From gasoline to beer, inflation is eating away at people’s hard-earned money.
But there’s one store that opened Tuesday in west Santa Rosa that’s perfectly made for these economic times, combining the thrill of a treasure hunt with the convenience of bargain prices.
This is evident in the name of the shop: Price down.
The store receives weekly clearance items from retail giants like Amazon, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wayfair that cost less than $50. They range from pet food and children’s clothing to quilts and certain food products, such as flavored almonds.
The twist is that its pricing works on a sliding scale based on the day of the week. All items on Tuesday are priced at $6, then Wednesday is $4, Thursday is $2, and Friday is $1. All that’s left on Saturday is only a quarter, so the inventory can be completely emptied for next week.
Another new batch of product is then filled into the plywood bins, which are spaced around the store like a checkerboard pattern. The process begins again the following Tuesday morning with around 8,000 miscellaneous items for sale and eager customers ready to rummage through the product line.
“I like it because it’s real,” said Richard Cawood, a Bennett Valley resident who operates the store on College Avenue with his wife, Ruth.
Cawood is an independent dealer within the Sacramento RL Liquidators network that helps facilitate weekly truck deliveries into the location.
“Yes, it makes money. But the people who go shopping here really need us…the little food department, toys or books or household items. They buy products that have just come off the shelf at Target that ‘they can pay for a fraction of the cost.
Those buyers on Wednesday included Al Siedentopf, a retired Santa Rosa veteran.
While other shoppers were more eager to grab items, Siedentopf carefully perused a trash can, being very selective about what he would put in his basket. He had selected two reams of printer paper from Amazon for $8.
“It’s a pretty good price to pay,” Siedentopf said.
He had also looked at the 10-pound bag of organic chicken feed, but found it too expensive for $4 on Wednesday, as he usually buys his chicken feed from Tractor Supply Co. Siedentopf said he could go later in the week when the price of the bag drops even further.
But Cawood noted that the bags could all be gone if he waits too long as word of mouth spreads in the local community, which has a significant number of chicken owners. A check on Cawood’s smartphone revealed that a comparable item was selling for close to $20 a bag at Walmart.
“Come back on the $1 day and make sure you have your dollar chicken food,” Cawood told Siedentopf.
“I like 25 cents better,” laughed Siedentopf.
This exchange epitomized the give and take that goes into a decision the more than 50 customers were making Wednesday morning. They ranged from moms to millennials and they were all looking for specials.
Store activity also reflects the crucial role liquidation plays in the U.S. retail market, allowing large companies to quickly get rid of merchandise that is seasonal, out of stock or not selling well.
The liquidation market in this country has more than doubled since 2008 and reached $688 billion in 2021, according to Zachary Rogers, assistant professor of supply chain management at Colorado State University.
The business is recovering with inflation, said Larry Morgan, general manager of RL Liquidators, which has 10 Falling Prices locations in the Sacramento area and is expanding its reach.
His company also has another operation, BidRL, where consumers can bid on higher-end items that typically retail for $50 and up, such as mattresses, laptops, and coffee makers. Overall, RL Liquidators receives more than 1,000 tractor-trailer loads per month, Morgan said.
Cawood also operates a location in Santa Rosa for BidRL, where customers must come to pick up their purchases if successful. This pickup location will be moved to the Falling Prices store in the near future.
“As inflation rises, people need to find ways to save on the items they buy every day,” Morgan said. “It’s like Black Friday every day.”
Cawood said there were 60 people outside the store before doors opened at 10 a.m. on the first day of opening as shoppers scrounged for the top pick of bargains at $6 per item. Bags of dog food sold out quickly and a man found a framed autographed photo of a San Francisco 49ers player, he said.
Anticipating its popularity, Cawood is already thinking about ways to handle the crowds, especially on Tuesday mornings. Buyers can download the Falling Prices app on their smartphone to reserve space online up to 24 hours in advance to limit the flow of customers and ensure it is orderly.
“We only have a limited number of caddies, so by getting a pass you can have coffee in your car and get up at 10 a.m. when I say who’s number one?” said Cawood.
During the latter part of the week, the store will attract shoppers looking for items that they can then resell through their own garage sales, Cawood said, to keep the business cycle going.
Cawood previously worked as an executive for Charles Schwab & Co. and became interested in the resale market through his son, Ben, who ran a small business selling on Amazon and eBay.
When Ben left for college in Boston, Cawood became more interested in “reverse logistics,” which involves taking items from retailers in high volume and reselling them to the public. He and his wife hooked up with Morgan in 2018.
“We were intrigued. By operating a store where you discount the price of each item based on the day of the week, you can empty a store during the week so you can restock and go again,” he said.
Opening a retail store was a big step, but Cawood said he relied on advice from Teejay Lowe, whose family operated the G&G supermarket before selling to Safeway in 2016. Lowe who now manages the shopping mall where the Falling Prices store is located. .
“It’s an exciting retail model, quite honestly,” Lowe said of the store. “If you provide value to people, they will buy with you.”
You can reach editor Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or [email protected] On Twitter @BillSwindell.