Move your leftover inventory

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What happens when the weather doesn't cooperate with your normal business plans? What happens when you purchase products for a winter that does not happen? This is El Niño inventory, products that quickly become seasonal leftovers, failing to make you some inventory turns. A portion of your planned profits are lost.

The weather is the most unpredictable system there is. Look at this winter; all over the country we're seeing unusual weather patterns. Snow is happening where it does not usually snow and warm weather settled in many areas through January. It's really hard to sell sleds, plows and outerwear when it is 65 degrees out.

There's no sense crying over melted flakes. It's time to start your inventory reduction plan of El Niño products now, when winter is already halfway through and you are still waiting for the big storm to occur.

Before spring flowers are blooming and riders are seeking the excitement of enjoying two wheels again, plan to move this product.

Devise incentives to help product out the door. Offer hot deals on cold products. Package attractive feature displays with products that will complement each other, and give the products a push with special pricing. Offer multiple purchase deals (buy a jacket, get discount on the bibs; purchase a plow, get a discount on mounting brackets, etc).

Frequently change the products being offered to keep fresh motivators in front of your customers.

Choose a location in your store that is a "hot spot" or high visual impact zone. For example, consumers usually migrate to the parts counter in the winter when they need parts for working on units that are not currently being used (like when they're restoring or customizing their bikes).

Positioning of the special featured items is important, and the presentation level should make these products look like full-value merchandise, not something for the clearance rack. This enables you to maintain fresh product value while offering special pricing.

Market the offerings with appropriate signage showing value and savings or the "two-for" deal offered. Make sure the word gets out to all department employees so they are aware of the in-house specials.

Reach your customers by all avenues of media available to you within the time frame you have available. You would have needed to have planned for these sales two to three months beforehand in order to get information out in monthly publications.

So instead, opt for the weekly newspaper ads, which require less lead time. Get it on your website, e-newsletter, phone system, music announcement system and bag stuffers at every point of purchase as well.

If you do not take aggressive moves to nurture this product out the door halfway through the season you will most likely be stuck with lots of seasonal leftover. No matter how hard you try to move it, your consumers will no longer care about the discount. It will be too late — they'll be thinking about spring.

It is winter somewhere? If you can't sell it in your store, locate a dealer who might be in need of the extra products that you have in overload. Reach out to your 20 Group members and other dealers with which you share a working relationship and swap products to help you unload seasonal inventory that just won't move out otherwise.

Look at your return policies. Some manufacturers allow you to return fresh and full price merchandise for credit and in exchange for products that may be more likely to sell. Each company offers different policies regarding product returns, so clarify the rules with each supplier first.

Pack it away if you have to. After you have run your sales, specials and offers, tried to swap product or send it out to another retailer, and attempted to return it for credit, you will just have to pack it away and get it off the floor to make room for the spring goods. This is especially true with apparel lines.

To keep the product looking fresh, pack it away in clean plastic bags and inventory it as you put it away. Print the quote or pick list and attach it to the boxes. Put a copy in your office so that you remember what you have to bring out next fall — this will help you when you have to order new winter products.

Remember that spring is only 30 days away. You should be showing your customers some fresh spring-oriented displays and focal points starting next week, latest. You will have just returned from Dealer Expo and will have been exposed to all the new products for the upcoming year.

Retail marketers always merchandise 30 to 60 days ahead of the season. Why? Because, mentally and emotionally, consumers are always ready for what comes next.

Every retailer makes purchases with high hopes of being able to sell through the inventory choices he or she has purchased.

You can cite all the reports and sales histories and projections for the next year as you like, but what it boils down to is what retailers call a SWAG (sophisticated wild *** guess).

So do the best you can with incentives to move what you have left.

See Christy at 4:30

Christy Michaud, a Dealernews columnist, will be speaking on loss prevention (i.e. shrink) during her Dealernews LIVE! seminar this weekend at Dealer Expo. Catch Christy's session today 4:30 p.m. She'll be on-hand afterward at the Dealernews booth (main lobby) to talk one-on-one with dealers.