What to do when things are not selling fast

How to deal with slow-selling items

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Close-out sales   ~   Save for next year   ~   New locations   ~   Group displays   ~  Signs

Every shop, gallery or store runs into the problem of having slow moving merchandise. Unused, dated, end-of-line, discontinued and un-sellable merchandise is something that all businesses end up dealing with no matter what the products are. Don't think of this as a negative problem, instead, use this as an opportunity to have a more profitable business. Here are some ideas to help you cut:

Idea 1: Close-out sales are a good idea for after Christmas, a special event, or another time that you typically have strong sales. Many customers look for sales in order to buy something they thought about before but couldn't buy at full price.

Some stores like to start a sale immediately after Christmas, so the goods are gone before January 1. Some prefer to wait until the week after New Year's Day, or later in January or early February. The sale does not have to be limited to Christmas goods. General merchandise can be put on sale during the same time. Some stores have found that with event goods (last year's Valentines, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.) it is best to put these goods on sale about 30 days after the event.

Putting an item on sale does not mean that you made a bad buying decision. This may be what happened, but if you made money by selling that product; and you broke even (or even lost money) when you sold the last leftovers; then the product was a success.  You would do the same thing over again if you could.  Of course you still want to be cautious about re-buying something that was sold on sale.   

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Idea 2: Save for next year. This idea is good when you have products that you will probably need to re-order again next year (or season) anyway. The justification for not putting items on sale is that the saving on freight offsets the interest on the money lost because the goods sit on the shelf. Keeping these goods from one year to the next may be advantageous if the prices increase the next year. This hold-over method calls for keeping a very tight inventory control with a very good "rate of sale" information (which differs from total sales). It is wise to re-ticket and price these items when they are re-introduced.

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Idea 3: New locations. Maybe something has not sold because you have it poorly located or displayed. Moving merchandise around can sometimes turn a slow seller into a good, if not great, seller. In retail stores different things sell better at different times and in different places. Some spots are dead for some items at a particular time; while that same spot may be a hot spot for others at another time. Because the layouts of stores differ, what is a hot spot for one store may not be a hot spot for others. So try rearranging merchandise before you put it on sale.

Another reason for moving around is that it gives you reminders and new ideas.  After a product has been in one place too long, it seems to become part of the fixtures.   

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Idea 4: Group Displays. This means putting merchandise together with other similar items. Instead of having a hodgepodge of slow moving items that are shown together with other left over products, your offerings will show much better (and sell much faster), if they are displayed with other newer or better selling items. It is a good idea to group items by design, color, use, shape, price, material or a combination of any two themes. Pulling things into groups separated by space makes each group important.

Grouping is best when you have smaller groups. You are better to have four groups of five items rather than having one group of twenty items or twenty individual items. As items are sold out of a group, the group can be reorganized. When merchandise is in one big group nothing is important because customers' eyes get lost in the multitude or variety. Trying to give each item its individual space also means that because all are important, no one is more important than the others. Making groups with a common theme abates the leftover look.   

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Idea 5: Signs. A sign can be anything that allows a customer to know what the price is without having to turn the tag over to see the price. Tickets should be placed in a logical placement and always right side up. Many items remain unsold because the price was not where it could be seen easily. Customers hesitate to ask because they don't want to be embarrassed if the price is too high for the situation they are looking to fill, or they don't want to waste their time if it is not up to their standards (often determined by the price). And looking for someone to ask is seen as a waste of time.

Stores are now beginning to use point-of-sale or bar coding price stickers (tickets). Although these help with sales figures, they are large and unsightly. They can take away from the perceived value of an item especially if it is of high quality and/or price. Because the price stickers are large, people think that removing them will be difficult (which is true), or doing so will damage the merchandise. You will never know how many sales are lost because of this, but it is almost certain that you could be getting more sales through a friendlier display.

Another format is to type a price list (no more than 5 or 6 items) on a tent card or card in a cardholder. With good signage, customers can ask about merchandise without the fears of being embarrassed or wasting time.   

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