2021 Retailers To Watch: Ocean State Job Lot

From new formats to game-changing omnichannel strategies, and with the coronavirus pandemic impacting all aspects of the industry, the world of retail continued to evolve in 2020 as a number of leading chains and e-commerce pure-plays launched a range of key initiatives in an effort to enhance differentiation from their competitors.

Housewares and home were a focal point for many of these omnichannel-oriented retailers, which worked with leading vendors to launch new assortments ranging from kitchenware to home furnishings.

HomeWorld’s fourth annual Retailers To Watch, in the November 16 issue, takes a look at eight retailers that have made moves to further strengthen their respective businesses heading into 2021 through a range of initiatives, from new omnichannel directions to new retail formats. Selected by the HomeWorld editorial staff, each retailer selected is taking aim at growing top-level sales in the coming year and placing housewares and home at the forefront of their respective growth strategies.

Overview

With a changing assortment of products but a steady focus on food, commodities and seasonal products at sharp prices, Ocean State Job Lot is a great place to bargain hunt for outdoor, pool and garden products, gourmet food items and inexpensive everyday needs and household goods such as kitchen gadgets, cookware, storage items and rugs. However, this is an off-pricer that is enthusiastically participating in e-commerce as well.

Off-pricers have typically been skittish about online selling, feeling it will undermine the value of their stores. Not Ocean State Job Lot.

Ocean State opened its first store in North Kingston, RI, in 1977. By 2000, the company was opening its 50th store in Naugatuck, CT, and it reached 100 stores in 2010 when it debuted a location in Medford, MA. It now has 140 locations in New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. By 2019, when it opened eight stores and relocated three, the company reported revenues of $750 million. Like Ollie’s, which expanded rapidly in the Middle Atlantic region then into the South, Midwest and New England, Ocean State is a throwback. Maybe not as much of a throwback as Ollies, which revels in the organized disorder of its locations, but still a circular-promoted, bargains-on-gondolas retailer.

What to Watch

The point of departure with Ocean State Job Lot is the website. There, furnishings have an expanded presence with items ranging from $5 to $6,949 for an Osaki Premium 4.0 Massage Chair. Many of its pricier items come with Crazy Deal attachments that sometimes even match the price of the items. So the $6,949 price of the massage chair comes with $6,949 in Crazy Deals gift cards. Those can be spent on Crazy Deal merchandise as advertised in the stores and occasionally in the fliers or in email or website notifications. In appliances, Ocean State recently offered a Cool Living 5 Cubic Foot Chest Freezer for $249.99 with a $60 Crazy Deal gift card as the high-priced product in appliances and a KitchenAid Tri-Ply 12-Quart Stainless Steel Stockpot with Lid for $119.99 with a $119.99 Crazy Deal gift card.

With a unique proposition and consistent growth, Ocean State has been expanding at a deliberate pace, with college towns a target. Seasonal products at sharp prices get new consumers through the doors, and that can mean everything from gazebos to kayaks to pool care needs to flannel shirts. Still, once the bargain hunt starts drawing them in and they get used to checking out the deals in the circulars on paper or online, where they also can find Insider Coupons, shoppers can explore the online-based assortment and become aware of bargains on big ticket items that can make Ocean State a smart place to start when looking for a variety of furnishings, housewares and other household goods. —Mike Duff

Clarification: Although a number of exceptions exist, customers can use Crazy Deal gift cards on goods other than Crazy Deal items.

2021 Retailers To Watch (click on name for profile)

Crate & Barrel

Lowe’s

Ocean State Job Lot

Macy’s

Kohl’s

eBay

Dollar General

Bed Bath & Beyond