BIG DEAL AIMS FOR BIG BARGAINS

Byline: Kristin Young

LOS ANGELES — Among retailers, what is the Big Deal?
Coming off of a less-than-stellar holiday season and with a jittery economy, the “big deal” is excess inventory, according to several specialty boutiques here.
Mark Freeman believes he has a way to get rid of excess goods without the help of jobbers, consignment stores or charities.
Freeman, a grandson of Gerry Freeman, the founder of Freeman Cosmetics — sold to Dial Corp. in 1998 — is executive vice president and founder of Pure Beauty and part-owner with his wife, Jill Roberts, of her two namesake stores.
He’s also behind the Big Deal, a bazaar-atmosphere shopping weekend patterned after the Barneys Warehouse Sale, where some 50 boutiques will convene to sell leftover merchandise to the public at 50 to 80 percent off retail prices.
The first installment is slated for March 17, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and March 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, Calif. Admission is free to the public.
“Nobody is perfect in their buying,” said Freeman, noting the idea for the event sprang from the growth of closeout malls and the popularity of warehouse sales. “[Small specialty stores] buy inventory, and they’re accountable for that inventory. Larger retailers have the luxury to send merchandise back to the manufacturer.”
Freeman said Jill Roberts stores are sitting on thousands of dollars worth of inventory from last season. The boutiques use storage locker rooms, rolling racks at the store or any other space available to store excess stock.
Other local better retailers said they have similar problems and confirmed they have joined the Big Deal, including Lisa Kline and Lisa Kline Men, Ice Accessories, Avant-Garde, Madison, Gary’s, Jay Wolf men’s and women’s, Magnolia, D&G and Christensen’s. Some better designers are also expected to join in.
Retailers pay a fee of about $1,250 for a 130-square-foot trade show-style booth. Some are taking several booths. At press time, Freeman had sold 55 booths.
For the first edition, Freeman is shelling out $50,000 for radio and newspaper advertising and roll out a direct mail and e-mail campaign.
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Red, a restaurant — all favorites among fashion-happy Angelenos — will also be on hand to refuel shoppers. In addition, there will be a deejay, gift basket and store certificate giveaways and door prizes given to the first 1,000 people.
And there will also be something the Barneys Warehouse Sale doesn’t have: fitting rooms.
Freeman said he expects the Big Deal to lose money the first time around, but hopes the event will make a name for itself and one day turn a profit.

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