How to Manage Excess Inventory

Something many fashion business owners wonder about is how to manage excess inventory. It has happened to us all: you planned and researched and were careful to produce only what you thought would sell. They were all winners in your eyes . . . but for some reason, that amazing gold foil jumpsuit just didn’t sell. What are you going to do with all the extras?!

You could just leave them in your inventory on the off chance that they will slowly sell, but tax time is coming up! You need to clear out the inventory that is skewing your numbers and fast. Luckily, we will show you how to manage excess inventory in ways that actually benefit you!

Donate to A Good Cause

This one is a no-brainer. Donate your excess inventory to a charitable organization and make sure you get that receipt! This is a tax write off, AND a good public relations move. Coordinate with the organization to make sure it is alright for you to take photos doing the drop-off, tag them in all social media posts, and maybe even interview the organization and spotlight them on your blog! This could turn into a wonderful networking opportunity for you, as well as a saviour, come tax season.

Flash Sale

Who doesn’t love a flash sale?! Use the power of social media in the week leading up to the flash sale to talk about these being a limited edition item, and it is the last chance to score one before they disappear forever. Then on the day of, do a social blitz and drop the price to a ridiculously low price point with a time limit.

If customers know they will only be available for 24 hours, then they will be ready to buy, buy, buy that item into oblivion. At least charge enough to make back the cost of production, but keep that dollar amount low, and they will go!

Gifts

In the age of Instagram, a picture really is worth a thousand dollars. Use your excess inventory as gifts to influencers you want to target for your brand. Keep track of who you send them to, and provide them with information about how to best represent your brand.

Just make sure you are compliant with the FTC’s requirements for sponsored posts. That gift could turn into a fine for you if you fail to comply! Not good at all.

Sell It- no, really

Another way to manage excess inventory is to sell it to a reseller, like an upscale second-hand shop, for a steep discount. Many consignment shops will take new, unsold garments, keep the brand hang tags on them, and give you a flat rate for them upfront. They will typically mark them up 75% from what they paid you, and sell them in their shop.

This relieves you of the burden of trying to sell them to your customer, gives the shop a nice inventory of goods, and allows a new customer to discover your brand who would probably not normally buy from you. This kind of introduction is wonderful because word of mouth is the most effective way to build brand recognition. The people who buy your goods at a secondhand store will seek your brand out in the future, both on sale directly from you, and other retailers. Congratulations on finding new customers! 

Rework It

As the indelible Tim Gunn says: “Make it work”. If you have a garment or product that can be easily transformed into something new by chopping off a leg or sleeve for a minimal cost: do it. This allows you to add to your product assortment without investing in new fabric or components, and deliver something innovative.

If you are a brand that is eco-conscious, you can highlight the process of taking a sow’s ear and turning it into a silk purse, so to speak. This is a perfect #upcycle moment to put into your Insta stories or highlight at a later time when you launch the new product on your website. Good job saving the planet!

Sell to Jobbers

Did you know that jobbers not only traffic in fabric, but they will also buy your pieces for a steep discount and re-sell them to drop shippers and other small businesses? These people may look shady selling things out of the trunk of their car, but are actually an essential part of the life cycle of fashion! They can sell anything and are happy to take your losses and make their own gains. Best part? You can write off the loss of value on your taxes. Win/Win!

Host a Contest

There is nothing more exciting to many customers than trying to win a contest! You can either host a contest to straight up win a garment, or, more interestingly (and with more possibility to expand your network of fans and customers), ask young designers to apply to receive your unwanted stock, and have THEM rework the item into something new. 

The cost to you is shipping and time, and the reward is massive traction on Instagram, Facebook, and your website. The winning look can be featured on your social media, gain you personal interest stories in publications, and just be a whole lot of fun. Perhaps the winner is interviewed on your blog, providing you with cross-promotion? 

Because these items are technically gifted, they are a write-off! Cha-Ching! You also will have a lot of content to use over the next few weeks, spotlighting the runners up. You just scored a ton of free content, featuring your brand! 

Write It Off

You can just do it the old fashioned way: do a write off for goods that have lost all value, i.e. unsellable. This happens when goods become obsolete or expire. Make sure to consult your accountant for how to do this properly. There are, of course, rules about these kinds of things. There is a difference between a damage write-off and an obsolescence write-off, for example. Having your own accountant sure does come in handy! 

Manage Excess Inventory Without Despair

Accidents happen, and sometimes you end up with too much stuff. That’s ok! There are more ways than these to handle excess inventory, and you are creative enough to find what works for you. The main goal is to reduce the amount of waste, both financially and physically that your company incurs in the normal course of business.

Keep good records of what sells (with pictures) year after year, and you will begin to see patterns of what your customers love and, well, don’t love. This information will help you keep these kinds of mistakes to a minimum over time, and you will begin to feel like a merchandising savant! What kind of creative solution will you discover for dealing with excess inventory? Let us know!

 

Hannah Schnabel
Hannah Schnabel

Hannah Schnabel is the Founder and Designer for Belle Ampleur, providing fearless, aspirational, and dramatic garments made for the 64% of American women above a size 14. Hannah has over 20 years in retail, designing and developing apparel, accessories, and Halloween costumes. Hannah freelances doing apparel production management for Wildest Wilder in Los Angeles, as well as designing/developing apparel for independent apparel companies. She specializes in plus sizes and does consultation work for brands looking for technical expertise and creative solutions.

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