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They cashed out retirement funds to build their business during the 2008 presidential campaign. Now they have 3,000 jack-in-the-boxes with smiling Barack Obama puppets inside — all sitting in a California warehouse, waiting to be sprung open for $29.95 apiece.
For Barack-in-the-Box creator Heather Courtney and her husband, David Manzo, the Obamamania that drove sales so fast they could barely keep up during the inauguration is over now. Sales have slowed to a “sporadic drizzle,” the 36-year-old artist said, in part because the president just isn’t as popular.
Back in January, it was nearly impossible to escape the Obama commercial boom.
Then came the bailouts, the stimulus, the summer of health care hollering — all bringing Obama’s approval rating down to about 50% — and simply the passage of time after any president’s honeymoon.
While the president’s face still sells, the biggest shift in Obama merchandising has been the rise of anti-Obama sales in recent months. Online retailer CafePress.com, where users can make and sell their own shirt designs, saw anti-Obama sales boom since June.
“When it comes to political or pop culture, we can become somewhat of a barometer of what’s going on in the world,” said Amy Maniatis, vice president of marketing for CafePress. “Our T-shirt sales now are much more reflective of the opinion polls — about 50-50 pro vs. con.”
The numbers were in Obama’s favor 99-1 during the inauguration. Still, even on his worst days, Obama’s support measured in T-shirt sales hasn’t fallen below the best days of President George W. Bush’s popularity, she said.