Torch Award Winner Has Taken Packers Retail To New Heights

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During the summer of 1992, Kate Hogan noticed construction at Lambeau Field. Figuring that expansion meant the Green Bay Packers would need further employment, she applied for a position.

That proved to be a fortuitous decision for both Hogan and the Packers. Hogan, 44, landed a job as director of retail operations for the Packers, overseeing a burgeoning enterprise. She helps run the Packers Pro Shop, the Extra Points store, the gameday pro shop store, seven gameday novelty concessions stands, three gameday kiosques, the warehouse and mail and internet orders.

"She's done a great job for the Packers," Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John Jones said. "(Hogan) is one of the leaders in retail in the National Football League in terms of development."

Under her watch the pro shop has expanded from 1,500 to 6,500 square feet, the number of retail workers has swelled from six to 125 and the number of phones has quadrupled. Although the Packers are still in the midst of the 2005 fiscal season, the pro shop set a record with $17.1 million in sales during the 2004 fiscal year.

"The growth in of itself is remarkable," Jones said. "It's been a real success story."

Hogan, who played volleyball, basketball and softball at St. Norbert College, credits lessons learned from sports for some of her success working with others and facilitating the vast operations of the Packers retail.

"What I learned about practicing and hard work is you have to be a teammate," she said. "You have to be resilient. You have to get up when you get knocked down."

Because of her accomplishments in both the corporate and sports world, she earned the prestigious Torch Award on Friday, Jan. 20 at a women's athletics scholarship fundraiser for University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

"I was very honored that they would even consider me," she said. "For a St. Norbert college graduate to be recognized by University of Wisconsin-Green Bay was also special."

The Torch Award is one of several athletic honors Hogan has received, including MVP of the St. Norbert softball team during her sophomore year. She, however, describes herself not as a star athlete but as someone who loved competing, enjoyed the practices as much as the games and outhustled her opponents.

"I love sports and I love athletics," she said. "I'm actually not a very special athlete. I'm much more of an average athlete that worked very hard to do the best I possibly could and have my skills take me as far as they possibly could."

Her work ethic has become integral as the various facets of the Packers' retail department continue to expand. In the future mail and internet orders will become an even greater focus. The Packers are an immensely popular team. Fans seeking to clothe themselves in Packers merchandise from head to foot come from all of over the world, and some have never stepped foot in one of the Packers' retail stores.

"I'm sure there are people out there who don't even know we exist. We're looking at ways to reach those people and better service them," Hogan said. "We're always looking for new products,"

The retail shops' current products remain in high demand. Sales of both the retro ACME Packers line and merchandise with the Lambeau Field logo have held strong. Jerseys and hats are two of the most popular items, but the yellow foam cheeseheads, a souvenir which represents both a source of pride for Packers fans and derision from opponents, is still the must-have.

"The one item we can sell day in and day out is the cheesehead," Hogan said.

In 2005 another signature item became the pink Packers cap, and the item's success was a highlight of Hogan's tenure. The pink hats raised more than $1 million, which was divided among 12 different Wisconsin charities for breast cancer research, education and treatment. The Packers sold the hats for $15, and $5 of each purchase went toward charity. Eager customers bought up more than 200,000.

"We've never sold that many of any one item ever," she said.

The genesis of the pink hat campaign began in October of 2004. The Packers' retail and marketing departments met to brainstorm a product, which could become popular and benefit a charity. American Family Insurance then agreed to a three-year partnership. In summer of 2005, Brett Favre's wife, Deanna, who recovered from breast cancer, began appearing in public service announcements along with Betina Driver (Donald's wife) and Karen Sherman (Mike's wife) to endorse the product whose color was synonymous with its cause. Deanna's popularity added to the fascination.

"People just associated it with her," Hogan said.

Hogan has started contemplating ideas for a Packers retail product next year, which will also support charities with the help of AFI. She said it could be another hat or an entirely different clothing item.

"We're going to focus on another need," Hogan said. "It could be anything and any cause."

And the ceiling of Packers retail remains just as limitless.

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