Trump Store opens in battleground state as president’s backers get kitted out

A shop selling President Donald Trump-themed merchandise in a suburban shopping centre in Philadelphia has emerged as a magnet for the president’s backers and a reflection of Pennsylvania’s status as a political battleground this year.

The Trump Store in Bensalem specialises in gear fit for the president’s biggest fans — T-shirts promoting a border wall, hats, beanies, mugs with his cartoon face, even an inflatable innertube with Mr Trump’s head flashing two thumbs up.

On a recent weekday afternoon, it did steady business over about three hours, with two to three customers continually streaming in and out.

The town is on a political fault line, tilting slightly Democratic in recent presidential elections, though Mr Trump improved the Republicans’ fortunes in 2016 over Republicans’ 2012 performance.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>President Donald Trump is seeking a second term (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)</figcaption>
President Donald Trump is seeking a second term (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Experts are watching the region as a key to the presidential race.

In fact, Mr Trump is slated to hold a town hall in Scranton on Thursday evening, about two hours from Bensalem.

Mike Domanico, the shop’s owner, is a former general contractor who got into the T-shirt business in 2017, when he noticed that the 10 or so Trump shirts he offered for sale at car shows sold out fast.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>A customer shops at The Trump Store (Matt Slocum/AP)</figcaption>
A customer shops at The Trump Store (Matt Slocum/AP)

Mr Domanico, 60, himself a Trump backer who said he has been following him since the 1980s, opened a kiosk in a nearby mall before expanding to the store early this year.

The shop does about 350 sales a day, with the average customer spending about 60 US dollars, according to Mr Domanico.

The top sellers are two T-shirts, he said: one that has the president’s signature in gold above a brick wall and says, Border Wall Construction Co.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>A man walks to The Trump Store in Bensalem (Matt Slocum/AP)</figcaption>
A man walks to The Trump Store in Bensalem (Matt Slocum/AP)

The phrases Build The Wall and Deport Them All are printed underneath.

The other alludes to former President Barack Obama, saying: “Trump 45 Because the 44 didn’t work for 8 years.”

The shirt has a golden gun on it, an apparent pun of .45-calibre and .44-calibre handguns.

“People that love Trump, they really love him,” Mr Domanico said.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Make America Great Again caps are not available at the store (Brian Lawless/PA)</figcaption>
Make America Great Again caps are not available at the store (Brian Lawless/PA)

“They want to wear the hats, the shirts, bumper stickers and mugs.

They want to show their support. I think that’s what it’s all about.”

The president’s signature red caps, though, are not in the lineup.

Mr Domanico said he would not stock Make America Great Again or Keep America Great merchandise because of a trademark the Trump campaign holds on those slogans.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Badges are seen at The Trump Store (Matt Slocum/AP)</figcaption>
Badges are seen at The Trump Store (Matt Slocum/AP)

Political paraphernalia and candidate-specific merchandise is nothing new.

The current crop of Democratic candidates offer merchandise for sale on their websites.

In 2008, a poster depicting Barack Obama and the word Hope came to symbolise his presidential campaign and was highly circulated.

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