Business & Real Estate

‘Be prepared to wait in line’: At Carmichael discount shop, prices drop ... and drop ... and drop

About 800 people lined up on Tuesday at the front door. One woman said she waited 2 1/2 hours to get in. The man working the entrance could let only two people in at a time, to comply with fire codes.

No, it’s not downtown Sacramento’s hottest nightclub. It’s a liquidation outlet for retail giants such as Target and Amazon, tucked into the corner of a Carmichael strip mall.

Things were a bit calmer Wednesday, but at least 150 shoppers still showed up in the first hour of business at Falling Prices, a new store that’s taking the idea of bargain bins to the next level.

The store at 6456 Fair Oaks Blvd. has generated huge buzz since its Jan. 15 grand opening, thanks to media coverage and rapid word-of-mouth advertising of its simple concept.

The store is filled each Tuesday with overstock items, and everything costs $6 that day. Then the prices – well, they fall. On Wednesday to $4. Then $2 Thursdays and $1 Fridays until finally, you can snag whatever’s left in the store on Saturday for 25 cents.

The store is closed to customers Sunday and Monday while it’s restocked with new items, mostly coming from contracted vendors including Amazon and Target, and then the whole things starts over again.

The items are displayed in large plywood bins with minimal organization.

Most bins on Wednesday had some combination of food, paper towels, diapers and toys. Others had clothes or books. Only a few electronics and small appliances remained.

What was that first week like?

“Hell,” owner Ryan Babineau said. “With no advertising, there was 150 people on opening day. And momentum has grown since then. Yesterday, there was about 800 people in line first thing in the morning.”

The store can only hold about 250 shoppers.

“We actually have to stop them at the door, and then we have to do the ‘two-people-leave, two-people-come-in.’”

Falling Prices had a staff of just three people for opening day, Babineau said, but he hired three more after an overwhelming first week.

Shopper Michele Michaud’s cart was nearly full before 11 a.m. on $4 Wednesday, packed mostly with fishing gear and toys for her son.

Michaud said she stood in line with a friend for about 2½ hours Tuesday morning, telling herself she wouldn’t spend any money. She did, and said she loved Falling Prices so much she returned the next day.

“I got these little dinosaurs, and they’re $15 at Walmart,” Michaud said. “They’re $4 today, and these are my son’s favorite. It’s honestly a great deal. You just have to be prepared to wait in line.”

Another shopper, John Ausborn, said he lives nearby and has shopped there almost every day since Falling Prices opened.

Co-founder and CFO of Sacramento-based RL Liquidators LLC, Babineau said he conceived the idea of Falling Prices after working in asset liquidation for more than a decade. Babineau began working in storage unit liquidation (à la A&E reality TV series “Storage Wars”) after the 2008 recession ended his career with ARCO.

Babineau likened the Falling Prices experience to a “hunt for buried treasure.”

“Yesterday this lady found a $180 backpack she got for six bucks, and she was just thrilled,” Babineau said. “She was super thrilled. She’s probably the only one that knew that was a high-end backpack. I didn’t know. She’s at the register just stoked.”

It’s a unique experience. While in line to check out, one woman told her companion to take an item. It was worth more than $4, she insisted.

By the end of Saturday, any inventory remaining is gathered and thrown away.

“If it’s not worth 25 cents, it’s worthless,” Babineau said.

A few users on social media have called it a messy or even “trashy” concept. Babineau concedes it’s not for everyone.

“I’m not gonna stand here and try to say that bin over there isn’t disorganized,” Babineau said. “Of course it is. We’re not trying to be the Nordstrom of liquidation.”

Still, the store seems to be a hit so far. It’s open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

The parking lot was fully packed by 10:30 Wednesday morning.

“It’s been much more popular than I ever dreamed it would be,” Babineau said. “I didn’t realize people wanted this this bad.”