Do you know how to manage inventory and strategically plan sales?
It can be frustrating when your products aren’t selling. And if it’s your first slow sales season, it can even be a little scary. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable at all. It’s actually normal for sales to have dips and peaks – even for the biggest brands in retail.
I’ll explain how to prep for slow seasons – before things get quiet, and offer options for offloading excess inventory. You’ll also learn strategies for maintaining excitement throughout the year. So let’s dive in!
1. Don’t Put Everything on Sale.
It’s hard to resist, but don’t put everything on sale. It’s usually the first thing business owners do and it’s a losing strategy. Adding insult to injury, most shoppers will think you’re going out of business.
First things first. All sales items are not alike and shouldn’t be treated equally. Make sure you have two separate categories of sale items: promotions and markdowns. A promotion is only on sale for a limited time (such as through redeeming a coupon code). Markdowns are end of season items that are redlined and stay that way.
2. Sell Excess Inventory While It’s Still Early.
Plan a lifecycle of how long you think your products will take to sell through. The industry benchmark is 70% sell-through (full-price products by the end of a season). Use this as your guide, but do realize that you may want to make this number higher or lower as a new business.
Use your POS (point of sale) to monitor sales. Once you’ve hit mid-season, take a look to see what sells and what doesn’t. Take an inventory of those products. Now that you understand what’s happening with your business, you have the flexibility to respond before the season ends.
You can host an exclusive sale for VIP clients. Or maybe you want to host a flash sale on Instagram Stories. This has been a very successful move for the brands I’ve suggested it to. One of these brands sold 30 pieces of an item in 24 hours – that can be huge for a small business. I also love Instagram Stories because it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to create something special. At the same time, it’s a great way to foster a community. It’s also a smart long-term strategy, building retention among users who keep checking back for more.
Get creative and definitely consider your brand, product categories and target market before you come up with your sales strategies. The point is to troubleshoot your inventory so you’re not stuck with tons of it later on. That’s when it gets complicated.
3. Sell In-Season Stock to Wholesale Clients.
Do you have a lot more inventory left for specific SKUs? Contact retailers to sell your ATS inventory (available to sell) during the season. For example, it’s June now and stores have already starting receiving their summer deliveries. You can hit up retailers to see if they have OTB (open to buy: budgets open for buying wholesale stock) for the summer. It’s also a smart way to gain new wholesale partners.
4. Pull Items for Future Sample Sales.
So you’ve exhausted all of your strategies and you’re still stuck with a lot of inventory? Don’t worry, there’s still more you can do! Sometimes we’re so concerned about selling now, that we forget about the future. Why not pull goods to throw a sample sale next year?! Sample sales are fresh and exciting for shoppers. Consider making them a yearly occurrence in your strategy.
Note: This option depends on the longevity of your products. Depending on your product’s lifecycle or styles, the pieces could feel stale by the time you host a sample sale. Make an honest assessment first!
5. Reexamine Your Product Drops.
Most customers make their shopping assessments immediately after a collection drops. They check to see what they want now, what they may want later, etc. So do monthly drops and exclusive collections to keep them coming back for more, more often.
Also think about production of maybe only 50 pieces for your online exclusives (or however many would be suitable based on your scale). The objective here is to motivate shoppers to buy multiple times throughout the season. It builds excitement while solving your inventory problems.
I’ve been pushing our clients to create more online exclusives, and they’ve been doing amazing in wholesale and online DTC. Just avoid treating it like an afterthought. These collections should be well thought out and they should feel special. Plan ahead, be strategic and let shoppers know they’re limited edition, limited production runs.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with a slow selling season. But excess inventory can be trouble!
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