Spring cleaning may not be on your mind during November and December, but the Christmas season is an ideal time to go through your store’s back stock to get rid of odds and ends of merchandise.  I have often quoted the line “don’t let inventory become family” — so here’s a look at ways that you can help slow-selling items find a new home for the holidays.

The traditional way to move merchandise is by putting it on sale, and of course most shoppers love a bargain. If you have merchandise that you definitely want gone by the start of 2014, think about marking it down (perhaps even just 20%) during the time that you will have the most customers in your store. This is especially important with seasonal merchandise from the previous year if it becomes apparent a week or two before Christmas that is not going to sell at full price.

A buy one, get one free sale (known by the catchy name BOGO in the retail trade) will move twice as much of any item as a half price sale — but if you don’t want to take such a drastic reduction, consider a buy one get one for half off (BOGOHO?) promotion. We plan to do this with some closeouts that we got at half price from one of our manufacturers, which works well because we have stock left that we paid full price for.

Another way to move merchandise at this time of year is to bundle it with other items.  You could either create small sets (soap and soap dish) or put together gift baskets that use many different items.  It would be a mistake to use only slow selling items, of course, but you can combine them with popular merchandise to offer shoppers a good value.

Pre-wrapped gifts are a great time-saver during the busy holidays, and if you have a quantity of an item that you are eager to move you might create a display of ready-to-go packages.  Just the act of massing an item in a display with a sign about why it makes a great gift may be enough to get it moving out the door.

Have you considered grab bags?  These can be particularly popular for stocking stuffers and small items (we use them for our leftover stickers from the ones customers cut off a roll).  You’ll want to make sure that every bag has a value of at least half again the price paid, so that the customer who gambles by purchasing one is a winner every time. Mark the bags with the appropriate age and/or gender to help shoppers decide which one to choose.

If you have collectibles on hand, this is a good time to post them on eBay. More shoppers in stores also means more shoppers on eBay, so you are more likely to get bids.

We all have items in our store room that are not likely to sell at any price, and are not worth putting on display. This is an ideal time of year to donate them to charities looking for gifts for those in need. And donations need not be gift items — our local United Way puts out a “wish book” every year listing goods needed by local non-profits, with everything from cookware to Christmas ornaments listed. 

Hopefully these ideas will help you move some of your slow movers. Just think how nice it will be to start the New Year with empty shelves in your store room and dollars in your open-to-buy account so that you can order new merchandise at the 2014 trade shows!

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder