Sooner or later, every independent retailer runs into the problem of slow-moving merchandise.
There are a number of reasons why some products end up hanging around your store far longer than you expected—you overstocked on something, the product is outdated, styles or trends changed. But regardless of how that slow-moving product got there, it represents cash tied up in inventory, takes up space in the store that fast-selling products could occupy, and sends a message to customers that there's "nothing new" at your store.
Well, the good news is there are a number of things you can do to turn that static stock into sales. I've listed 12 tips, and you might consider using some in tandem, but implementing even one can revitalize your "unsellable" merchandise and get it moving out the door.
1. Pick of the Week
Depending on the size of the items, place a display of the slow-moving product at or close to the checkout area. Make up a bright sign with "Pick of the Week" on it and make it part of the display. Give your staff one to three feature and benefit points about the product and ask them to enthusiastically share this information with each customer as they check out. This really works, because customers like to think they are cashing in on a limited-time offer.
2. Price to sell
Ask yourself why this particular product isn't moving. Have you priced the product above what your customer wants to pay for it? Reduce the price and test the response.
Try "bundling" the slower-moving product with a better seller. Set a new price for the bundle and give your customers better value for the bundled purchase. This strategy should draw attention to the slower moving merchandise and get it out of the store quicker.
Focusing attention on a product is sometimes as simple as moving it to a new location in the store. In fact, a new location alone can sometimes turn a "dead" product into a good or great seller. You will even hear customers who regularly frequent your store ask, "Is this new?" Another good reason for relocating is that it reminds you and your staff about the product and keeps it top-of-mind when you are assisting customers.
5. The front window display treatment
This really is the ultimate relocation idea. Put a great display of your slow-moving product in your window and give it a try for a minimum of two weeks. And if someone buys one, don't forget to ask if they were influenced by your window display. You are responsible for doing your own marketing research, and you need to know if this idea has any impact on increasing your traffic and generating interest in the slower-moving product.
6. Place slow movers "front and centre"
The area just inside your front door is called the "landing," and it's an ideal spot to place a prominent display of a slow-moving product. This "front and centre" approach gives the product a really good chance of being seen and purchased.
Read: Eyes front—and centre
7. Product knowledge and awareness sessions
Beef up your staff product knowledge on any slower-moving product. Dig up one to three feature and benefit statements and have your staff focus on those. As well, make your staff aware that the product needs special attention.
8. Bonus sales
Yes, bribery works. Tell your staff that you will give them a team bonus for increasing sales on a slow-moving product and watch what happens. I haven't seen this strategy fail yet.
9. Get your staff on board
Sometimes a product isn't moving because your staff doesn't like it. To rectify, ask your employees their opinions on why items are slow-movers. Hear their feedback but let them know their prejudice may be hurting sales. Your employees have a lot of control over what products they recommend to customers, so talk through the issues and let them have a say.
An often-overlooked tool in retail, signage can draw attention to certain products and relay information about brand and pricing to customers without them having to ask for help. If you don't currently have a formal signage program in your store, you should start one as soon as possible. Your customers will thank you, because they will be able to connect with the products you have on display more easily. Plus, a good signage strategy also enhances the all-important "customer experience" in your store.
11. Your website
Your website is a great place to give slower-moving products attention. Put product information, along with photos and pricing, on a prominent page. And don't forget to entice customers who visit your website to come into the store and shop with printable e-coupons.
12. E-blasts, newsletters and social media
You should be sending out information to your customers the way they want to receive it. Send an e-blast on slower-moving products out to your customer database on a regular basis. Depending on your customer demographic, you may have to send promo information out on Facebook and Twitter as well as through online marketing sites like Constant Contact, iContact and Mailchimp.
Some of these strategies take a little time to implement—like refocusing your website or creating a targeted social media campaign—but many are easy fixes you can apply in a couple of hours. And when you see that slow-moving merchandise heading out the door, you'll know it was time well spent.
Barbara Crowhurst is an internationally recognized retail consultant and business coach and CEO of Toronto-based Retailmakeover.ca and Retailmakeover Web Services.