In 2006, after the University of Texas won the national championship in football, the University Co-op was riding high off sales from its flagship textbook and merchandise store on Guadalupe Street. Demand for Longhorns gear was at a peak, and the Co-op was expanding to reach fans in other cities around the state.
But times have been much tougher since for the 122-year-old anchor of Austin’s iconic Drag across from campus.
Over the past five years, the Co-op has posted millions of dollars in operating losses as revenue dropped precipitously and branch stores in Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth struggled. Large bonuses paid to its former CEO in the wake of the boom year — George Mitchell, who retired in July 2016 — didn’t help.
Now, the Co-op is in the midst of a strategy to stem the red ink, one that eventually will take it back to where it started — with only a single store in Austin. The Co-op intends to close all of its branches, and it has sold assets, cut staff and reduced inventory.
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