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Look for Big Margins at BigLots

The first retail store I ever scouted was BigLots. I had never even been inside one before and I couldn’t believe all the brand-name merchandise that was for sale. Grasping my new scanner and Smartphone, I waded in. In this post, I show you how to use BigLots efficiently and which categories I’ve found profitable.

BigLots mostly sells closeouts in big lots from major manufacturers. That means that when something is gone, it is gone. Only a few items in the store show up month after month. Because the merchandise turns fast, there is good opportunity to find new things. Rarely will you be able to find a large quantity at any given store. Here are the categories where I spend my time:

Toys

There are many brand-name toys at BigLots. I’ve had success with Barbies, Disney-branded items (like “Cars” cars and racetracks or Disney Princess accessories), Dora, SpongeBob, Sesame Street, Matchbox, action figures and some Fisher-Price (a lot of FP is the same price on Amazon). Sometimes you have to wait for a sale to make it worthwhile. Many FBA sellers shop at BigLots, so sometimes they’ll push down the prices, which is annoying and unnecessary. I keep that in mind when I buy – I may have to wait if people jump in later. I won’t buy if there are already several FBA folks selling it.

This holiday season I bought about 20 of the new ethnic Barbies (they were all wearing black) for $8 each on sale and sold them for $24-$27 each. I am usually able to find items where I can get at least a 3X return.

During the off-season, toys can be dismal since the dogs from the holidays are still on the shelves. The managers don’t put out very much new stuff when the shelves are still full, nor do they take in new toys from HQ until they are out of what is on their shelves. Some stores will reduce the number of shelves devoted to toys after the holidays as well. This is one of the few exceptions to my statement above about fast turnover. It can slow down a lot in toys unless you are in a store that has many families with young kids.

Pets

I’ve sold everything I ever bought in the pet category and quickly. I’ve had success with everything from poop bags to toys to training tools.

Baby

I love the baby category. BigLots has been my source for a lot of spoons, bowls, diaper bags, nipples, butt wipes, booster chairs and pacifiers. The tricky thing with pacifiers is to make sure you are looking at the right ones on Amazon – many of them share the same UPC code.

One booster chair cost $19 (I often bought them with 25% discounts) and sold for around $50. When I had them in stock, I sold at least one a day. I was the only seller for a very long time. I miss those chairs. I drove all over the Metroplex to get them.

Home Goods

I’ve had success with bedding and some branded decorative items as well as organizational tools. Again, think about brand-name recognition when scanning in this category. I’ve sold high-ranking items lickety-split when there were no other FBA sellers so I can’t really tell you what a “good” rank is in this category. I look for brand and cuteness factor or usefulness.

Appliances

My Dad turned me on to this category at BigLots. The trick in appliances is to find that high-end luxury brand.

Last November, a huge shipment of refurbished Cuisinart appliances hit the stores nationwide and several of them were tremendous sellers. Very few FBA sellers scanned this category or perhaps they were put off by the somewhat high purchase price, I don’t know, but appliances were one of my best sellers overall. The Cuisinarts were mostly coffee makers. I found a particular pressure cooker for about $39 (depending on discount/sale) that sold for $135 as quick as I could ship them to Amazon. A particular style of slow cooker was selling for $24 at BigLots and on Amazon for $75-$79. I did not care that they were big!

Grocery

I’ve not had a lot of luck in this category. I have a bunch of shampoos and other items that haven’t sold even one unit that I bought in January. Food is usually too close to expiration for me to take a chance. Admittedly, I’ve not scanned grocery nearly as thoroughly as I have other categories. I tend to pick up snacks rather than scan. Please note that Amazon will pull from the warehouse any item within three months of its expiration date. If you’ve had luck in this category, I’d love to hear about it!

DVDs/CDs

There are sometimes great sellers at BigLots for only $3, $5, $7 or $10 (depending on if they are sets or not). The big problem is the !#$%! stickers. You have to peel away the white stickers they use to cover the barcode, which can be very tedious. What I look for are brand-new sets like “Season 1 of…” or collections of movies “Best Horror…etc.” They tend to be the ones I can sell for $27-$35.

One day I happened to be in the section when an employee opened a brand-new box of DVDs. It was a collection of five movies about lawyers (go figure). I took the entire box for $7 each and sold each of them for around $45. I can’t tell you how many seasons of 7th Heaven I sold where I bought them for $3 or $5 (depending on the store) and sold them for $27.

I was burned on Twin Peaks, though. I bought too many and may never sell them for a reasonable price.

I also look for old movies that might be hard to find. Don’t bother with the blockbusters like Spiderman or anything with an action star in it.

Skip all the kiddy movies and Nickelodeon cartoons. They’re oversaturated and not worth $3 on Amazon. I found success with the original Airbender and a couple of other anime series (not to be confused with cartoons).

Beware! BigLots has started selling used sets from Blockbusters and other video stores now and they are wrapped up like new. Take a close look and make sure you are buying new or that the margin is still good enough if it is used.

Seasonal

I’ve had luck with tool-type items and gardening, but not holiday stuff. I’ll still wander over and scan from time-to-time, but there generally aren’t brand items in this category that sell.

Electronics

It took me a while to ease into this category, largely because Amazon doesn’t monitor rank on many of its electronics. I’d look at FBA Scout and wonder if the rank was blank because it had never sold a unit or because it was in electronics. I finally waded in with some brand name electronics and designer stuff. I sold many Monster High headsets, DSi cover sets, etc. I’ve sold everything I’ve ever bought and quickly. I’ve had Amazon undercut me on a number of hot games and Wii accessories, though, so I’ve learned to send in no more than 4-5 at a time. If the item is ranked and it is less than 1000, you can bet Amazon will sell it for less than you will in the future.

Rewards Program

BigLots has a decent rewards program. Signup at: www.biglots.com or at the store. If you sign up online, they’ll have your card waiting for you at the store. You’ll want to sign up in advance if you can. The checkers at BigLots are SLOW with keying in stuff.

If you have 10 different shopping trips with each trip spending more than $20, they’ll give you a 25% off a shopping trip of your choosing. Needless to say, I buy BIG when I have the discount. In addition, they offer that 25% off as a coupon to their Rewards members about four-five times a year even if you’ve not yet earned it. You get weekly sales notices from them by email so you can do some scouting before going to the store.

The one bummer about their program is that you can’t use your sales tax certificate with it. So, if I choose to buy tax-free, it doesn’t count towards the rewards program. If I have 25% off, I don’t also get the sales tax off. I think this is a mistake on their part since sales tax is no skin off their nose, but no one asked me.

Also, if you register in a store for no sales tax it is 1) a HUGE hassle and 2) only good in that store. You can’t just show your certificate; you have to register. If you are like me and shop 4-5 BigLots regularly, it is enough to make you want to kill yourself. For that reason, I rarely use my sales tax certificate at a BigLots. If you only have one or two in your town, then go for it. Wait until there is no one in line. It will take 15-20 minutes at least because they’ll have to find a manager and it will have to be re-entered a couple of times. I swear I’m not exaggerating.

BigLots Wholesale

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2013:  BigLots Wholesale has been discontinued. Thanks to my attentive readers for letting me know!

What about you? Do you have a BigLots story to share? Is there a category not mentioned here that’s worked for you? What do you think about BigLots?

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