Bargains at Waters Place
Manager Craig Watson, who has been with the company for sixteen years (he came over from the Jackson store), stresses that a lot of the merchandise is overstock, not abandoned, bankrupted inventories or factory seconds, waving by way of example at the Serta mattresses and DeWalt cordless drills ("a lady carried out three of those yesterday"). Big-ticket items are really only about half the store: the rest is drugstore-type items, including lots of snack food. "We just had a huge Procter & Gamble buyout--they're selling at 20 to 40 percent below retail," he says, pointing to a wall of Mr. Clean, Oil of Olay, Gillette, Febreze, and Tide.
Bargain hunting can be something of an addiction, according to Watson: "Your Big Lot shopper comes in once a week, and they know when our trucks come in." (And he only reluctantly reveals when that is: "The truck comes in Wednesday, Thursday, somewhere around then, and we get the merchandise on the shelves twenty-four to forty-eight hours later.")
On opening day, cereal and snack food were the big sellers: customer after customer carried out bags stuffed with Cheerios, Doritos, and Arizona Ice Tea. Watson agrees that cereal sales are huge. "How much do you usually pay for cereal? Three, four, five dollars? Here's Cocoa Puffs, Kix, Cheerios--I don't see anything over three dollars." Actually, there was something slightly over $3: the posh, organic brand Kashi Go Lean. While cereal brands are reassuringly mainstream at Big Lots, snack food is delightfully offbeat and original. (One woman was taking a flyer on some Herr's baby-back-rib-flavored potato chips.)