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Big Lots Aims at Better Shopping Experience

Big Lots customers want quality products and name brands — but with an attendant quotient of value and price.

With these objectives in mind, Big Lots, the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer is also responding to its customers' desire to have a better shopping experience. “We have a more understanding customer today who relates to merchandising and our improved quality and wants an improved shopping experience,” related Bob Segal, svp, gmm for the rapidly growing closeout chain.

In years past, “the company had migrated to a low price versus quality at a price. And our customers want quality,” he emphasized.

Segal and Fred Fox, vp, dmm for home, were here earlier this month for the New York Home Fashions Market and the industry breakfast which honored Steve Fishman, Big Lots' chairman, president and ceo, as Retailer of the Year.

One of the ways the company is planning to achieve these goals “is by better understanding our customers. We have to be more creative — and move away from the lowest price. We have to engineer opportunistic buys if they're not immediately available,” Fox explained.

Brands are a key part of the Big Lots strategy, Segal added, and pointed to Ellery, S. Lichtenberg. Brentwood, Beautyrest, WestPoint Home, Utica, Serta, TFal as among those that have product available either on a one-shot or an ongoing basis.

In addition to these brands and companies, Segal added, “We are working with vendors here and overseas. It's a core part of how we have developed business with these vendors and in higher price points than we previously had.”

Big Lots is not adverse to one-shots, but there is a small percentage of its business that is a “never out — continuing product segment,” Segal said. “This is a reflection of answering customers wanting better quality merchandise.” But at the same time, he noted, “A lot of our merchandise is seasonal, in and out, closeout goods. The treasure hunt experience is so important that we must have change in assortments.”

Big Lots addresses its customer base with advertising inserts, TV, and a customer rewards program, as well as e-mails in advance of the advertising, in-store signage and — importantly — word of mouth, Fox commented.

From Fishman's perspective, “We have major product opportunities in top of bed, sheets, bedding in general — and a huge window opportunity. We have an open-to-receive policy with vendors. People need to understand our model is not a traditional one for closeout retailers,” Fishman said.

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