You may return those items to retail stores, but oftentimes they don’t make it back onto the rack. Stores will sell or consign merchandise by the truckload to companies like sliBuy.com, an online auction company that also operates a deeply discounted dig store and fixed-price warehouse sale in Shorewood, Illinois.
“Probably the strangest thing I’ve ever seen is a full-size hot tub come off the back of a truck,” says sliBuy.com CEO Steve Fitzgerald. His company buys what retail stores don’t want to restock.
“A lot of cases, things get returned and there might be box damage, or missing screws, or missing directions,” says Fitzgerald, describing the merchandise. “And retailers really want to protect their customer experience and they want that to be perfect.”
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Once processed, items ranging in conditions from slightly imperfect to pristine go up for bids.
“It’s anywhere from 50 to 90 percent off of regular retail,” says Fitzgerald. “Everything starts at a dollar. There’s no reserve price and the market determines what’s it’s worth.”
Braidwood, Illinois, resident Josh Comer has snapped up hundreds of deals from sliBuy.com, spending more than $50 thousand dollars in his first year of bidding. He says he resells most items and keeps a few things for his kids.
Other shoppers, like Edward Ware, take advantage of warehouse finds in the massive, 140-thousand square foot space. “You find a little bit of everything out here,” says Ware.
The reverse-logistics ecosystem, as it’s called, is mindful of both planet and pocketbook. “It’s affordable and in these times, that’s what people need,” says Ware.
More online shopping in recent years has increased return volumes. According to the National Retail Federation, $102 billion dollars’ worth of online orders were returned in 2020. That number more than doubled to $218 billion last year.