One of the main reasons your customers come back to your store time and time again is your inventory. Whether it be because you’re the only store in the area that stocks a certain brand or because you have an extensive selection compared to your competitors, the products you sell have a huge impact on getting repeat customers.
That’s why it’s so important to keep your inventory fresh and diverse. Dusty boxes that have been sitting around forever don’t do you any good – they’re merely taking up space that can be filled by new products your customers actually want to purchase. So how can you stay on top of your game? How do you know which products to order and which to pass by?
First, we’ll start with how to find out about new and/or popular products:
- Sign up for promotional emails from your vendors. Most vendors send out new product alerts to people on their mailing lists. These lucky people are typically the first customers to know about new products and promotions.
- Never underestimate your sales rep’s knowledge. Keep in regular contact with your vendors. Ask them what’s new. Ask what’s flying out of their warehouses. If your vendors don’t send out alerts, you can ask your rep to shoot you a quick email every week or so with product suggestions. Many reps do this already – they’ll simply be adding you to their mailing list.
- Subscribe to industry publications. In the automotive industry, for instance, PTEN and Professional Distributor regularly feature articles on new or popular products. As an added bonus, you’ll also get to read about industry news and business tips.
- Browse the web. Start reading industry blogs. Check out vendor websites. You can even visit competitor websites. Look at which products are being featured.
- Talk to your customers. This sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised at how many business owners don’t know what their customers want to buy. Your customers are a wealth of knowledge – they can tell you which brands they prefer (and which ones they won’t ever buy) and what new products they’ve heard about.
After doing your research, you should have a few lists – one of popular brands that you should be carrying, one of brands that aren’t selling well, one of new products and one of popular products. So now what?
Now it’s time to take a deep look at your current inventory. Compare your stock levels to your sales records so you can see what’s been selling and what’s been sitting and gathering dust. Separate your products into three groups – good performers, slow performers, and bad performers. All of those dusty boxes? Get them off your shelves. Have a clearance sale and get rid of all of your poor performers.
As for the slow performers, make a plan to get this stock moving. Make sure they’re displayed properly and around other similar products. Move them to a spot customers are more likely to notice them. Talk them up to people who come into your store.
Now that your shelves have a bit more room, bring in those new products. Feature them front and center. Display signage. Let your customers know you have these awesome new products that you think they’ll really love.
Most importantly, keep up with it. New products become old products fairly quickly. Keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and freshen your inventory on a regular basis. Keep those new products coming in, and focus on getting the older stock off the shelves.