Nov 21, 2022 - Business

Florida-based Hotbins reinvents the thrill of a deal

People dig through bins of boxed merchaindise at Hotbins

The crowd at Hotbins Tampa on Friday morning. Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios

Florida's bargain hunters are getting some huge deals at a store that turns trash into treasure.

What's happening: Hotbins — a store full of giant bins that are filled with random boxes of stuff — opened its Tampa location last month.

State of play: Hotbins is booming. The Tampa shop, located across the street from Busch Gardens, is the fourth location of the Florida chain, which first opened in Lake Worth in June. A Tamarac store is opening on Black Friday.

Why it matters: The fast-growing chain is capitalizing on billions of dollars in thrown away returns by trying to save some of it from the landfill.

The big picture: American shoppers returned more than half a trillion dollars (yes, that's trillion with a T) in merchandise last year, NPR reports. And experts estimate about a quarter of that goes in the trash.

  • U.S. returns create almost 6 billion pounds of landfill waste each year, returns and resale company Optoro estimated.
  • Stores are abandoning merchandise — often paying out refunds without asking for items back — because the cost of shipping and paying employees to assess the mass quantity of returns isn't worth the potential resale money, per NPR.

How it works: Hotbins buys return and overstock items from Amazon and Target, with some of its stock also coming from Walmart and Kohl's, Mohamed Samara, manager of the Lake Worth store, told Axios.

  • Every item is the same price, which changes based on the day of the week. The stores are closed on Thursdays for restocking, so the week kicks off Friday, when items go for $12. Prices decrease by $2 every day with Wednesday items costing just $2.
  • There are also daily specials. Last Friday in Tampa, clothes were buy one, get one free. Last Wednesday, you could get seven items for $10 ($1.40 per item before sales tax).

Between the lines: The items not sold by Wednesdays get thrown out, Samara told Axios. But these are items that would likely have been thrown out anyway.

  • They don't take returns.

The most fun part: A lot of packages are unmarked, meaning the room is literally full of surprises. Shoppers are allowed to bring the mysterious unmarked boxes four at a time to an unboxing station, where an employee with a box cutter shows you what's inside and can plug any electronics into an outlet to make sure they work.

  • If you like it, it's yours. If not, it goes back to the bins.

Go deeper: The best deals I scored at the Tampa Bay Hotbins


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