Papal paraphernalia ‘selling like hotcakes’ as retailers cash in on Pope’s visit

T-shirts, rosary beads, mugs and umbrellas all emblazoned with image of Pope Francis

Conor Pope reports from Dublin city on the wide array of souvenirs you can buy to commemorate the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis to Ireland in August. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

A Guinness-swilling, Irish dancing Francis and a solar-powered Pontiff who swings his hips on command are among the more “Popeular” products for sale across Dublin in the run up to the Papal visit at the end of August.

Retailers big and small and religious and secular are all looking to cash in on or celebrate the arrival of Pope Francis by selling merchandise with – sometimes very tenuous -papal connections.

Veritas on Dublin’s Abbey St has the largest and most varied range of merchandise on offer as well as an elaborate window display featuring a large cardboard Francis smiling down at would-be shoppers.

News T-shirts and mugs among some of the range of Pope Francis memorabilia and souvenirs on sale at the Veritas store on Dublin’s Abbey Street. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
News T-shirts and mugs among some of the range of Pope Francis memorabilia and souvenirs on sale at the Veritas store on Dublin’s Abbey Street. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Store manager Evelyn Gaynor said the stock, much of which is exclusive to Veritas, has been selling like hot cakes since the beginning of July and she expects sales to grow dramatically as the visit nears.

She pointed to the racks of t-shirts, mugs, fridge magnets, rosary beads, pens, bunting, flags and umbrellas and said they had all been flying off the shelves in recent weeks.

A humorous bobblehead toy doll of Pope Francis on sale in a store in Liffey Street Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
A humorous bobblehead toy doll of Pope Francis on sale in a store in Liffey Street Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

She expressed the view that with prices starting at just €1 for a Pope pen, the products available were “very reasonably priced”.

She said the store has seen an increase in trade across the board in recent weeks and while it stopped a long way short of Popemania, people of all ages had been coming through the doors to buy Papal paraphernalia. “We have a quite mix of customers in store so there is no particular age group, we get quite a lot of young people,” she said.

The 2016 Papal Encyclical Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) is by far the biggest seller Veritas has, with sales of more than 30,000 since it was first published, she said.

The store has also printed special paper shopping bags emblazoned with the Pope’s face and they are being given to all shoppers irrespective of what products they buy.

Not far away in the SillyShop on Liffey Street, a place more accustomed to selling naughty nun costumes and slime balls, there were bobblehead Popes for sale. “They are €5 each,” said store manager Marcos Campos. “It is very popular and it is going to get more popular.”

Not to miss a trick, Dunnes Stores has also been selling a range of Pope Francis T-shirts for men, women and children for €8 a pop.

There are three colours, white yellow and green. The white and the green t-shirts simply welcome Pope Francis to Ireland and carry either a Celtic cross or the Vatican’s crest. But by far the most popular is the yellow t-shirt with a picture of the Pope’s face on it.

“We have sold out of the yellow ones three times already,” a Dunnes Stores employee told The Irish Times. “We can’t keep them on the shelves.”

In the Westbury Mall Frank O’Dea is selling Ray Sherlock-drawn prints of an Irish dancing Pope Francis drinking a pint of Guinness and waving a bunch of shamrock over his head. They cost €20 each and the gallery owner said he was “hoping they’re going to sell like hot Cross buns”.

Along with the drawing there is a poem. It is not long.

“If only I were Irish

I might be a better Pope

I’d bubble bath in beer and stout

And fill my soul with hope

I pray for all the paddies

And all the biddies too.

And hope the Lord may grant me

An audience with U2.

Mr O’Dea said the drawn Pope was “Michael Flatley from the waist down and Francis from the waist up” and he played down fears that people might be offended by the print.

“I think most people will see the humour in it,” he said. “I don’t see it as anything offensive. It is light-hearted and I think the Pope himself has a good sense of humour.” As an added incentive, O’Dea has a range of bobblehead Popes to give away.

“If we run out we hope we’ll be able to do a loaves and a fishes and get our hands on more,” he said.

One thing that appears hard to have sold out already are the LolliPopes that appeared in the city at the beginning of July. There were none to be found as the month came to an end.