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UNC’s Ackland Museum store ‘unusually successful’

In a tough economy, it’s difficult to market art.

But the Ackland Museum Store — which opened in May after much delay — has continued to bring in enough profits to cover operation costs, said Alice Southwick, store manager.

She also said the store has begun the process of paying off its startup costs.

She said the store’s profits have yet to go toward the museum itself because the store is still paying off these initial costs, but the store has been “unusually successful.”

This success comes primarily from the store’s attention to customer relations, she said.

“It’s that added value you have to provide now to get a sale,” Southwick said.

“We really try to build relationships.”

She also said that since customers are more careful with money in the current economy, the store provides an array of items in different price ranges.

“We try to merchandise the store accordingly,” she said.

Southwick said the store tries to appeal to students by pricing items between $20 and $30.

These items include fashion scarves and art-deco coffee thermoses, she said.

She also said the store benefits from the aid of the University, which pays for the store to sublease their space on the corner of Franklin St. and Columbia St.

“They occupy the space along with the University (American Disabilities Act) office under one sublease,” said Gordon Merklein, executive director of real estate development for the University.

Merklein also wrote in an email that the University pays about $21 per square foot for the approximately 5,800 square foot space housing the store and ADA office.

Despite the store’s success, some visitors to the Ackland are unaware that the accompanying store exists.

“I had been to the museum before but didn’t realize that a store had opened,” said Mimi Quick, a UNC alumna visiting for Homecoming weekend.

“I was just walking downtown and saw the attractive store front and decided to go in.”

Southwick said that because the Ackland is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, business is generally slow for the store on those days.

She said the reciprocal relationship between the store and the museum is extremely important.

“When the museum is open, we do better,” she said.

“We are the museum.”

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