Because no one could predict the record-breaking season Burrow would have this year, number 9 jerseys have been sold out.
"Those jersey items can't be restocked," said Patrick Wilkerson, who owns Bengals & Bandits, an LSU clothing store. "We get 30 calls a day from people looking for jerseys."
Bengals & Bandits doesn't carry licensed adult jerseys because it concentrates more on unique, retro items. But the store has been producing T-shirts that look like Burrow's jersey. "Those are our big seller this year," Wilkerson said.
At Tiger Mania, an LSU merchandise store near Interstate 12 and Drusilla Lane, manager Melana Barton said the biggest sellers have been anything with Burrow's number 9 on it - such as T-shirts and caps. The store does custom embroidery, so they put the number on anything, she said.
Tiger Mania wasn't able to get any officially licensed Heisman Trophy items, commemorating Burrow being named as the top player in college football. But the store did produce purple and gold caps that said "He is the Man".
Barton took over management of Tiger Mania earlier in 2019. She said sales have increased 190% over the previous year because of LSU's historic season.
"It's been extremely good," she said.
At Purple & Gold Sports Shop, a Siegen Lane store that specializes in LSU merchandise, co-owner Sara Sanders said this year's sales are "blowing away" the business from previous years.
"We're definitely seeing a higher volume of sales now than we have in years," she said. "And while the season is normally coming to an end after Thanksgiving, it's been starting all over again. We're looking forward to a longer season than we typically have."