{Business Tips} Inventory Overload?

As 2011 winds to a close, we begin to think about starting 2012 with a clean slate and fresh outlook.  We optimistically envision 2012 to kick off with our business organized, focused and poised for success.  Yet, with a couple months of 2011 remaining, many of us see some of our inventory that we would prefer not to carry with us into the new, “cleaner” year.  Designs that were a good idea at the time, but now just don’t fit with the direction our shop has taken.  Items that have been in the shop for many months without finding the perfect buyer.  You know the pieces in your shop that I’m talking about….

So, what can be done with the two months we have left to get that inventory cleared out and free up space for new designs and inspiration?  Here are just a few ideas to take that inventory and put it to good use for your business.

Have a Sale

The simplest and most straightforward approach to reduce inventory has always been a sale.  With holiday shopping just beginning, this could be the perfect time to price adjust some of your items and create a “Sale” section in your shop.

However, you should consider if the shop sale section will draw traffic and purchases away from your full price products during the busier holiday season.  Also, as many already know, just creating a “sale” section in your shop does not drive traffic.  You will need to communicate your sale to loyal customers, Facebook fans, and more.  Just like any other initiative, without the traffic you will not get the sales.  So, this year, in addition to considering a sale to reduce inventory, below are some out-of-the-box ideas to move those older items out of your space.

Product Bundle by Belleterre

Bundle Products into a Package

Sometimes, those older products sitting on your shelf can be brought together and priced lower for the group of products together.  Gift baskets like these could be very attractive this time of year for the holiday shopper looking for the perfect collection to give as a gift.  In the innovative gift basket shown, Belleterre not only created a lovely bundle of soap, lip balm and lotion, she paired with another Etsy seller to enhance the basket with hand knit items that compliment her products.

While exploring bundled products can be a great way to pair up older items and reduce your inventory, the idea of grouping related items together could become a very strategic approach for your overall shop and marketing plan.

Provide a Bonus with Purchase

For lower priced items in your shop, you might consider putting them in with a customer order as a “gift with purchase”.  This little extra can make a huge difference for the buyer and delight them in a way that they will be even more encouraged to talk about your shop to their family and friends.  That extra word of mouth could drive additional traffic and sales your way.  There are no guarantees with this one, but sometime when you give just because you want to the rewards you receive back can be great.

Thank You by Katrinarodabaugh

Thank Loyal Customers

The end of the calendar year is a time that many businesses take a moment to thank those customers who have been loyal and supported their business throughout the year.  Do you know who your most valuable customers were this year?  If so, consider sending a special thank you gift to the top 10 and let them know how much you have appreciated their business.  You’ll repurpose some older inventory and they will get a wonderful surprise and delight that they never expected.  It’s a win-win all around!

Donate to a Special Cause

There are always fundraisers and silent acutions being planned to support a variety of causes.  Find some initiatives that you believe in and support those causes by donating your items to be raffled or auctioned off.  Your shop will get exposure at the event and your older inventory will help them raise some money for a great cause.

If you have a larger stock level that you are looking to move, you could also consider gift bags.  At some of these charity events, they create VIP gift bags – typically in quantities between 10 and 100.  You could donate items to be placed in the gift bags.  This would get your products directly in the hands of those who attend the event.

"Gift" by PopCultureRehab

Turn Those Treasures into Gifts

There will be many moments over the next two months that you might need a last minute gift for someone – a relative, a friend, a teacher, etc.  Instead of heading out to buy something, maybe this year it’s time to take a look at what you have in stock.  The perfect gift might be sitting right in front of you.  Take a look and “shop your own shop”!

Create a Giveaway

For a more expensive or substantial item in your inventory, you might consider giveaways.  These can be your initiatives on your blog/Facebook or you can partner with someone to have your product featured on their blog, website, or Facebook page.

Having giveaways on your sites demonstrates appreciation for your current fans and followers.  As mentioned before, this is a great time to reflect back on the year and than those who have supported your business.  Even if a Facebook fan didn’t purchase this year, they may have shared your shop/items with their friends who did make a purchase ….you never know the path that all your buyers come through.

If you do partner with someone, make sure you are comfortable with the other person/business.  You want to make sure that this will be a good experience for both parties involved.  The giveaway on their site can be a great way to gain more exposure and interest in your work.


Hopefully, these ideas got your creative juices flowing on innovative uses for inventory that has stuck around too long.  Different types of items will inspire different strategies.  Just because you’ve been looking at an item for a long time doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a great product that someone out there would just love to have!

One additional thing to keep in mind with the “non-sale” initiatives mentioned is that you do need to ensure you are accounting appropriately for the items and holding back taxes as necessary.  Check the guidelines in your area to make sure you are making the appropriate adjustments.

If you have used any of these or other ideas to get your inventory levels down, please share your experiences!


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  1. Thanks for the post – great advise – love it.
    I give sometimes very spontaneous a piece to a person (doesn’t have to be a customer) at a stall. Just because I feel she/ he or a child should have it. It is amazing how delighted people are. I love the idea with the top 10 customers – easy enough to look into their favorites and see if they loved something I am happy to pass on.
    For me giving items away is supporting the flow in my business and it is such a pleasure to do. I can often see the result very quickly – it all comes back even though not necessarily through the same person but the universe always rewards generosity.
    I can only recommend it!

  2. I agree, an awesome post! I totally needed this since my inventory has gotten kind of out of hand lately. I love the giveaway idea, I think I’ll try that one! Thank you so much for the great informative post!

  3. All amazing advice! Thanks for the inspiration because I have been looking at some things contemplating their future usefulness. This is a timely post :-)

  4. This is such a great timely post! I spent last Sunday going through a bunch of inventory hogs that I wanted to get rid of; things I though I’d use (colored recycled tissue paper and old vintage maps) that alas I’m either not using or have too much of. It was a pain to get it culled together, photographed and listed but I’ve already sold some of it off. And even if I’m selling at cost, it’s money coming back to me tather than being tied up. Next up, all the wool fabric sweaters I disassembled with plans to make eco-friendly coffee cozies (until I discovered that I’m not so good at sewing, ha!). It feels good to clear out and organize (not to mention will help immensely when counting inventory at year end) and you’ve given me some food for thought on what to do if it doesn’t sell in my supplies shop! Thanks Lori!