Business problem turnaround: Creative ways to move product faster

September 12, 2017

“Buy low and sell high” is one of the first few strategies crafty, business-minded kids employ when learning how to make money; from candy and baseball cards, to sneakers, and the like. And for a lot of people, that simple formula takes them right through adulthood and into their first (or second, or third) business.

But anyone who’s bought and sold for any period of time knows that buying and selling is less a formula and more a game of chance. While it’s got better odds than your average casino game, the operative word here is “odds.” There’s a chance you could lose on that great buy.

Some days, your number just doesn’t come up, leaving you with 10 cases of tomatoes well on their way to turning wrinkly, or a whole rack-load of winter coats in neon colors when black-on-black is what’s hot right now, or a whole kitchen full of sheet cakes for a wedding in which the bride never made it to the church.

Occasionally, taking your bump on the chin is inevitable. However, there are strategies to employ to move a lot of product quickly to avoid a big loss. The key is to get creative.

Below, we outline several creative ideas for moving product:


Running a specials menu—When faced with a lot of a single ingredient and little time to move it, chefs have traditionally used the specials menu to promote a new, limited-time offering. Maybe eggplant is in season; try serving up eggplant parmesan. Carrots? Change out a traditional potato salad side for a carrot raisin salad instead. The options are endless. And then advertise your special with apps like Clover Promos or Rewards to send text messages or push notifications to your customers’ phones to prompt immediate action.

Upcycling—In addition to running a special, a trick of smart chefs has always been recycling/upcycling food items into other items for sale. A well-known example is turning old bread into bread pudding (see our post on bakery-specific strategies here), though using the fish from an unsold fish special in a soup, or burgers in chilli, later in the week is also a great idea. Even sandwiches from a deli case can be disassembled and the lunch meat used in deli salads or soups.


Think globally—When it comes to having a large stock of unpopular items, the problem is often seasonal, or cyclical. Even though ski season wraps up in early spring, in the far reaches of southern South America, winter’s just picking up. Consider building out a mirror of your website in another language to wholesale internationally. The same could go for an unpopular toy: while fidget spinners may be on their way out here, they may just now be catching on in South Asia or Africa. While traditionally out of reach, the internet has made those connections possible with the right research. It just takes a little digging and a lot of stamps.

Specialty markets—If looking to unload a lot of product a little closer to home, consider getting creative and reaching out to people who might be looking for a lot of the same kind of item. For example, dance teams, theatre, and TV productions often need a lot of the same types of items for costumes. In addition, artists occasionally want, for example, thousands of doll heads or matchbox cars for a project. Other businesses who are selling that craft, hand-made aesthetic often need hundreds of mason jars for packaging. The key here is finding the market and pitching them—they often don’t know they’re interested until the opportunity’s been put in front of them.

All of the above and beyond

Make good while doing good—When worst comes to worst, there’s always the donation option. While giving your goods away might not be ideal, it’s possible to manage the pain by making the most of the situation. First, figure out a way to turn your balance sheet loss into a PR win by partnering with a local charity to maximize the goodwill generated. Creating an event where unwanted toys, extra food, or new clothes are given to the needy is a great way to give a little back while getting a little attention for yourself and your business. In addition, it’s certainly possible to get a decent valuation on the donation of new goods for the purpose of a tax write-off, making your responsibility to Uncle Sam a little more palatable at the end of the year.

[image: Specials by tudochi on flickr]

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