We’ll open 950 stores — ‘Brick and mortar isn’t dead’

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is one-third of the way to opening 950 locations after opening three Tennessee stores on Wednesday, CEO Mark Butler told CNBC.

The discount retailer is also eyeing new establishments in Oklahoma and Massachusetts, which he said would expand the chain to 25 states across the country. Ollie’s store count currently stands at 318 with four more locations in the pipeline, according to its website.

“Brick and mortar isn’t dead. Ollie’s is thriving,” Butler said in a one-on-one with Jim Cramer on “Mad Money.” “Our shopping experience, it’s absolutely un-duplicable online. It just ain’t gonna happen.”

Ollie’s loyalty program, Ollie’s Army, has reached more than 9 million members and makes up about 70% of the company’s business, he said. The retailer has been mounting its growth on the bankruptcies that have struck other retailers.

“You come in, you see the goofiness, you see the signs, you see the bargains, and you know what, it’s very difficult to come in and just buy one item,” Butler said. “You see another bargain you pick it up we ring you out we say thanks and they come back.”

In a past interview, Butler told Cramer that Ollie’s moved in to 18 former Toys R Us locations, buying a dozens spots and leasing the others out of bankruptcy court. The company sought to capitalize on the toy business on news that the iconic toy store would close 800 locations in 2018.

Comparable store sales rose 5.4% in the fourth quarter powered by the toy category, the chief highlighted.

“The [toy] manufacturers were coming and saying they had more and more product. So we bought into it,” Butler explained Wednesday. “We have every intention not only to meet what we did in toys last year, which was sensational, but to beat it and the way we’re gonna beat it is by increasing our width by our breadth, not necessarily our depth, and make more toy offerings available to the customer.”

Outside of selling toys, Butler touted Ollie’s connection with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. The company is helping teach at-risk youth life lessons through the sport of baseball, he said.

Butler is chairman of the charity.

“This is a benefit to the youth.,” he said. “It’s just a small part we can pay back.”

The stock is up nearly 36% in 2019 and more than 45% over the past year.

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