Merchant tips: How to avoid and clear dead stock

Inventory management underpins the success of any retail business. Too little of the right stock and you’ll miss out on crucial revenue that’ll end up in the hands of your competitors. Too much of the wrong kind of stock and you’ll be stuck with it for months or years as you struggle to sell it.

01st December 2015

Software with a stock control element prevents many of the headaches arising from stock issues, as it provides you with complete visibility of all stock levels in just a couple of clicks. However, the presence of stock control software itself won’t solve all your management problems – particularly if you’re not using the software to its potential. Dead stock is one of the trickiest stock issues to deal with. You’re left with useless items that you can’t sell and are only taking up space that more productive stock could occupy. How can you avoid and clear dead stock as a merchant?

Prevention

Even the largest retailers with their highly advanced forecasting software can’t successfully predict the popularity of every product line each year. Consumer trends and preferences might suddenly swerve off course, or a bout of unseasonable weather might dent sales of some products, causing a build-up of dead stock. Dead stock may also arise from ordering errors that mean some items are literally ‘dead on arrival’. It’s not easy to prevent dead stock entirely, but some small changes can certainly reduce the burden it places on your business:

·         Identify slow-selling stock. Keep a close eye on products that are selling extremely slowly (but aren’t yet ‘dead’) using your stock control software. Prioritise discounts and promotions on products in this category, and ensure that no further stock of this type is ordered when the usual thresholds are reached.

·         Tighten the purchasing process. Be more thorough when making decisions about which items to purchase and when. Ensure that senior staff members approve orders before they’re sent out. Make it clear who is responsible for ordering stock to prevent double orders.

·         Mark items with their return dates (where applicable). If you order any products that you can return to the distributor or wholesaler within a certain time period, be sure to note this in your software. Periodically check up on items whose return period is soon to expire and see if their sales are up to scratch.

Liquidating dead stock

Despite your best efforts, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up with some stock that you just can’t shift. If dead stock is taking up too much space in your warehouse or storage area, it can be tempting to throw it straight in the rubbish bin, but first you should consider all the possible ways you can eke some revenue out of it.

·         Clearance discounts. You may have already tried the usual promotions to get the stock shift, but if those don’t work, take more drastic action. If you really need the warehouse space, try selling at cost price or even below.

·         Package dead stock with other products. Where suitable, try selling items in package deals with stock that is in demand. This will help you avoid having to sell dead stock items at cost price and may even increase sales of the other product(s), too.

·         Sell it online. eBay is a highly price competitive environment – you may not want to sell all your stock for profit reasons, but for dead stock, eBay could be perfect. With its much huge customer base there will certainly be someone out there who wants it at a good price.

Overall, builders’ merchants can avoid and clear dead stock by taking a methodical approach to stock control, from the initial purchase order until the sale is finally completed. To make these processes quick and easy for your staff, it’s important your stock control software is up to date. Is it time for you to upgrade?

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