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Ollie's Bargain Outlet bringing 'good, cheap stuff' to Babies R Us site in Merrillville

Ollie's Bargain Outlet bringing 'good, cheap stuff' to Babies R Us site in Merrillville

The "extreme value" retailer Ollie's Bargain Outlet, which purports to offer "70% less than fancy stores" on its random selection of liquidated goods and overstock inventory, is taking over the former Babies R Us building at 1335 East 79th St. in Merrillville.

The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based discount retailer has been renovating the big-box store near Costco, which has sat vacant since Babies R Us closed in June as a result of the Toys R Us bankruptcy. A grand opening is planned in May.

Ollie's Bargain Outlet has been hiring for a number of jobs at the Merrillville store on its website and is planning job fairs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday at La Quinta Hotel at 8210 Louisiana St. in Merrillville.

The company is looking for cashiers, sales associates, managers, department supervisors, and other full- and part-time positions that it says offer "competitive benefits based on position."

It's the kind of place where one can find everything from a drone that was a hot Christmas gift two years ago to a Himalayan salt lamp.

The fast-growing Ollie's, which is bucking the trend of contraction that's been taking place in much of the rest of the brick-and-mortar retail industry in recent years, opened its first store in Northwest Indiana last summer.

Hundreds of people turned out for the opening of the Ollie's at 69 1/2 Pine Lake Ave. in the Pine Lake Shopping Center next to Kroger in LaPorte.

An outlier in the retail sector in the internet age, Ollie's does not do any business online or offer home delivery. Instead, it sells liquidated goods, irregular items, and closeout merchandise.

It has an ever-changing selection of random items like kids books, patio furniture cushions, ceramic pottery, area rugs, weighted blankets, artificial flowers and Wrangler jeans.

Ollie's says it always stocks items in categories that include housewares and home textiles, food, flooring, books and stationery, toys, home improvement and hardware, electronics, clothing and luggage, health and beauty supplies, sporting goods, pet supplies, automotive, holiday items, and lawn, garden, and patio.

But the specific inventory on the store's shelves never stays the same, since so many of the products are acquired through liquidation sales or because other retailers no longer want to carry them.

The products Ollie's stocks at any given time eventually run out. The retailer offers a "no hard time" refund policy of a full refund of any purchase returned within 30 days, so long as a receipt is furnished.

Founded 37 years ago, Ollie's has grown to more than 315 "semi-lovely stores" in 23 states across the country, making it "one of America's largest retailers of closeout merchandise and excess inventory." It became a publicly traded company in 2015, pulled in $5.3 billion in revenue last year, and has opened 45 new locations since just last summer.

Targeting bargain shoppers and treasure hunters, Ollie's has opened more than 215 stores nationwide over just the last eight years. In April, it plans to open five new stores in Tennessee, Louisiana and Ohio.

The retailer's folksy marketing prominently features the bucktoothed, leather-skinned, white-haired Ollie cartoon, who is depicted in a number of guises including a general, Sherlock Holmes and a professor with a pointer. 


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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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