Many shopkeepers avoid hosting retail store clearance sales. Whether they’re worried about the perceived value of their goods or what other store owners might think, it’s common for shopkeepers to avoid marking down their old stock. Sadly, these worries can affect their bottom line and the health of their business.
A well-executed retail store clearance sale can be an incredible opportunity to destock your store and get a healthy influx of cash! In fact, it could be your best sales day EVER.
Today, I’m sharing about the retail store clearance sale I hosted in my quaint, sister-owned boutique. Read on to learn why I chose to have a clearance sale, how I marketed it on super-short notice, and the winning event strategy that brought in more revenue and transactions than we’d ever seen in a single day.
Why You Should Host a Retail Store Clearance Sale
My sister and I decided to host a clearance sale at our store, The Salvaged Boutique, for several reasons.
First, our stock-to-sales ratio was high. Since we don’t have a clearance section in our store, we’re not always able to clear out inventory that we no longer need or want.
We also hadn’t hosted a Facebook live clearance sale in two years. We had plenty of stock to clear out, though, which was a good indicator that a clearance sale could be a great solution!
Lastly, we were heading into Q4. I wanted a quick way to clear out old stock and get a cash influx before the busiest season of the year was upon us.
A Winning Event Strategy: What Worked for My Store
Once we had decided to host a clearance sale, we realized that we could piggyback off of an upcoming neighborhood sale event! There would be lots of extra foot traffic and built-in excitement that day.
Because we aimed to clear out our old stock, we offered a heavy 50% discount on the clearance section. To make our retail store clearance sale even more enticing, we created an exclusive opportunity for our email subscribers: they would get 25% off the entire store—including our newest autumn and Halloween-themed items!—as well as first dibs on the 50% off section.
The neighborhood event started at noon, so the exclusive discount for our email subscribers started at 10 AM. They had to arrive early for the exclusive whole-store discount and first dibs on clearance items.
Lastly, we asked two of our fill-in team members to provide extra support the day of.
By piggybacking off the neighborhood event, offering an exclusive discount for our email list, creating urgency with an earlier start time, and having extra help in the store on the day of, we made more sales than we did on Small Business Saturday the year before! It was a wildly successful retail store clearance sale.
Marketing a Retail Store Clearance Sale
We didn’t create a massive marketing campaign in advance. We chose to do this just 11 days before the neighborhood sale event, which didn’t leave much time for planning out marketing materials.
To make sure that the event was successful, we did post several times on social media. These posts teased that something special was coming and encouraged people to sign up for our newsletter.
From there, we sent several emails to our list with the details of the clearance sale. Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools in a retail shopkeeper’s tool belt, and it worked beautifully for this event.
We also had the collaborative marketing for the neighborhood event working in our favor. 25+ businesses were participating, and the host did a fantastic job of organizing everything. There were nearly 1000 people in attendance!
If you’re a Master Shopkeepers member, you can access a detailed case study with my marketing strategy in the 11 days leading up to the event. I shared what I posted and when, what emails I sent out and when, and more details of how this all came together. Search “case study” in the MSK Facebook group to find it.
The Results of My Retail Store’s Clearance Sale (And What You Can Expect For Yours!)
The clearance sale was VERY successful. Not only did we exceed our sales and transaction numbers from Small Business Saturday the year before…
…but it was the highest revenue and number of transactions EVER in one day!
Plus, we got rid of a lot of old stock. We brought our stock-to-sales ratio down by several points. Our store felt healthier and refreshed with that old stock out the door.
Another interesting tidbit: you might assume that the average order value would dip with such a big sale event. However, ours went up! So for those of you that “poo-poo” sales…don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
With the extra cash, we paid off a nice chunk of our credit card BEFORE October and the busy holiday season. That balance was from our holiday merchandise that shipped before September, so it felt great to know it was paid off.
While I could have created a different strategy to destock and protect our margins more, I was more than okay with the clearance sale—and I’m definitely pleased with the results. Life has been challenging this year, so creatively destocking wasn’t at the top of my list.
If you need to destock quickly because of life circumstances, don’t worry. It happens. Don’t judge yourself for it. Don’t get stuck in your head. It’s okay, I promise.
I was happy that this neighborhood event came along when it did! I could capitalize on it because the timing was right, and I finally had the bandwidth to do it.
My sister was on vacation enjoying her 30th wedding anniversary (incredible, right?!), and I really wanted her to enjoy the time off; I handled all the planning, details, and execution of the clearance sale.
I’m also grateful for our community of small business owners who collaborate and support each other. Eight years ago, when we opened our brick and mortar, this community did not exist. We were one of the few small retailers in the neighborhood then!
Thankfully, many small businesses have moved into the area over the past few years. It’s been cool to see.
The Best Times to Host Your Retail Store Clearance Sale
The end of summer is a great time to host a retail store clearance sale!
The school year has started, and this is the season when our customers are starting to spend and shop for the holidays. Their budgets feel slightly better now that they’ve paid for school supplies and summer vacations.
The end of December or the beginning of January is ALSO a great time to host a retail store clearance sale. Lots of customers are looking for deals or already planning for the next holiday season, so having a destock can work wonderfully right after the holidays end.
Ready to Host Your Clearance Sale? Three Things to Consider
Hosting a retail store clearance sale might not work for you. It truly depends on your situation. But if you’re considering an event like this, do the following:
1. Take a good look at your stock. Make your decision based on your stock-to-sales ratio, if possible.
2. Look for upcoming opportunities. Taking advantage of a neighborhood event works wonders! If there aren’t any upcoming events, decide if you can make your own opportunity.
3. Don’t be afraid to do something BIG. Store owners sometimes get in their own way, particularly when it comes to discounting or worrying about what others may think. But who cares?! Your business’s health is much more important.
- Free resource: 100+ Quick & Easy Social Media Ideas for Retailers
- Free resource: Tools of the Retail Trade
- How to Host a Facebook Live Clearance Sale
- [05:25] Why You Should Host a Retail Store Clearance Sale
- [07:01] A Winning Event Strategy: What Worked for My Store
- [09:11] Marketing a Retail Store Clearance Sale
- [11:03] The Results of My Retail Store’s Clearance Sale (And What You Can Expect For Yours!)
- [14:55] The Best Times to Host Your Retail Store Clearance Sale
- [15:45] Ready to Host Your Clearance Sale? Three Things to Consider
Connect With Kathy
Kathy Cruz is a brick and mortar store owner and retail coach. She helps shopkeepers work less, profit more, and grow their brick and mortar businesses through her podcast, quiz, and retail coaching mastermind.
Website: www.savvyshopkeeper.com | Instagram: @savvyshopkeeper