How to Get Rid of Excess Seasonal Stock

by Allison Whitehead

Allison Whitehead is a UK-based writer and eBay PowerSeller who provides PowerSeller Tips for eBay Confidential.

So Christmas is finally over. How did your sales do? Christmas 2008 was a bumper year for us and we sold well over double the volume of items we had the year before. And all this during a supposed recession! Well whatever happened, it wasn’t just good for us. Reports from a few eBay sellers we know are very similar in nature.

But unless you were very lucky and got your numbers spot on, you were probably still left with a certain amount of seasonal stock on your hands. This is a situation that happens most years, and there are a number of things you can do to ensure you get the most out of your seasonal stock, no matter how much you might have left. This also applies to other seasonal occasions like Easter and Mother’s Day, so bear these ideas in mind for other times of year also. The first thing you need to do is ask yourself some questions to get a better idea of the exact situation you are in. So work through the steps below and then work out what you want to do.

1. How much do you have left?
The first step is to do a stock count before you actually decide on how to proceed with the stock itself. This is important because it might affect the way you handle the situation. For example, if you only have two or three units left you might not be too worried about getting rid of it all. If you are counting dozens of items however, that might be a different story.

2. How much do you want to sell it for?
You will probably want to get back at least the price you paid for it, so jot down the net prices of all the seasonal items you have left. This will come in handy if you decide to set sale prices for some of them.

3. How much storage space do you have?
One of the options is simply to box up the items until next year. But if you are going to do this you need to have the space to do it. It’s easy if you are selling seasonal sticker packs or small Christmas tree decorations, but not so good if you are selling six foot artificial Christmas trees!

Once you have an idea about stock levels and storage space needed you can think about what to do next. If you had some time off over Christmas and you didn’t start a sale before you put those all-important holiday settings into action, then you may have bagged some more sales of seasonal items in-between Christmas and New Year. We had 12 boxes of Christmas decorations left once last posting dates had been and gone, and by the time we got back to work on the 5th of January they had all but gone. The moral of this story is that as far as Christmas is concerned, don’t be too quick to start those sales! Leave it until the beginning of January if you can. And now eBay has made it a lot easier to put a whole selection of items on sale if you wish, it won’t take more than a few minutes to achieve. At the time of writing we had 15 or 16 items at 15% off for 14 days, and it only took a few minutes to get selling underway. This is, of course, your first option – holding a sale.

And it has a lot of plus points to recommend it:

• It gives your customers a chance to bag a bargain.

• It gives anyone visiting your shop a reason to browse through the discounted stock, encouraging them to stay longer and perhaps buy more as a result.

• It gives you the chance to clear your shelves of old stock in readiness for buying in new items.

• It can raise another injection of cash to help with buying new items.
But what else can you do? Is it really worth keeping seasonal items safely packed away for the best part of a whole year until you get the chance to sell them again? Actually, it certainly can be worth it. We did this after Christmas 2007, and we found that it gave us a head start for Christmas 2008 that might otherwise be unlikely. Obviously, it can take a while to browse through the items you can buy to sell to your customers each year. While some of your stock may well be suitable for Christmas presents anyway, you will still want to buy Christmas items that only really sell in the run-up to the big day itself. You know the kind of thing, crackers, Christmas ornaments, and anything else that has a seasonal look or function.

But if you have a box of items up in the attic or safely put to one side that you have saved from the previous year, you can list them and start your seasonal push for sales while you are waiting to get those first few orders from the wholesalers.

We found that it got us started in just the right way. And by the time we had ordered our first batch of Christmas stock, we had sold all those items left over from last year and our sales had received a welcome boost – at full price – to get us going. It all depends on whether you want to generate some extra cash flow immediately after the seasonal event or not. If you don’t and you can store the items safely until next year, then you can be assured of getting off to a great start when the big spend season comes round again. So bear these steps in mind when Easter rolls around – or maybe Mother’s Day. They could make all the difference to your sales.

[Avril: my daughter and I follow Allison’s advice but in our case we favour generic gifts for which demand is high for most seasons and special events. So, rather than stocking cufflinks with cute Santa Claus motifs, we sell cufflinks with traditional designs that sell well all year round but with spikes in demand for Father’s Day, spring weddings, and so on. We also sell dog design pendants for which Christmas is our biggest sales period and, once Christmas is over we bundle together three or four same-breed pendants, pack them into a pretty velvet box, and they still fetch good profit margins when Christmas is a long distant memory].

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