The oversized entrepreneurial world of Trump merchandise

The oversized entrepreneurial world of Trump merchandise

At the Arizona rally, Trump’s first of the year, vendor booths lined the path from the parking lot to the entrance of the venue, Canyon Moon Ranch. They’ve been in the game long enough to perfect their setup—comfy camp chairs, well-stocked cool boxes, big speakers pumping out classic rock. The area outside the gates had a festive atmosphere. Kris Walden, who had a shaggy beard, weaved between the parked cars, pulling a folding cart filled with hats and hoodies. “Be unfortunate – make yourself look gorgeous!” He called potential clients. He used to work as a mover in South Carolina. After COVID-19 put a damper on that work, a friend recruited him to help sell Trump merchandise. At first he thought he wasn’t cut out for the job – “I was a shy person,” he said – but soon “it became a whole lifestyle.” For the past five months he’s been living on the road in a new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter- Van he bought on his earnings and drove from rally to gun show to rally through Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama. “By next year, sales will explode,” he said. “Trump will run again. He must.”

Trump has a marketer’s instinct for buzzwords and inside jokes; The merchandising apparatus that has sprung up around it is nimble enough that the meme of the moment – “Let’s Go, Brandon,” for example – can find its way onto shirts in a matter of days. The red MAGA hat, while still ubiquitous, is no longer the best seller; Several vendors told me that anti-Biden merch is more popular than pro-Trump options these days. Shoppers love the “Jesus Is My King, Trump Is My President” shirts, but they don’t mind a bit of vulgarity either. I asked an elderly sovereign citizen in a salmon-colored sweater what his most popular items were. “Today it’s ‘Fuck Biden,'” he said. “Sometimes it’s ‘Screw Biden,’ sometimes ‘Biden Sucks and So Do You for Voting for Him,’ sometimes ‘Fuck Biden, Fuck Harris, and Fuck You for Voting for Them.’ ‘ Then he corrected me: he didn’t sell his flags – he traded them, which meant he didn’t think he was subject to the trade regulations. “Most people deal in cash,” he admitted. “But I was offered spare tires. I was offered tow chains.”

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