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Big Lots For Small Retailers


J


USTIN Starnes, general manager of Eagle Eye Whole- salers, is still young but posesses more experience than many retail veterans. “I was selling at the swap meet


when I was 15 years old,” he says. “I’m 28 now, and I’ve never got en out of the business. T is is the only thing that I’ve done. I go to the ASD trade show every year, and I talk to some of the biggest suppliers in the world. We buy from one of the largest supply chains on planet earth. I’ve seen it from all the angles that you really can in a 12-year span, so I want customers to know that I probably know where they’re coming from.” Starnes sold products to


individual shoppers, but now buys from the biggest chains. “We buy out drug stores and grocery stores,” he says. “Our main product line is cosmetics. We usually buy out large quanti- ties of name brand makeup. We repackage it into boxes of 100 or 200 count. We make sure it is clean and not broken, box it up and wholesale it out to our customers.” T at explains the extremely low prices he charges, as well as the consistent quality he off ers. “T e reason we’re able to do it is because we buy 100,000 pieces of cosmetics at a time. We’ve got it down to a science. We’ll get a manifest, and we can pick and choose. When I get a lot of 100,000 pieces, I can break down the ratio of how many pieces of mascara there are, how many pieces of nail polish, how many pieces of this and that. Say a shipment of 100,000 pieces is 38 percent mascara. If someone is going to buy 200 pieces from us, I can say


that they’re going to get 76 pieces of mascara. I keep the ratio exactly the same from when I buy it as a big buyer, to when I sell it to people who are smaller buyers.” Starnes’ consideration for independent retailers is also


clear in the company’s ordering policy. “We don’t have a minimum order. We would like to see a customer buy something just once. And if they want to start off with a 100 or 200 count lot, and they get it and like it, great. And if they want to come back and put together a large order, they can certainly do so,” he says. Starnes’ ability to empathize with his customers makes him a hard bargainer on their behalf. “With the recession, there are actu- ally some good things,” he says. “Huge corporations have lots and lots of product that they have to get rid of, that they have to move. As a buyer, that puts me in a very good position.” Eagle Eye’s customers include


a wide range of store types. “We’ve got lit le mom and pop shops that are just run by a husband and wife with one store,” says Starnes. “We’ve got some people here in Phoenix that have lit le chains of


three or four stores. We’ve got people from Mexico who will drive fi ve, six or seven hours. T ey’ll come up and fi ll up the trunk of a car or a Chevy pickup truck, just to go back down and sell it all. It ranges all over the board. And with the Internet, it can be anywhere in between. We have boutiques back east. We’ve got people who buy from us in Australia and the United Kingdom that sell at their small shops all over the world now, so it’s really awesome.”


Continued On 50  42 September 2010


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