By Joel Russell, January 2011
If piles of unsold goods were a leading economic indicator, Jacques Stambouli would bet the recovery has arrived. Stambouli is co-owner of Via Trading Corp., a warehouse in Lynwood where resellers can buy pallets of merchandise that came back as returns or were unsold at mainstream retailers. The typical pallet contains different items in a specific category – clothing, toys, shoes, tools, home décor – with a total cost between $300 and $400. Via Trading’s customers resell the stuff at yard sales, swap meets or on eBay.
For 2011, Stambouli expects his business to grow 30 percent, twice the rate of last year. “A lot of retailers have given us forecasts for higher sales, which automatically translates to higher returns and more inventory for us,” he said. “Nationally, about 4 to 6 percent all merchandise sold goes back to the store as returns.” With retail sales during the recent holiday season higher than the previous year, Stambouli is bracing for a tsunami in coming weeks. The swell has already started with pallets of children’s clothing, toys, Christmas decorations and 3-D TV accessories filling his 240,000-square-foot warehouse.
He got the idea for Via Trading during a research project on the retail industry while getting his M.B.A. at Harvard. He launched the company with his brother in 2002. Stambouli plans to secure a major capital infusion from one of the private equity groups that he said constantly call him. He increased his payroll to 58 employees late last year and plans to hire more. “We could grow this business tenfold with the proper capital,” he said. “Even though we have done well, the potential ahead is still enormous.”
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