For independent store owners, the fear of discounting inventory is very real—especially when they’ve got dead stock hanging around! 

It’s all too common for shopkeepers to have lots of negative thoughts about dead stock, discounting, and what those things mean about them. But if you can change those thoughts, you can make better decisions and see vastly different results. 

While noticing and changing our thoughts isn’t easy, it’s crucial mindset work for every indie retailer. Keep reading to learn how most store owners think about dead stock, how to change those thoughts, and what results you can achieve when you get past your fear of discounting inventory.

fear of discounting inventory

The Thought Process Indie Retailers Go Through When Analyzing Their Store’s Stock

As one year ends and a new year begins, it’s common for independent store owners to review and refresh their stock. 

Some retailers have a full-fledged process for this review, including calculating turn rates for each category. Others go more by gut feeling—most of us can walk around our stores and point out items that sell well (and those that haven’t sold in months). 

Most of the time, I’m a huge advocate for pulling and reviewing your store’s data. That way, you can make informed decisions based on the numbers. 

Whether you look at the numbers or go with your gut, you will have thoughts and feelings about your stock. You’re only human, after all! And those thoughts and feelings can have a massive impact on what happens next for your store.

Active Stock vs. Dead Stock: How Your Thoughts Affect Your Approach to Inventory Turn

Stock can be classified into three categories based on how well it sells: Active, Dead, and Slow. We’ll come back to slow stock at the end of this post, but for now, let’s look at the two extremes. 

How Most Retailers Think and Feel About Active Stock

Active stock is the stuff that sells well! These are the items that your customers love—and they tell you with their wallets. They’re nearly a no-brainer for you to reorder, and they turn fast.

When you think about your active stock, your brain probably tells you…

  • “I’m awesome!”
  • “I’m a great buyer.” 
  • “My customers love me and everything I carry in my store!”
  • “I can’t wait to go to market and find more gems for my shop.”
  • “Hey, competitors—eat my dust.”
  • “I love being the creative store owner who brings in what my customers love to buy.”

You might have whole categories of active stock or just a few items that shine bright. No matter how much active stock you have, your thoughts and feelings about active stock will be positive.

How Store Owners Think and Feel About Dead Stock

Dead stock is the inventory that just doesn’t sell well, no matter what you do. You may have tried sprucing them up, bundling them, or remerchandising, but they still haven’t sold. 

Unfortunately, dead stock can bring up a lot of negative thoughts and feelings about your store and your skills as a shopkeeper. When you think about your dead stock, your brain probably tells you…

  • “I suck.”
  • “I don’t like buying. I’m not any good at it.”
  • “What was I thinking when I ordered this?!”
  • “Other store owners must think I’m a failure.”
  • “I’m not good at giving my customers what they want.”
  • “I don’t want to be a discount store.”

All of those negative thoughts and feelings have a compounding negative effect on our actions as store owners. 

Retailers struggling with dead inventory often go into hiding. They stop showing up on social media, they give up on proactively selling, and they can’t tap into their creativity to move the stock in a new way. 

And because they feel so much shame and have a fear of discounting inventory, they hold onto their seemingly unsellable dead stock to avoid the possibility that someone thinks they’re a “discount store.”

fear of discounting inventory

Changing Your Thinking Around Dead Inventory

If you have dead stock, you have to find a way to get it out the door. Changing your thinking is the first step. 

What if you started thinking differently about your dead stock? What if you forgave yourself instead of beating yourself up and going into hiding? 

What if you reframed “bad, shameful, dead stock that means I suck” into “neutral dead stock that has nothing to do with my worth as a business owner?”

What if you overcame your fear of discounting inventory and saw dead stock as a fun challenge instead?

That’s what I did in September when my sister and I hosted a clearance sale! We were willing to try new strategies because we approached it as a fun, exciting way to clear out old inventory. It ended up being our best sales day EVER. 

Notice your thoughts around your dead stock. Reframe them or choose different thoughts (they don’t even have to be positive—neutral is just fine). Then, see how you can choose a new course of action and get different results.

What If Your Stock Is Just…Slow?

Between the active, flys-off-the-shelves stock and the dead, gotta-get-it-out-of-here stock, there’s also stock that’s just slow. 

You might look at your data or around your store and think, “Well, everything sells okay. I don’t have any huge sellers, but I also don’t have anything super stale.”

If that’s the case, you’re likely just not getting enough sales—and that’s almost always because you’re not getting enough people into the store. You can’t convert foot traffic into sales if there’s no foot traffic to begin with! 

Nurturing your thinking around your marketing strategy will help you get creative, boost your foot traffic, and increase sales. If you need guidance in this area, check out my $19 resource on getting your retail business noticed.



  • [08:38] The Thought Process Indie Retailers Go Through When Analyzing Their Store’s Stock
  • [10:23] Active Stock vs. Dead Stock: How Your Thoughts Affect Your Approach to Inventory Turn
  • [16:07] Changing Your Thinking Around Dead Inventory
  • [21:30] What If Your Stock Is Just…Slow?

Connect With Kathy

Kathy Cruz is an independent retail coach. She helps shopkeepers work smarter, profit more, and grow their brick and mortar businesses through her podcast, quiz, and retail coaching mastermind.
Website:  |  Instagram: @savvyshopkeeper

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