Big Lots believes that a product's shelf life depends solely on which shelf it's on. The company is North America's #1 broadline closeout retailer, with more than 1,500 Big Lots stores in 48 US states and seven provinces in Canada. (About a third of its stores are located in California, Florida, Ohio, and Texas.) It sells a variety of brand-name products, including consumables, furniture, housewares, seasonal items and toys, that have been overproduced, returned, discontinued, or result from liquidations, typically at 20%-40% below discounters' prices. Its wholesale division sells its discounted merchandise to a variety of retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and other wholesalers.
Big Lots entered the Canadian market in mid-2011 with its acquisition of the Liquidation World chain there for about $1.8 million plus debt. The purchase formed the foundation of the retailer's new Canadian subsidiary, Big Lots Canada. The addition of the Canadian stores contributed an additional $62 million to Big Lots coffers in fiscal 2012 (ends January).
Big Lots sales grew by about 5% in fiscal 2012 (ends January) vs. the prior year, driven by the addition of the Canadian stores. However, the acquisition of Liquidation World proved to be a drain on profits. Indeed, Liquidation World posted an operating loss of about $12 million for the year, contributing to Big Lot's 7% decline in net income in fiscal 2012 vs. 2011. The company is forecasting fiscal 2013 sales in Canada of $140 million to $150 million.
Big Lots has been working hard to rebound from declining growth in the US. The company has lost business to dollar store rivals such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General, as well as other discount stores. To compensate, it has focused on getting the most bang for its buck from its real estate and store locations. Indeed, since the beginning of early 2009 the retailer has opened 224 new stores and closed about half a many in the US. The new Big Lots locations have produced positive performances and the company's gamble on high-dollar "A" locations, as they've been deemed, have exceeded its expectations. While these locations come with higher occupancy costs, they often offer a market's best retail centers, co-tenant mix, and demographics. As of early 2012 the retailer had 66 "A" locations and is looking to add between 15 to 20 more in the coming year. Another key to the retailer's turnaround is its What's Important Now Strategy (or WIN strategy), which focuses on merchandising, real estate, and cost structure. Big Lots credits WIN with increasing its profitability. It has increased its sales per square foot from $146 per square foot in 2005 to $166 per square foot at present, while also boosting gross margin dollars from $1.7 billion in 2005 to more than $2 billion in 2011. Now in the growth phase of the WIN strategy, Big Lots plans to expand its net store network during fiscal 2013 by opening about 90 stores and shuttering 45 in the US.
Big Lots boasts five regional distribution centers, one each in Alabama, California, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, to receive, process, and distribute the majority of its merchandise to its retail locations nationwide. (The retailer acquires a quarter of its merchandise from overseas vendors, including about 20% from vendors in China.) – less