It appears that the 2 million yearly visitors to the U.S. Capitol have been going home without souvenirs from their trip, as both of the gift shops at the Capitol Visitor Center are losing money, reports The Hill
It’s impossible to tell how much the shops are bleeding, because the Architect of the Capitol’s office that oversees them declined to reveal the losses. An annual report shows that the pair of shops took in $3 million in revenue in fiscal 2010, but losses can’t be determined without a sense of total operating costs.
However, lawmakers are so concerned about the losses that they included language in the 2012 omnibus spending bill passed last month pressing for ways to make the shops profitable. The measure ordered the Architect of the Capitol’s office to provide a plan for profitability by March 31.
The original House version of the appropriations bill revealed that the shops incurred $1 million annually to pay the store’s 20 employees, including health benefits.
“If the gift shop isn’t making money, they should get rid of it,” Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense told The Hill. “There doesn’t need to be a gift shop . . . these reports are for Congress, but the public deserves to know as well.”
The Architect’s office said sales “fully pay for the restocking of inventory, supplies, and store fixtures,” which The Hill noted indicated that sales do not cover costs for employees.
Ellis also noted that, with a Washington Post/ABC News poll showing 84 percent public disapproval of Congress, it’s no wonder that the shops are having financial problems.
“It is hard to sell memorabilia of unpopular people,” he said. “I am sure Nixon T-shirts weren’t selling well in 1973.”
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