TAMPA — The official merchandiser of USF athletics is going out of business next month, with a sagging economy and online competition spelling the end for the Authentic Merchandise: It's Bucs & Bulls Heaven store on Busch Boulevard.
In March, owner Jeffrey Neil Fox had downsized and moved the store from its Florida Avenue location after 16 years there, but said Tuesday that he continues to lose business to big box stores and retail websites. When USF remodeled the Sun Dome arena to include a Bulls retail store, he was disappointed not to get that property, which created a new place for Bulls fans to buy apparel and other USF paraphernalia on campus.
"The business model for retail is not what it used to be. It's very difficult, impossible to compete with big box stores like Sports Authority or Dick's," said Fox, who does not plan to maintain his inventory for online sales.
Fox, a 1975 USF graduate, said he has notified USF that he no longer intends to sell Bulls merchandise before football games at Raymond James Stadium this fall and other sporting events as he was entitled to do as official merchandiser. Fox has closed his store this week to prepare for a liquidation sale, starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, and he said he'll close the store when his current inventory runs out, or by the end of August at the latest.