Big Lots to Invest in Customer Analytics, Open up to 60 Stores

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
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Big Lots had its “strongest year” and now the retailer is investing in data-driven operations and plans to open up to 60 stores.

"Fiscal 2020 was the strongest year in the history of Big Lots, occurring against the backdrop of an unprecedented year of uncertainty for our nation and industry,” said president and CEO Bruce Thorn.

The company reported net sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020 jumped 8.1% compared to the same period the prior year, with the growth resulting from a 7.9% increase in comparable sales, and sales growth from new and relocated non-comp stores, offset by a slightly lower average store count year-over-year. E-commerce and omnichannel platforms saw sales increase over 130%.

Lot and Queue Program

Big Lots is increasing its Lot and Queue Line conversions to 550 additional stores in 2021, most rolling out in spring. By mid-year 2021 it expects more than 90% of stores will feature the Lot and Queue Line footprint features and assortments.

Big Lots’ capital expenditures for 2021 are expected to be in the range of $180-$190 million focusing on investments in Lot and Queue Line store conversions (see sidebar), omnichannel capabilities, space planning technology and customer analytics capabilities.

In addition, the retailer expects to open 50 to 60 stores in 2021, of which around 20 will be relocations. For the full year 2020, Big Lots opened 24 stores and closed 20, putting it at 1,408 stores total.

We’re working in 2021 to further strengthen our e-commerce capabilities and customer data insights,” said Thorn. “We will invest to improve user experience, omnichannel capabilities to ship through store and personalization capabilities through expanded use of customer data platforms, online customer panels and more advanced segmentation.”

Additionally, this year Big Lots will launch data-driven space planning capabilities for the first time in the company’s history.

“Focusing on safe productivity, we will have better analytical tools to impact future buy cycle, optimize floor plans per store, further optimize allocation and replenishment and improve store compliance for planogram execution,” said Thorn. “We expect that these capabilities will greatly enhance our productivity store-by-store and category-by-category with the focus on shelf availability of relevant products. Most importantly, it will create a more relevant customer assortment to increase sales and increase customer satisfaction, fueling return visits. We are excited to be adding this tool to our merchandise program as we transform the way we work.”