The Gulf of Mexico is in peril. And this is Florida. So it's time for a commemorative T-shirt.
Beall's department stores and popular sport fishing artist Guy Harvey have obliged with a growing selection of "Save Our Gulf" T-shirts priced at $17 to $20.
"We're a Florida store and realize just how much the gulf touches so many of our communities and the lives of our customers," said Mary Beth Fox, vice president of marketing for the Bradenton-based chain. "We're concerned about the oil spill's effect on an ecosystem that we all rely on so much."
It's another example of cause marketing by department stores seeking to bond with shoppers by raising research money for causes ranging from breast cancer to heart disease. Beall's pledged to raise at least $150,000 for gulf fisheries research by the end of the year.
The shirts register concern about the fate of a body of water fouled by an oil slick the size of Delaware and laced with 12 billion cubic feet of natural gas suspended underwater in dispersant. But they are worded not to take sides in ongoing political conflicts: drilling or no more drilling. Commercial fishing vs. recreational fishing. Gov. Charlie Crist vs. the Republican-controlled Legislature. BP vs. the Obama administration.
Harvey created the line of "Save Our Gulf" T-shirts. Beall's stocks them and developed other styles of T-shirts for its own Reel Legends men's line of fishing apparel that sell for $17. About a dozen more "Save Our Gulf" products designed for women and kids are coming in a few weeks, as well as hats, posters and license plates.
Beall's anticipated enough demand to trademark the phrase "save our gulf." Suppliers reacted so quickly, the first T-shirts arrived in stores in three weeks, faster than they could complete the ad campaign to promote them.
The benefactor is Harvey's foundation, which is linked to Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center in Fort Lauderdale. The foundation writes checks for research on gulf fisheries management and oil spill effects on its marine life.
Born in Germany, raised in Jamaica and now based in the Cayman Islands, the popular artist is a formally trained marine biologist concerned with species preservation.
Beall's and Harvey are kicking in $10 for each of the $20 Harvey shirts sold. The department store also is contributing a portion of sales from its own "Save Our Gulf" products and offering a 15 percent store discount for a $3 donation.
Through the fifth day of the promotion, more than 6,000 customers donated, raising $18,000 for the foundation.
"The response so far has been phenomenal," said Cory Hutchens, store manager of Beall's in Largo Mall.
Mark Albright can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8252.