Over the last year, supply chains have been hamstrung by sharp rises in raw material costs, labor shortages, global inflation and an inconveniently-timed war in Eastern Europe. These issues are big; they affect many industries. Here on campus, these woes have somehow crept their way into the common university tradition of branded pennants and wall flags.
Shopping for school spirit is still possible for UAA campus and sports fans. The online and in-person Seawolf stores still cover collectibles of various categories, such as:
An interesting omission from their catalogue, however, is the venerable pennant. While normally a fixture in such an exhaustive list of school merch, pennants seem to escape both the website and the in-person Seawolf store.
Store Manager Isabel Mead said this is the culmination of an uphill battle that’s lasted most of the year.
“The Seawolf Store sold pennants as recently as March 2022,” Mead said, “At the moment, we are seeing delays with new and reorders of pennants as well as other licensed merchandise categories.”
During a normal year, Mead says the store keeps three different types of pennants in stock. For the first time since she started working with the Seawolf/book store in 2008, this isn’t the case. The aforementioned issues of supply chains and post-pandemic knock-on effects have kept some categories perpetually sold-out.
Mead says the pennant category in particular is an important one to her.
“We are already working with our vendors to bring new pennants in.”
Despite this, sales continue at the store as on-campus sporting events pick up. The Seawolf Store having such a strategic location in the Alaska Airlines Center certainly helps. According to Mead, the 8” Spirit Seawolf plush and the tried-and-true Seawolves Classic Mug are current customer favorites in the non-clothing realm.
Going into the holiday season, suppliers have faced many difficulties keeping all kinds of goods flowing. While issues of logistics and economy might seem like large, impersonal forces, even low-volume and admittedly niche things like pennants can be affected by them.
Even though this inquiry started off with pennants, I was unfortunately brought right back to the oft-maligned economics of 2022.
The bounce back from the pandemic has brought an inconvenient pressure with it. Goods as diverse as petroleum and sports flags have been impacted, and the realities of unstable global commerce are starting to hit. While some sectors are stronger than others, every price increase and shipping delay has caused a challenging year for the world, and indeed students.
Students at UAA have always had some way to buy university merchandise. The campus store where most students have shopped over the years — called the Bookstore — opened in 1983. The name notwithstanding, it was also responsible for selling all kinds of Seawolf gear, including shirts, lanyards and green-and-gold banners. Students' ability to school spirit was merely an impulse-buy away.
Since 2020, the all-online bookstore has been decoupled from the merch-focused Seawolf Store. Luckily for students and event attendees, the merchandise store shop remains a physical location. It even handles packages, mostly textbook orders of course. The staff are cheerful and conversational, and willing to field any questions students may have.
Students can still find some books across genres on the clearance shelf, and school supplies are readily stocked. The focus, however, has shifted to fit the new, smaller location. Long gone are tech-for-sale, the dedicated coffee shop, and other amenities of the old bookstore. This more streamlined store makes UAA memorabilia and graduation gear its passion, with things like notebooks and drinks relegated to less prominent spots.
Hopefully, these challenges will subside, and UAA pennants will once again be an errant click away from a credit card charge. People like Isabel Mead, though more towards the client side of things, are still key combatants in a long and drawn out struggle against our own supply chains.
Visit the UAA Seawolf Store in Person at the Alaska Airlines Center in Room 160, or visit the online store at bookstore.uaa.alaska.edu/uaa1/merchandise. In-person store hours are Monday through Friday, 12 PM to 6 PM.