Overstock to get rid of returned items in public auction

Published: Monday, Dec. 12 2011 10:00 p.m. MST

Overstock Auction

Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — In a 670,000-square foot warehouse in Salt Lake City, Overstock.com has piled up thousands of items that customers, for whatever reason, have returned during the past few months.

So what happens to all that stuff that gets returned? The Salt Lake City-based company is facing that problem, and this week it has a plan to get rid of it during an auction where anyone can bid on it.

A preview day is set for Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The auction, at at 1790 S. 4800 West, will be Thursday at 10 a.m., and everything is expected to be sold within a few hours. To see a product list, go to http://salesandauction.com/images/stories/files/o.co.pdf. Pictures of some of the items are also posted on salesandauction.com.  

“Overstock has put these pallets together and wrapped them up," said Rob Olson, owner of Erkelens and Olson Auctioneers, "and it’s like a warehouse full of Christmas presents.”

Returns are a fact of life in retail, and through the years, Overstock, one of the nation's largest online retailers, has taken returned items and sold them to liquidators and wholesalers that in turn resell it. But this year, Overstock will give the general public an opportunity.

“We kind of call it revenue recovery,” said Carroll Marale, vice president of supply chain for Overstock. “We’ve already taken part of a loss, so we’re just trying to recover some of it and still be a good corporate citizen.”

The warehouse has thousands of items available. “You can have anything from shoes, furniture, all kinds of apparel, dinnerware, toys and electronics. ... It runs the whole gamut,” Marale said.

There are more than 240 pallets, each stacked with a hodgepodge of items. They'll be auctioned one at a time, with low starting bids.

"It could be as low as $100, and they could sell for as high as $2,000 ... (or) could be higher,” Olson said. He said it just depends on what's in the pallet and how bad two people want it.

Every pallet is expected to sell quickly, and Overstock workers will be ready to help people haul it out.

“It's going to be all hands on deck,” Marale said. “This is the first time for us, so we're going to do everything we can to have a successful auction."

The timing of this auction is important, because once the holidays are over, Overstock will see a spike in returns after the first of the year, so they're making room.

"There's a treasure in every box," Olson said.

E-mail: kmccord@ksl.com

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