Stores worry about memorabilia sales

By Amanda Graf

Just like exams and dorm food, saying goodbye is an unavoidable part of life on a college campus.

Every year in mid-May students pack up their belongings and bid farewell to their friends, sometimes just for a few months and sometimes for much longer.

The goodbye is coming a little sooner for a very familiar face on campus, and local business owners will be left to cope with the loss.

Following the University’s announcement on Friday that retailers may not order any merchandise featuring the words “Chief,” “Chief Illiniwek” or the Chief symbol as of April 16, 2007, local store owners are gearing up for an initial increase in sales, but regret the loss of some of their most popular merchandise.

“We did expect it. We didn’t think it would be this soon,” said Brian Paragi, assistant store manager at T.I.S. College Bookstore, 707 S. Sixth St.

Paragi said T.I.S. saw a marked increase in store and online sales in mid-February. Many students, faculty and alumni stocked up on merchandise when the University announced Chief Illiniwek would no longer dance at University sporting events.

The store plans to increase their order of Chief merchandise to meet the expected increase in demand, Paragi said.

But the University does not want stores to stockpile the products.

“If they see us order a ridiculous quantity, they would question what we were doing,” Paragi said.

“The University will continue to vigorously enforce against unauthorized use of the Chief logo … now and in the future,” according to a press release from the Collegiate Licensing Company.

Stores and online outlets selling unauthorized Chief merchandise could face legal action for violating copyright laws.

John Lee, store manager at te’ shurt’, 711 S. Wright St., said he expects a black market in Chief apparel to explode online, with people taking advantage of the deadline to make a quick profit.

Lee agreed that there was a “scare” after the February announcement. Now that there is an official deadline for selling the merchandise, he said the store would be able to order more merchandise to handle the expected increase in demand.

Lee said he expects an initial increase in sales following the University’s announcement, but the restriction on selling Chief merchandise will ultimately hurt the store financially.

He estimated that 40 percent of the merchandise te’ shurt’ sells is Chief-related.

“Our sales will go down,” Lee said.

“We’ll have to load up, but once it sells out, there’s not as much you can do with a Block I or the Fighting Illini,” Lee said.