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Our Version of the 1%

Lately everyone has been talking about the 1%. In politics that might be the ultra-rich. You either are them, hate them, or on your way to becoming them.

In retail the 1% I want to talk about is your unsaleable merchandise.

We ended our closing with only 1% of our inventory remaining. Yeah, pretty good when you consider during our closing we sold 17% of our merchandise at full price, most of the rest at 20% off, and only went to 40% off those last few days when the inventory got below 10%.

Here are two lessons you can take from this.

NO BUYER IS PERFECT

No matter how well you think you have your finger on the pulse of your customers, you will make some buying mistakes. That’s a freeing thought. You know you won’t be perfect so don’t try to  be perfect. Take a few risks. Try some new things. Some will work, some will not. 1% you won’t be able to give away. That’s not the end of the world.

You might have jumped in on a fad too late (or even too early). You might have gotten seriously undercut by a rogue retailer online or a vendor dumping the remaining stock through a discounter. You might have simply liked a product more than your customers did. It happens to even the best buyers. There will always be inventory that just won’t move at regular price, and there will be inventory that just won’t move at all.  In fact, make it a game every year to figure out what your 1% will be. Have your staff vote right before the busy season on what they think are the flops. Offer a gas card or local restaurant gift card to the winner.

DON’T SIT ON OLD INVENTORY

Knowing you will make mistakes, you have to have a system in place to recognize the slow movers early on so that you can get them moving out the door. The game is actually a fun way to engage your staff as they will be checking to see if their choice is “winning”. One interesting effect of this is that your staff, by paying attention to those perceived flops, will actually help you sell that merchandise.

Your point of sale system is your best set of eyes. Any POS system worth the money you spent will at the very least tell you what items are old and not moving. Be cold and ruthless with that inventory. Don’t invest any emotion. The sooner you recognize bad merchandise, the sooner you can turn it into cash and move on.

When you have to sell off everything you own like I just did, you see the stark reality of your buying decisions. Fortunately, since we had a process for recognizing bad merchandise and moving it out each and every year, we weren’t stuck with a lot of product at the end of our day – only 1%. I can live with that.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Remember all those free displays your vendors gave you that you’re no longer using? You can sell those, too, and make up the money you lost on your 1%. In fact, a fixture/display sale is a good combination to have when you’re moving out the mistakes. It takes some of the sting away (and gives you back some room in your warehouse). Manage your inventory and cash flow and you could be part of that group on their way to becoming a 1%er.

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