by Stephen Mayfield
Anyone on the lookout for a good sale may be quick to notice a big sign reading, "STORE CLOSING, EVERYTHING MUST GO." A store closing sale usually means big discounts, and that means it's time to spend money you don't have. In the world of retail, new opportunities are arising in innumerable ways, allowing for innovation in selling consumer goods. Despite this, there are still a number of brick and mortar businesses and corporations that are struggling to stay afloat. Some stores opt to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which instigates a process by which the company reorganizes it's business strategy as an alternative to closing its doors. A much more common alternative, however, is to close a store altogether and begin a liquidation sale.
The liquidation process occurs when a store decides to end its business presence and attempt to sell off the entirety of its merchandise at a significant price drop. Oftentimes the discounts will gradually increase to give consumers incentive to drop in and pick up items they might not otherwise would buy or be able to afford.
The foremost and most common misconception when it comes to ending a store's business presence is the idea that the store itself begins to liquidate the items themselves. This is not at all the case. Liquidation is run by a separate entity in the form of a liquidation company, which replaces a store's current management and brings in their own temporary management that oversees and runs the entire process. Typically, this is simply a replacement of the store manager. The company's policies, regardless of how it may have originally pertained to returns, price adjustments, and general customer satisfaction, are instantly nullified.
Can't you just lower the price?
The most prominent distinction from a regular store sale and a liquidation sale is characterized by the "outrageously low prices" that are being offered. The sale starts off with simple 10% to 20% discounts, and as inventory becomes more and more scarce, the prices fall futher. Discounts can climb as high as 70% to 90% off original prices.
Whatever the store's original policies were regarding customer satisfaction no longer play into the sale of liquidated items. The liquidator decides the new policies, and are often less lenient than general retail store policies. This is because the new store goal is to sell all remaining merchandise to whoever is willing to buy it.
Are ALL the stores closing down?
If a store is undergoing a liquidation sale, that does not necessarily reflect a poor financial state for the entire company. A store may be closing down for many reasons, whether it's the location of the store and its convenience, or if there is sudden change in the costs of overhead and maintenance of a store location. The store in question may also be a part of a larger chain that may have other locations that are operating satisfactorily; the closing of one store does not always suggest that others will follow.
So no refunds or exchanges?
Just about all major retail chains in the United States have a relatively generous return policy because, theoretically, a satisfied customer will always come back. However, a store that is liquidating its merchandise cannot accept returns or exchanges because of the high risk of abuse of refunds, especially in a corporate setting. Receipts are specially marked with the store location and a notice that reads something along the lines of "All Sales Final" to prevent customers from purchasing liquidated merchandise and attempting to return it for a wholesale refund at another location. Additionally, the purpose of the sale is to empty the store of as much merchandise as possible so that employees can begin taking areas of the store apart sooner.
When's your last day?
The liquidation process often takes several weeks, if not a few months. Once a sufficient amount of merchandise has been sold, the rest is returned to the vendor or shipped off to other stores for resale.
Where will you go after this?
Occasionally, a company owning multiple stores will initiate a transfer of employees to another location. This is not always a practical solution, especially if a store is large and requires a significant number of employees to operate it. With the job market in the state that it’s in, it’s just not realistic to magically find jobs for people, which may cause more inconvenience than it’s worth. This is why the common solution in this case is to just layoff of an entire store staff, save maybe the store manager.
As a cashier for a company that's undergoing a store closing sale, I typically service anywhere between 50 - 200 customers in a four-hour shift, and it's usually only about 3% of them who give me a hard time about their purchase (or intent thereof). I have no problem answering questions for people and clearing up some of the fog around the whole ordeal. There will always be a fair amount of people, however, who claim to have worked in a retail environment before and attempt to convince me that I have to give them a better deal or honor their request for a refund. A lot of these misconceptions likely stem from working for a store with a more relaxed retail policy, but what customers often fail to understand is this is no longer a typical retail store.
I've also been asked by friends, customers, and co-workers as to what is stopping me from quitting my job before the ship sinks, so to speak. Since the sale, customers have become increasingly rude, the amount of work that's asked of me has increased, and my pay still remains minimal. Yet, there I am every shift bagging the insurmountable pile of clothes and toys that's presented before me and trying to find enjoyment out of it. Working in this consistently hypertensive environment has taught me that what you put in, you often get back out. As long as I'm as helpful as I can be, people are more inclined to return the favor with gratitude.
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