Jacobs Trading Company (JTC), a privately held company owned by Irwin Jacobs, is a liquidator of customer returns merchandise. “Our merchandise can be any category or department of goods,” explains Howard Grodnick, president, who has been with the company for 20 years, “and our customers buy full truckloads of goods.” JTC sells to a variety of outlets including discount and surplus stores, flea market vendors, auctioneers, and wholesalers and retailers. Truckload prices vary greatly depending on the manufacturer or retailer of the goods. “Customer returns merchandise is sold as is, so there can be open box goods in really good condition or there can be damaged goods. It’s a mixed bag,” Grodnick notes. Retailers might get a few of the same items, for example, but the condition might be different for each one. Some sellers might offer the items for the same price across the board, while others might get a premium for the perfectly good item and price the items in rougher condition to sell. With all these variables, profit margins differ. Still, just like its merchandise, JTC’s customers continue to return, year after year, load after load. “They count on the types of merchandise we provide,” Grodnick shares. “There are very few of us that sell customer returns that own the goods and own the contract.”
Customers also count on Jacobs Trading’s reputation as an ethical business. “I have been here 20 years, and it always surprises me that the salvage, closeout business has less than a stellar reputation,” Grodnick laments. “It doesn’t have to be that way. We treat our customers the way we would want to be treated. Customer service is important to us. Customers know they can trust that if they buy something from Jacobs Trading Company and if something isn’t right, we’ll make good on it. There are a lot of companies in this business that have been around a short time, and we’re probably the oldest liquidation company. You’re not going to survive in any business if servicing your customers is not your priority.”
Jacobs Trading Company is doing more than surviving, it is thriving under the leadership of Grodnick and Jacobs, who founded the company in the 1960s. Jacobs stumbled into the closeout merchandise business when he bought and sold a pile of skis from the U.S. Customs Service. He soon began running liquidation events and turned that into COMB (Close-out Merchandise Buyers) Liquidation, a well known liquidation company that evolved into 40 retail stores. In the 1980s, Jacobs went public with COMB and, soon after, started Cable Value Network (CVN), which was acquired by QVC. In 1989, Jacobs bought the wholesale division of COMB and that became JTC, which was acquired by Liquidity Services (LSI) last year. LSI sells customer return goods and refurbished goods, with contracts leaning toward electronics such as TVs and computers. “That was really beneficial to the marketplace because Jacobs only sells by the truckload, but LSI will sell by the pallet and by the small lot,” Grodnick points out. “We can refer customers who aren’t ready to buy a load over to LSI, and they’ll get started on a smaller scale. When they are ready, down the road, they can buy truckloads of merchandise from us. It’s a nice complement.”
Jacobs Trading Company assists customers new to liquidations in other ways as well, ensuring that they understand the types of merchandise they are buying. “If they are first time buyers, we like to qualify why they want to buy this merchandise,” Grodnick states. “Sometimes, when customers buy an inventory, things don’t work out as they expect and other times they work out better than they could imagine.” In any case, it is an exciting business to be in, Grodnick assures. “Everyone I work with is passionate about the business. It seems like it is a different breed of people who have an instinct and appreciation for deals and value. It’s a fun way to make a living.”
To learn more about Jacobs Trading Company and obtain information on its “Hot Deals,” visit the company’s website. For Spanish speaking customers interested in salvage goods, a Spanish-language version of the website is available with the click of a button.
For more information:
Jacobs Trading Company
8090 Excelsior Blvd.
Hopkins, MN 55343