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What are Overstock Liquidations?

Chances are you’ve probably shopped at one of those big “off-price” discount chain department stores that sells everything at even bigger discounts than even the “regular” discount stores. We’re talking about places like Ross Dress for Less and Marshall’s, Ocean State Job Lot and Big Lots, T.J. Maxx, Home Goods, and Tuesday Morning. Or maybe you’ve seen a “liquidation retailer” fill up a previously empty space in a strip mall, take out full-page ads in the newspaper and radio ads on every station, and remain open for business for only a month (or even just a week or so!). I’ve even seen this done from huge tents erected in a parking lot…Friday they’re there, Monday they’re gone. These are great places for thrifty bargain hunters.

Ever wonder where all that overstock merchandise comes from? I can tell you: It comes from the same stores you shop at every week: Target and Office Max, Macy’s and Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart and Toys R Us. And the reason all these products become “liquidation” merchandise is because the “mainstream” retailers like those mentioned above (and hundreds of others, from little local chain stores to regional chains to national specialty chains) operate on a strict timetable for moving product in and out of their store. They know exactly when to start selling back-to-school supplies (apparently about a week or so after summer vacation starts), when to start selling Christmas holiday products (earlier and earlier every year, it seems), and when to pull the winter clothing off the racks and replace it with spring-time and summer clothes.  Any merchandise that sells poorly slows down the process, backs up the new merchandise coming into the store, and creates general havoc on their merchandise-flow programs.

Notice that I said that they “know exactly when”. That was a bit of an exaggeration. The fact is, they are only “pretty good” at knowing how many winter coats and spring-time galoshes and summer swim suits and autumn holiday supplies to buy, and when to put them on the floor and when to take them off. And the store’s buyers aren’t as good as they would like to be at predicting, 6 months in advance, how the economy might slow down, or how the spring might be unusually warm and dry, or how well the public actually likes the latest and greatest fashion accessory or techno-gadget. So there is ALWAYS un-sold merchandise “left over” (See our page “How Liquidation Happens” for more).

And you’d be surprised at the sheer AMOUNT of this merchandise that leaves the store via the loading dock instead of in customer’s shopping bags.  Because every month of every year, at EVERY one of the big stores, while semi-trailer loads are arriving full of new merchandise to be sold, a few semi-trailers are arriving EMPTY and taking full loads of merchandise back OUT of the store. This is stuff that for whatever reason didn’t sell but has to make room for the next load of new products coming in. And the merchandise comes in ALL categories: Overstock toys, clothing, shoes, jewelry, hardware, tools, electronics, cameras, stereos, appliances, kitchen tools, seasonal products, books, garden supplies, and even overstock groceries all need to get liquidated at one time or another.

This, my friends, is “liquidation merchandise”.  It actually goes by lots of different names: clearance, overstock, closeout, surplus, distressed, and a few others. And some of it was returned to the store, for one reason or another, by customers who bought it ( See our page on “Store Return Products” ). Further, a lot of the products that were “on display” so potential customers could examine it are in those trucks leaving the store. But regardless of what other word you use for it, it is all “liquidation merchandise” because the retailer has “liquidated” it: they got rid of it and managed to get a little bit of their money back for it. And by “a little bit of money”, I mean even LESS than they paid for it. WAY less.

And while a lot of it is sold by the truckload to those “off-price” retailers we talked about a few paragraphs previously, YOU can also buy this bargain merchandise in much smaller quantities (usually a pallet-load, but sometimes even less). You can use it yourself, re-sell it in your own little store or on-line or even from your garage, auction it for charity, sell if at a flea market… creative people find lots of ways to save and/or make money by buying liquidation merchandise ( See our page “Make Money or Save Money” for some ideas ). Explore our site a little more to learn more about this fascinating topic and to find overstock liquidation merchandise dealers.