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Big Lots Gets Big Overhaul

May 2004
In the past year the in-plant at Big Lots has leapt into CTP and four-color printing, increasing impressions by almost 40 percent in the process.

By Erik Cagle

Imagine a cashier bellowing into her microphone, "I need a price check on Captain Don's Bait System," and you have a good idea of the shopping experience offered by Columbus, Ohio-based Big Lots.

This is not your mother's discount retailer. Sol Shenk, the company's late founder, purchased and resold items that would make a local clean sweeps auction seem boring: 2,700 DeLorean cars, six million bottles of Breck shampoo, 20,000 cases of Oreo Milk Changers, used Las Vegas slot machines, oil-drilling rigs and tanning beds.

While the product variety may be all over the place, a very focused and deliberate overhaul in the print shop has allowed the in-plant to redefine itself as the primary provider for Big Lots' on-demand printing needs.

Founded in 1967, Big Lots is a Fortune 500 company with more than 45,000 employees. It generates in excess of $3.8 billion in annual revenues, selling consumables, seasonal products, furniture, housewares, toys and gifts at up to 70 percent below conventional retail environments.

In August of 2001, Big Lots relocated its in-plant from the 860-square-foot facility it had occupied the previous 14 years to a 3,240-square-foot shop that is adjacent to a three-million-square-foot warehouse. But the biggest changes came just over a year ago, says Susan Layman, manager of administrative services. That was when the in-plant essentially retooled its entire shop. The new equipment included:

• A four-color A.B.Dick 4995A-ICS press with an ink control system

• A two-color A.B.Dick 9995A-ICS press with an ink control system

• An A.B.Dick DPM2340 digital platesetter

• A Baum 2020 folder

• A Baum 31-1⁄2˝ programmable cutter

• A C.P. Bourg four-tower collation bookletmaker system (installed in 2002)

Big Lots also updated its Xerox DocuTech from the 135 to the 6180 model, installed a Xerox 2060 color production device and added a 90-copy-per-minute Xerox Work Centre Pro 90 copier. Then, in January of this year, it added a Xerox 6060 color printer.

The spending spree came on the heels of a two-year study that examined how much it was costing Big Lots to outsource its printing. This was compared to the cost of purchasing and leasing equipment to produce the same work. Layman's department was able to show a "significant" cost savings that more than justified adding the new equipment.

'Time To Move Forward'

"Our shop had been in the same configuration for about 12 years and it was really time to move forward with new technology across the board," says Layman. "As we looked at trying to replace some of the old and worn equipment, we were also presented with new challenges to support a new sign package that was going in all our stores. The timing was so right, we actually got to tailor our equipment purchase to specifically support what our graphics department was asking that we be able to print."

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