Monday, December 17, 2018

Questions & Answers with wholesaler Ian Flannagan

September 30, 2010 by Michael Alterio  
Filed under Featured Suppliers, Supplier Zone

Opportunity Buys Inc. is a leading general merchandise wholesaler specializing in sales to flea market and swap meet vendors. Also known as OBI Imports, the company is well-regarded for its lines of candles, oils, and warmers, but its full assortment ranges from decor and dolls to toys and tools. More interesting to industry professionals, OBI’s run of successes, as well as the confidence of its expansion plans, offer a ray of bright news in an otherwise overcast recessionary sky.

The company has raked up impressive growth recently, according to sales manager Ian Flannagan. Business is up, and OBI recently broke ground on a 50,000-square-foot distribution center expansion. The company continues to innovate — for example, a new wheeled-shelf racking system has cut order fill time by more than half. recently interviewed Flannagan and got him to talk about the company’s successes, product news, and trends that vendors should know about going into 2011. How did OBI get its start?

OBI sales manager Ian Flannagan: Opportunity Buys as a whole as been around roughly ten years, but the business really started when the owner, Tim Chockett, made his first closeout purchase and sale over 15 years ago. That was the true beginning of Opportunity Buys Inc. After that initial purchase, the business got bigger and bigger, and the name became well-known in the closeout market. Besides still buying and selling closeouts, OBI now designs, manufactures, and imports many of its own brands of merchandise. From home fragrance to home decor, we are at the head of the line when it comes to designing and importing merchandise.

OBI expansion site

This grassy field that is the site of OBI's forthcoming 50,000-square-foot expansion.

FMZ: How has the company improved its facilities?

Flannagan: We started in a small building, probably no more than 2,500 square feet, and we had three different building changes until we made it to the building we are in today, a 60,000-square-foot warehouse and showroom. We recently broke ground on an additional 50,000-square-foot add-on that will help us provide more merchandise to our customers.

FMZ: Any other recent improvements at the company?

Flannagan: In addition to the 50,000-square-foot warehouse add-on we have also modified our racking system to better fill customer orders. The new system, set on wheeled shelves, allows us to fit more products per area, and to fill each order almost three times faster! This means more orders pulled, processed, and shipped per day.

OBI racking

OBI's new warehouse racking system has improved fulfillment organization and efficiency.

FMZ: How has business been in this economy?

Flannagan: We have done well. Obviously, we have come out with our heads out of the water. We attribute this to great quality products at a great price, knowledgeable sales reps, and good shipping times.

FMZ: What’s next year looking like for the company?

Flannagan: 2011 is going to be a fantastic year for OBI as we launch many new product brands and open up new websites for our customers to purchase them.

FMZ: What kinds of companies do you sell to?

Flannagan: We currently sell to any and all businesses. Whether you are a flea market vendor, gift shop owner, or a chain store buyer, we have product of such good quality and price that all of these different buyers can resell our products and make money.

FMZ: What do flea market vendors need to do to buy from you?

Flannagan: The set-up to purchase from OBI is very easy. It is the same process for flea market vendors, gift shop owners, or any business owner wanting to purchase from us. Simply visit our website at and fill out our online application for membership (at no cost to the customer). Then fax or email a copy of your business license or TaxID number to us at (317) 353-6696 or One of our sales representatives will then get the set-up into our system and then email a confirmation to log in and start buying.

We also call each and every new applicant to make sure they received all of their information within seven business days of signing up. This way we can touch base with them, answer any questions they may have, and most importantly start selling them merchandise so they can in turn start making a profit from OBI products.

FMZ: What makes your company a compelling source for people selling at swap meets and flea markets?

Flannagan: We are a great source of product because we not only have a large selection of merchandise of great quality but we also ship in a very timely manner. We always try to have every order shipped out within 24 to 48 hours of when the order was placed. Our sales representatives are very knowledgeable with all of our products and can answer any questions that our customers may have. Couple all of this with the fact that we offer all of our products at great pricing and it makes us a fantastic source of merchandise for our customers.

FMZ: What kinds of margins can your customers expect, generally speaking?

Flannagan: Most of our customers can expect to at least double or triple out of each piece. I know that sometimes that is going to depend on your location, but generally speaking our customers are able to make good margins on our products, otherwise they wouldn’t keep ordering them. I have seen some of our oil warmers and candle warmers, purchased for $5.95 each, sell in some high-end gift shops for as high as $24.99.

FMZ: How many products do you offer? Do you specialize in any particular lines?

Flannagan: We have thousands of products listed on our website. We specialize in a few areas; oil warmers, candle warmers, dream catchers, and other Native American products. These product lines are what we are mainly known for, however our other lines of home decor and poly-resin will be coming into their own in 2011.

What really sets us apart with candle warmers and dream catchers, besides our great pricing, are our designs. We work with different artists to ensure we get different and fantastic art and then get it licensed. That way our customers know they are getting designs that aren’t available anywhere else. Our quality control ensures that our pictures come out colorful and sharp, so that the image can be seen easily and appreciated for the art that it is.

Our oil warmers are different from other suppliers’ because when we visit a factory we urge them to give us the best quality we can get at the best price available for our quality demands. This sets us apart from other oil warmer suppliers. We want to give the best possible quality for the best possible price. That doesn’t mean cutting corners on the length of the cord or the quality of the glass or using an inferior mold and resin for our poly-warmers. That’s just not how we work. Our customers know the difference in quality between an OBI warmer and our competitors’, especially concerning our poly-warmers.

FMZ: Do you have a minimum order size?

Flannagan: You would think that the way I’m talking that I’ll say our minimum is $500 or $1000, but actually our minimum is only $100! This way business owners of all sizes can take advantage of our product.

FMZ: What is an example of your wholesale and suggested retail pricing?

Flannagan: Since many of our products have different price points its hard to give you all the figures, but typically if a customer pays $7.95 for an item our SRP for that item is between $19.99 and $24.99.

FMZ: Are you offering any special deals to flea market customers? Volume discounts? Starter kits?

Flannagan: We always have a pricing discount when customers purchase items in larger quantities. There is a piece price and a case price. When someone orders our product by the full case we give a discount, usually running between 15 percent to 20 percent.

For more information, contact:

Opportunity Buys Inc.
1515 Brookville Crossing Way
Indianapolis, IN 46239
Tel: (317) 353-6684
Toll Free: (800) 894-2816
Fax (317) 353-6694

Photo credits, with thanks: OBI.

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