Podcast

Ep. 80 The Dead Inventory Scale: How to Make Decisions Around Stale Inventory



If you feel like some items in your store are looking tired, your regular customers are probably noticing it, too. Stale inventory can bore your regular customers and hurt your bottom line. 

But deciding what to do with dead inventory can be tricky. Here’s my system for dealing with tired items so that my store feels fresh.

Pre-Work: Figure Out Which Items Are Stale

Before you start tackling your dead inventory, you need to figure out what that stale inventory is. 

You probably have a general idea of which items are weighing you down. But just so you have a crystal clear picture of which items you need to address, I’d highly recommend running a dead inventory report. Most inventory reporting and point of sale systems have this report built in! 

I use Shopventory, which allows me to run a dead inventory report for the past 90 days, 180 days, or year. That way, I know exactly what merchandise to address. 

Once you’ve got a list of items you need to get out of your store, you can categorize them into the three stages below.

Stage One: Don’t You Dare Discount It

Items in this stage are decent sellers! They might sell again next season or could be creatively tweaked to sell now.

For holiday merchandise, ask yourself if it will sell again next year.

You might be scoffing at me for this, but it works well in my store! We get new customers every year, and we often choose decor or items that can be considered timeless, not trendy. If we have extra, we usually pack it up and store it. 

There was one holiday season where we did this, and when we brought it out next holiday season, 90% of it sold! Don’t assume that your customers will remember it and judge you. They probably won’t. 

Spruce up stale items.

Get creative with how you can make the items more appealing. Adding greenery, etching glass items, or adding a sweet bow can go a long way to make an item feel fresh.

For example, we recently had the cutest hobnail candlestick/votive holders in our store, and we had A LOT of them. After our Mother’s Day succulent bar event, I took the leftover succulents and added them to the candlestick holders. SO MANY of them sold—just from adding that one bit of greenery!

Remerchandise so your store feels new.

I can’t tell you how many times my sister would laugh or walk away from me when I remerchandised the store or our booth at a market event. But over the years, she has seen that it’s effective! 

Trust me, remerchandising works. Move a collection around, or better yet, move the entire store around when you can.

Stage Two: Get Creative

This is where maybe you start to lightly discount and have a little fun to get creative with selling the items.

Create a bundle with other items.

Find another item to bundle stale inventory with, especially if it makes sense for how a customer would use the item. You can do a slight discount to make it even more appealing, such as 5%. 

Some examples of how you can create a bundle include…

  • putting a stale item in a gift basket with a pretty bow so it’s ready to give
  • Building a DIY kit, such as paints and brushes together
  • Putting tea lights with votive holders

Be sure that the items you bundle together are chosen with an eye for convenience for your customer. If they can make one less stop on their errand run for a gift basket or brushes or tea lights, that’s a big win for them!

Put together a mystery bag of stale items in the same category.

This idea came from our Shopkeepers Lab and Master Shopkeepers groups! Several members recommended mystery bags as a great way to move merchandise. 

Use opaque bags to gather a few items in the same category, discount the total, and build some FOMO around what’s inside! Customers love surprises and don’t want to miss out on a good discount. It’s a treat to open a mystery bag and see the goodies inside. 

Stage Three: Burn and Turn

This is where you do what you have to do to get rid of the slugs—those items that just won’t sell, even after trying the strategies above.

Hold a clearance sale on Facebook Live. 

We hold a Facebook Live clearance sale twice a year. We have a box where we put items that we’ll sell during the event throughout the year. We discount items by 50% for the sale. And since it’s only twice a year, customers really show up for the event! 

There’s a lesson in the Shopkeepers Lab that explains how to hold a Facebook Live clearance sale. Be sure to check that out if you’re a member or join today for access to the lesson.

Liquidate items that just won’t go.

If you’ve marked it down as much as possible, tried to clear it out more than once with the options above, held a clearance sale, and it still wouldn’t sell, it’s time to liquidate. 

Put it on Facebook marketplace, add it to your gift/donations pile, take it to a consignment shop, or liquidate through an auction site. 

For the true duds, donate and get a tax receipt.

We all have items that are just duds. Once you’ve accepted that it’s a dud, take it to a donation center that will give you a tax deduction receipt and let it go. 

*Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links or referral codes, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link or using the code. I make recommendations because I genuinely believe they are useful to shopkeepers.  Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

Resources

Timestamps

  • [04:22] Pre-Work: Figure Out Which Items Are Stale
  • [07:43] Stage One: Don’t You Dare Discount It
  • [13:47] Stage Two: Get Creative
  • [16:13] Stage Three: Burn and Turn

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