The most important element of the success of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is its ability to leverage its stock of merchandise from top manufacturers into real savings for customers. The company stocks closeout, overstock, refurbished merchandise from sporting goods to food, and Glass says that has been the company’s focus from day one. “Our CEO says all the time that we offer what Americans want, and that is a great bargain and great goods at great prices, so that has been an unwavering attribute that we’ve had for years and that’s not changed with our growth,” Glass says. “I think the company has been successful for a variety of reasons, but I would point specifically to the value proposition that we offer our customers.”
In recent years, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet has updated its stores with upgraded fixtures and décor, and although Glass says that has helped draw in new business, it’s the deals that keep its loyal customers coming back time and time again. “The one thing that’s never changed has been the value that they get when they walk in there,” he says. “We like to describe the shopping experience as a bit of a treasure hunt.”
The unpredictable nature of the merchandise at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is part of what brings customers to the stores, but it also means the company has to have a supply chain that is highly efficient and effective. As the company’s footprint has grown across the country, its supply chain and logistics operations have grown, as well. Glass says that when he joined the company around 2008, it was utilizing four small warehouse spaces no larger than 200,000 square feet each that were converted into de facto distribution centers.
By the end of 2010, however, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet had made a significant upgrade to its facilities, opening a new distribution center in York, Pa. The facility measures more than 600,000 square feet and allowed the company to consolidate most of its supply chain operations under one roof, which created greater efficiencies, according to Glass. “That was the jumping-off point for all of our growth,” he says. “That allowed the rest of the company to do what it needed to do.”
Thanks to the growth facilitated by the York facility, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet was able to open a second distribution center facility in 2014. This facility, located in Commerce, Ga., covers nearly 1 million square feet and services the company’s stores in the southern portion of the United States.
Glass says the company’s new distribution center network gives it a greater capacity for flexibility, which is crucial for Ollie’s Bargain Outlet given the nature of its merchandise. Being an opportunistic buyer of goods means the company needs to be able to react on short notice and pivot quickly to take full advantage of the situation. Glass says Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is proud of its ability to tell manufacturers that it can take an entire inventory of an item and be able to move it quickly to its stores. Glass adds that the company’s facilities also have the ability to provide value-added services to package goods in a more attractive manner and make them easier to sell. “We take great pride in maintaining high service levels to our stores,” he says.
Given the nature of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet’s business model, having strong relationships with manufacturers is paramount, Glass says. “What we always get asked is, ‘How do you know you’re going to be able to get the next deal?’” he says.
The availability of goods has always been strong and continues to grow as we have expanded our footprint. Going public in 2015 also helped gain the company a lot of notoriety that Glass has says been instrumental in expanding opportunities with new and existing vendors.
Within the next few years, Glass says, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet anticipates continuing with its aggressive expansion, including venturing into new states. “We’ve seen really outstanding results with some new markets that we’ve entered into,” he says.
Even though there are big changes in the works, Glass says Ollie’s Bargain Outlet will never forget what has made it successful, and it will never do anything to change that. “We’re growing fast, but I think there’s a recognition that we don’t want to lose control of the culture that we’ve created and we don’t want to grow too fast,” he says.