With discounts ranging from 50 to 70 percent off everything in-store, UTS Buyers may quickly become a crowd favorite for broke, hungry college students.
by Benjamin Cooley (@cooley_bdexter)
If you’re a student, you likely know the pains of grocery shopping. I don’t mean the weekly debate of which sugary cereal to buy this time or whether or not to grab that extra bag of chips. I’m talking about prices: the high, the low, and the too-good-to-pass-up low.
It seems, in many cases, “student” and “bargain-hunter” have become nearly synonymous when it comes to shopping for groceries and daily essentials. With student loans piling up, classes eating into work hours, and the price of campus parking passes dipping into savings, discounts and bargains at the grocery store quickly become a student’s best friend.
In July of 2014, Under The Sun Buyers entered as the newest player in the bargain grocery game in Indianapolis. Since then, its across-the-board discounts of 50 to 70 percent off every item has blown other stores’ discounts out of the water and made a noticeable splash in the bargain-seeker community. So how do they do it?
Zach Hendershot, current manager of the UTS Buyers storefront tucked away near the corner of Roosevelt and Commerce Ave., says that UTS is best categorized as an “asset management company.” Simply put, this means UTS acts as a buyer of return or overstock product from large retail companies, such as Amazon.
“These companies have billions of dollars in sales, but they also have billions of dollars in returns,” says Hendershot.
Here’s how it works. Amazon receives returns from customers everyday. If the returns don’t meet the meticulous standards of reselling a returned product, they can’t keep it on their shelves. In the same way, items that have been on shelves for a long time usually get replaced with newer models. A warehouse can only fit so much stuff no matter how big the company.
Then, companies such as UTS come along and snag up these products at an ultra-discounted price. The only catch is that some products have visible damage such as tears in the packaging, or are just barely past the expiration date. Once the shipment of product arrives to UTS, it goes through another quality inspection, this one being much more lenient than the first.
As an overall rule, Hendershot says, “if it doesn’t stand on its own, we don’t sell it.” Once it hits the shelves, most products have been marked down over 50 percent off retail price. Some products even bypass the screening process with ease, having no previous damage or signs of wear.
Walking into the UTS Buyers storefront feels a bit overwhelming at first. Operating as both warehouse and storefront, the entire building is an open area with a vague line separating workers from shoppers. Bottled beverages line the racks to the right of the door while oils and baking ingredients line the floor on the opposite side. Despite feeling like a hodge-podge mix of random goods, there still remains an organization to the chaos, which Hendershot attributes to their overall business strategy.
“When people come in they know they’re going to find bargains. So it’s really that thrill-of-the-hunt feeling people like,“ says Hendershot.
Facts from a recent survey hint that UTS might actually be on to something with their unorganized organization. Of the UTS customers who took the in-store survey, the number two reason for shopping at UTS was the “thrill-of-the-hunt feeling.” The first, of course, was the amazingly low prices, with 61 percent of people reporting it as their primary reason for shopping at UTS.
As an IUPUI graduate, Hendershot remembers searching for bargains as a student himself and knows the importance of finding that unbelievable deal.
“We really like to aim towards college students since we are so close to campus and we have discounted products,” Hendershot says.
Recently, UTS also announced that they are now accepting JagTags as payment, giving IUPUI students even more incentive to check out their selection. As for the warehouse-converted-storefront building, Hendershot says they are looking into a new location just up the road that will have a more shopper-friendly layout and more visibility for people driving by looking for the store. Until then, UTS plans on continuing to offer lower-than-low prices and make a difference in the community.
“Our picture is bigger than just being a little store. We really want to contribute to Indianapolis,“ says Hendershot. “And we have fun doing it. There’s not really anyone doing what we’re doing.”