The problem with excess stock (and how to avoid it)

There are close to 300,000 retail outlets currently operating in the UK. The pressure is on to not only deliver exceptional customer service, but to stock products that stand out against the competition.

The process of sourcing and buying products requires adequate research. Too often, retailers fall into the trap of choosing products that appeal to them, rather than to their customer base. As a result, business owners accumulate a worrying amount of excess stock, or merchandise that takes longer than expected to leave the shelves. As a rule, the faster you’re able to turn over stock, the better.

There are certain ways to help retailers clear excess stock, such as running sales and promotions. But this can be costly, and is no substitute for effectively managing stock levels from the onset. The QVCC model looks at a product’s quality, value, timeliness and place within the community, and can be useful in helping retailers to make informed decisions about the products they carry.


The sheer amount of choice available to consumers means that if the quality isn’t there, you run the risk of shoppers looking for a better standard of merchandise elsewhere. Poor product quality is also one of the top five reasons for customer complaints within the retail sector, so prioritising quality is necessary if you want to avoid costly returns and negative feedback.

While it may be tempting to follow the once-trusted mantra of ‘buy low, sell high’, it’s important to remember that each and every item that passes through your store is a reflection of your brand. Unless your product is particularly niche, chances are that customers will be able to find something similar in competing stores or high street chains. Invest in top quality goods from the outset and you stand a better chance of building trust with shoppers, which is the first step to encouraging loyalty and watching products fly off the shelves.


We’re constantly being reminded that many UK households have less disposable income than forecast. Today’s shoppers are savvy as a result of necessity, so offering good value for money should naturally be at the top of the list for any retailer, big or small.

Price has been a key concern for shoppers across the UK for many years, so consider whether the products you’re selling offer real value to consumers. This can be done by regularly monitoring your profit margins. If most of your dead stock consists of high-margin products, consider reducing their cost. This may lead to a slightly lower profit, but could dramatically increase your chances of getting old stock off the shelves in order to make way for something new.


The retail environment is inherently fast-paced, so you’ll need to move quickly and stay on top of trends if you hope to outsell your competition. Depending on the nature of your product, it’s important to keep an eye on new launches and changes within the industry that may soon make your current stock redundant. If reductions need to be made, consider doing so before your stock becomes outdated, rather than after. It’s all about doing due research before filling your shelves.


Lastly, consider your products’ place within the local community. Are there other retailers close by selling a similar type of product? If so, how can you be sure to stand out against the competition?

Failure to offer shoppers something different can be hugely detrimental to your business, particularly if consumers can purchase exactly the same products just a few doors away. Taking the time to research what’s already out there in your local community is vital if you hope to carry stock that moves quickly in line with consumer demand.

Contributed by, a retail consultancy business

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