Justin Starnes, the general manager of Eagle Eye Wholesalers, is still young, but he has more experience than many retail veterans. “I was selling at the swap meet when I was 15 years old,” he says. “I’m 28 years old now, and I’ve never gotten out of the business. This is the only thing that I’ve done. I go to the ASD trade show every year, and I talk to some of the biggest suppliers in the world. We buy from one of the largest supply chains on planet earth. I’ve seen it from all the angles that you really can in a 12-year span, so I want customers to know that I probably know where they’re coming from.”
“Before we were on the Internet, before we started doing anything online, my boss started out with 13 spots out at the dog track in Phoenix, and I started out with two or three spots out at the swap meet in Tuscon, Ariz.,” he recalls. “That’s always been our bread and butter.”
He used to sell to individual shoppers, but now he buys from the biggest chains. “We buy out drug stores and grocery stores,” he says. “Our main product line is cosmetics. We usually buy out large quantities of name brand make-up. We repackage it into boxes of 100-count or 200-count. We make sure it is clean and not broken, box it up and wholesale it to out to our customer.”
That explains the extremely low prices he can charge, as well as the consistent quality he offers. “The reason we’re able to do it is because we buy 100,000 pieces of cosmetics at a time. We’ve got it down to a science. We’ll get a manifest, and we can pick and choose. When I get a lot of 100,000 pieces, I can break down the ratio of how many pieces of mascara there are, how many pieces of nail polish there are, how many pieces of this and that. Say a shipment of 100,000 pieces is 38 percent mascara — if someone is going to buy 200 from us, I can say that they’re going to get 76 pieces. I keep the ratio exactly the same from when I buy it as a big buyer to when I sell it to people who are smaller buyers.”
“I buy it based off of what I see,” says Starnes, “and I say to myself, ‘If I were out at the flea market, if I had a table set up, what’s going to sell for me? Will this lot make me money?’ And to an extent I can do that for my customers too. I don’t want to forget where I started.”
Starnes’s consideration for independent retailers is also clear in the company’s ordering policy. “We don’t have a minimum order. We would like to see a customer buy something just once. And if they want to start off with a 100-count or 200-count lot, and they get it and they like it, great,” he says.
He has a strong empathy for customers buying in small quantities. “We understand that you got your little guys out there. Yard sale and e-Bay and swap meet guys maybe can’t afford a couple thousand pieces. That’s where I started out. I was a swap meeter for years. I’ve never really forgot what it is like to be the guy who only has $100 or $200 to spend on buying some product. We don’t want to forget those guys. I’ve seen what we’ve become, and we’d like to give other people that kind of shot too.”
Starnes’s ability to empathize with his customers makes him a hard bargainer on their behalf. “With the recession, there are actually some good things,” he says. “Huge corporations have lots and lots of product that they have to get rid of, that they have to move. As a buyer, that puts me in a very good position.”
Eagle Eye’s customers include a wide range of store types. “We’ve got little mom-and-pop shops that are just run by a husband and wife with one store,” says Starnes. “We’ve got some people here in Phoenix that have little chains of three or four stores. We’ve got people from Mexico who will drive five-six-seven hours. They’ll come up and fill up the trunk of a car or a Chevy pickup truck just to go back down and sell it all. It ranges all over the board. And with the Internet now, it can be anywhere in between. We have boutiques back east. We’ve got people who buy from us in Australia and the United Kingdom that sell at their small shops all over the world now, so it’s really awesome.”
Although his customers may be using the Internet to do business with him, Starnes is the first to admit that his Web site is less than impressive. “Our Web site is pretty simple,” he admits. “We try to concentrate more on product quality and keeping the costs down. There are a lot of better Web sites. We try to keep it simple for our customers: Nice pictures, good descriptions, and keeping our prices down.”
The company openly offers its wholesale pricing online to any Web browser. Actual offers featured on the home page range from $29.99 for a 20-piece Maybelline Shine Seduction Lip Gloss Lot to $400 for a 500-piece Covergirl Wholesale Makeup Lot with a free 100-piece Styli-Style wholesale makeup lot.
The pricing and consistent product mix keeps customers coming back. “We have a lot of return customers,” says Starnes. And that has led to phenomenal growth for the company. “Three or four years ago, for us to buy 200,000 pieces of makeup in a given year was a pretty big deal,” he says. “This year we’ll do well over a million pieces of makeup. As far as our business has done, we’ve had an incredible year. We’re on track to do better this year than we have in the past two or three.”
The company has won praise from customers for its fast turnaround. “We have a great relationship with FedEx,” says Starnes. “It took a lot of shipping that we’ve done with them over the years.” The company offers discounts for large volumes. “If somebody wanted to put together an order that was a couple thousand pieces, and give us a call, we could probably do them a little bit better of a deal.” The company employs Spanish speakers and is glad to do business in that language.
For more information:
Eagle Eye Wholesalers
811 N 13th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Web site: southwestwholesalebargains.com