UI Surplus sees increase in sales


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Iowa City resident Jamie Smith filled her cart with goodies around a corner row of desks and bookshelves at the UI Surplus last weekend.


The future business owner of Molly's Cupcakes searched with a mission in mind — computers and office supplies.

"I heard [UI Surplus] had some computer equipment, and we need a couple office computers and a filing cabinet and just little things I could get for a lot cheaper," the 29-year-old said. "So I just wanted to come here first."

Smith isn't alone in her search for affordable computer equipment. Total sales at the UI Surplus, 2222 Old Highway 218 S., for 2011 were $495,324, with 77 percent sold to the public. Sales were up from $265,553 in 2010.

Surplus officials said a majority of sales are in UI-refurbished computers.

Roughly 100 people burst through the doors of the store April 14, walking through the colorful Hawkeye apparel room and reaching a huge storage area filled with items ranging from rows of desks and chairs to computers, scarves, and blankets.

"It's important that the surplus is involved in helping to reduce the waste that the University [creates]," said Steve Stange, supply chain coordinator for UI Surplus. "It's also important for the UI Surplus to try to get back as much of the university's investment in its property."

The store is open to the public every second and fourth Saturday and to UI departments every Wednesday.

The store occasionally receives unusual items for sale. Stange said they received an extremely large satellite uplink dish a few years ago, too big to move from Oakdale campus.

"The dish was dismantled and the majority of it was recycled," he said. "It went from an expense for the UI to a cost savings."

The store uses eBay to auction high-demand items such as signed athletics memorabilia, while selling most medical items through Heartland Recovery — a service based company specializing in selling such items.

"The state is required to dispose of all of its property in a proper way, and the University of Iowa's process is to go through Surplus," Stange said.

Mark Ludwig, the manager of the Iowa State University Surplus, said he sees a similar trend on sales.

"It just depends on what people are looking for," he said. "I would say our sales are up from past few years, but what happens from week to week is up in the air."

But on public sale days, many come in with a plan.

Laz Pittman said she hunts sales at the Surplus store whenever it's open to the public. After waiting in line before the doors opened on April 14, she found more than what she was looking for.

"I came to buy cabinets, and I found some awesome chairs at $5 apiece — these black leather chairs so I bought six," she said and chuckled. "It can't get better than that."

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