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Whistler Olympic flagship store opens Saturday

VANOC merchandise takes over Glacier Shop

After years of talks Olympic officials have finally chosen a site for their official flagship store in Whistler, and plan to open it this weekend.

"We are very excited," said Dennis Kim, Director of Licensing and Merchandising for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC).

The 418 square-metre village location will sell all 2010 merchandise including toques, bags and clothing and will also offer Canadian Olympic team merchandise and Torch Relay keepsakes.

The store will take over the Whistler Blackcomb Glacier shop location in the Deer Lodge. Whistler Blackcomb will operate and staff the location, buying the merchandise from official sources.

"It provided a unique opportunity for us to have a flagship store up there that will be a real anchor for our brand," said Kim, explaining that the size and location of the outlet followed close to four years of discussions.

In the past Olympic organizers have used tents up to 20,000 square feet to sell their goods.

Kim said it was clear, after talks with the Whistler business community and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, that a mega store would be very unpopular with locals.

He believes that this store, the eighth official 2010 location, will help focus demand, which will trickle down to other retailers in Whistler.

And said Kim: "A lot of the retailers want to and need to focus on their core business beyond Olympic souvenir merchandise.

"This allows them to do a little bit of both. It allows them to benefit from tourists but as well they can showcase what they normally would so that if that same tourist comes back in a year they will recognize that store and some of the unique products that they have, whether they are into jewelry or apparel or ski wear and I think that is a great benefit for retailers."

In the past some retailers have been outspoken about not wanting a flagship store in Whistler, which they believe would only draw customers away from their locations and Olympic merchandise.

But Whistler Blackcomb spokeswoman Christina Moore said: "The expectation is that the VANOC Olympic store will create interest and then all stores have the opportunity to market their Games merchandise and take advantage of the demand.

"Hopefully, the plan is that this will increase demand for everybody."

She also pointed to the added benefit of having the large outlet at the North end of the village, drawing more pedestrians that way.

The store will open May 16 but the full celebration of its launch won't take place until Canada Day, with appearances from the mascots Quatchi, Miga and Sumi.

Vancouver's Olympic flagship store is on the main floor of the downtown Hudson's Bay store.

The sixth floor of that same building will also host Canada Olympic House, the Canadian Olympic team's home away from home.

A Whistler location for the Canadian team will be announced soon.