Winnipeggers are once again demonstrating how much they love a bargain.
Less than a year after opening a new retail liquidation store in the city, a local company — Direct Liquidation Winnipeg — has moved into a new space that’s nearly triple the size of its original location in order to keep up with the growing demand for its products from bargain-hungry Winnipeggers.
"There is more of a demand than we realized," co-owner Doug Creighton said.
Creighton said he and his wife, Tracey, started out in April of last year with a wholesale operation called Primary Wholesale and Liquidation. It sold liquidation merchandise to commercial customers, including retail stores, aboriginal and northern communities and construction companies.
"But we were finding that as the wholesale business was taking off, we always had leftovers," he said. "And we had retail customers banging on the door, so we opened up a (retail) showroom to satisfy them both, with wholesale out the back and retail out the front."
He said it quickly became obvious their original 7,000-square-foot location on Notre Dame Avenue wasn’t big enough to accommodate their fast-growing retail operation. So, they began scouring the city for larger quarters.
They eventually settled on a 17,800-sq.-ft. outlet in a retail/wholesale complex at the corner of Ellice Avenue and Empress Street. They chose that location because it had the right zoning designation and there was room to expand if required.
Joe Diner, of Capital Commercial Real Estate Services Inc., was the real estate agent who helped the Creightons find both their Notre Dame and Ellice Avenue locations. He said he isn’t surprised by the company’s early success.
Diner said Winnipeg has long had a reputation as being a city of bargain hunters. He said it dates back to the city’s early days, when many European immigrants were arriving with little or nothing to their name, so they were always on the look out for bargains.
"They had to, and that’s the nature of all generations here now," he added. "The truth is, it’s also fun to shop and find a bargain."
Diner also noted other merchandise liquidators have found success here in the past, including J. Werier & Co., Caprice Distributors, XS Cargo and Liquidation World.
"Both of those (J. Werier and Caprice) built empires here in that business. They were very, very substantial businesses," he said. "And XS Cargo had a store in Winnipeg that was always in the top three in sales per square foot of any store they had in the country. It wasn’t their biggest store, but the sales per square foot were brilliant."
Diner said another reason liquidators succeed here is because most manufacturers are more than willing to have their surplus merchandize end up in Winnipeg.
"They could sell to liquidators here and it wouldn’t interfere with their big markets like Toronto, Montreal, New York or wherever."
He said he has no doubts the Creightons’ liquidation businesses will thrive here, as well.
"This is very Winnipeg. They will do very well and the city will love having them here."
The Creightons’ new Ellice Avenue location also has their Direct Liquidation Winnipeg store in the front, and their Primary Wholesale and Liquidation operation in the back.
Both operations specialize in buying and reselling merchandise from overstock or distress situations, or from inventories acquired through insurance and freight claims, bankruptcies, receiverships, buybacks or cancelled orders.
"We have new product arriving almost daily," Doug Creighton said.
Their new 15,300-sq.-ft. retail showroom has more than 1,000 different items in stock, including living room and dining room furniture, appliances, bedding, clothing, household goods and electronics-related items such as Dyson vacuum cleaners, iPad covers and smartphone covers.
"The average discount is 40 per cent off retail," Creighton said. "But they can go as high as 80."
He said they buy most of their merchandise directly from the manufacturers. Most of it is middle- to higher-end products where the packaging was damaged during shipping, or the product has scratches, dents, or other cosmetic flaws.
"They work, they’re tested and they’re warrantied," he added. "But regular retailers can’t sell damaged-box goods, even if the product inside is fine, and they can’t sell damaged goods. That’s why companies like us exist."
He said some products are seasonal items. For example, they recently bought a trailer load of higher-end patio furniture. Even though the furniture is selling well, Creighton said they won’t be buying any more this year because it’s getting too late in the season.
"All the other retailers will soon be blowing them out, so (we’d be) in competition with them," he added.
The original Direct Liquidation is in Burnaby, B.C., and is owned by entrepreneurs Jeff and Lori Schwarz. Jeff Schwarz also has a reality TV series on OLN called The Liquidator. Creighton said Schwarz gave them permission to use the Direct Liquidation name in exchange for them agreeing to buy some of their merchandise from his company.
Creighton, who used to co-own a trucking company, said he runs the wholesale side of their business. Tracey, who has extensive retail sales and administration experience, runs the retail side along with two other employees.
He said they have no plans to open any more retail outlets in the city.