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Progress 2007 Retail

KU’s Elite Eight finish gives retailers, other businesses quick March lift

April 21, 2007

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It's a simple formula: Success for the Kansas University men's basketball team means a boost to the local economy.

"The longer they go, the busier it gets," said Chris Neverve, manager of the Red Lyon tavern, 944 Mass.

After two years of NCAA buzzkill from the team losing in the first round, this year's tournament was better. KU reached the Elite Eight, which meant one more weekend of basketball season and a bit more intensity to Jayhawk fever.

"People were pretty hungry for shirts this year," said Janet Muggy, owner of Jayhawk Bookstore, 1420 Crescent Road, who estimated she sold one-third more T-shirts and related KU merchandise this March compared with each of the previous two years.

KU Associate Athletics Director Jim Marchiony said a final tally wasn't available in early April, but that the department expected to do better in the first quarter of 2007 in sales of licensed merchandise compared with last year.

He said that's "simply because we were successful in March."

"We were selling every day at kustore.com but also on the road in Chicago and San Jose on days that we weren't selling for the last two years," he said.

In addition, each victory in the tournament represents a windfall of about $170,000 for the athletic department, Marchiony said. The NCAA distributes money to the conferences based on a six-year average of how many games the conference's teams have played in the tournament. The conference then distributes the money proportionally to universities.

"It just goes into the general operating budget. It pays for everything from scholarships to coaches' salaries to supplies," Marchiony said.

It's not just a victory in the NCAA Tournament that can provide an economic impact for merchants. One of the hottest-selling T-shirts this year was a shirt marking the Jayhawks' victory in the Big 12 Tournament, Muggy said.

The store placed five orders, each of 144 shirts, and sold out of them all.

The store also stocked Sweet Sixteen shirts and Elite Eight T-shirts. Muggy predicted the Elite Eight version would prove a better seller in coming weeks because people tend to buy the merchandise commemorating the biggest victory of the tournament.

Maybe next year, no one will want the Final Four shirts because they'll hold out for the "National Champion" version.

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