While artist and chandler Amina Ahmad has a few strategies for unloading her discontinued literary candles, her problem is essentially one of conscious decision making. When artists have items that are new or well-established and they are not selling, it can be disheartening.
In a light-filled studio and retail space in the Brookland Arts Walk in Washington, D.C., Ahmad, of Handmade Habitat sets up for a temporary pop-up of her candles and beauty products. Her candles, made of soy, are smooth and creamy looking. Some are contained in tall, slim, clear glass and carry names such as Clear Mind and Make Lovely, and offer scents of mint and rose. These are her meditation candles, and there is a Yogi collection that is fuller and shorter. These are named after yoga poses and smell of lotus, lavender, and eucalyptus.
All of Ahmad's current products are light, airy and modern. ''My brand is moving in a new direction,'' she explained. ''I'm getting more into this mindfulness with scent and candles and aromatherapy.'' Past iterations of her products have had a vintage feel, most notably her literary candles. These candles are contained in small metal tins decorated with the pages of a favorite book, such as Jane Eyre and The Feminine Mystique. Ahmad has made this product line since she started making and selling candles, but knows it is time to move on. ''Everything that I keep adding [to my product line] has this new look, and the last of the old things are these literary candles,'' she said.
Jennifer Wilfong creates simple polymer clay jewelry with floral designs under the name Yummy and Company in Baltimore, Md., and understands this problem. ''When you have old stock lying around it can actually be kind of depressing,'' she said. ''It's easy to start questioning your business and wonder why items aren't selling.''
So what should you do with your inventory that isn't representative of a current product line or items that just won't budge? From sales to donations, to trade to reuse, there are several ways to unload products to clear the way for new ones.
Conducting a sale is one of the easiest ways to sell old stock. Reducing the price on select items is one way to go about it. The other is to offer a coupon code good for all merchandise. The surprise benefit to a general coupon code or flat sale is a quick test of new products. In an effort to unload her literary candles, Ahmad ran a flat sale in her online shop and ended up selling more of her newer items then the literary candles. ''Most people took advantage of the sale to get everything else,'' she said, but she wasn't dismayed. Ahmad realized her customers would buy her newer items, indicating they liked her new direction.
Flash sales are online sales of specific products conducted over a short period of time--most often good for only one day. Flash sales can take place on an e-commerce platform or on social media such as Facebook or Instagram. Ahmed has used flash sales to quickly sell discontinued scents. She has used Instagram as the platform for flash sales and thought they were successful. ''I photographed everything and then one day I posted the photos one-by-one-by-one. Then people commented and said which ones they wanted.'' While the mechanics seem simple, there is a bit more that goes into running a successful flash sale.
While her creations are mostly one-of-a-kind, Wilfong has needed to unload stock that wasn't selling, and flash sales are one of her favorite ways to go about it. ''Usually, I will do an Instagram flash sale, and I'll either promote it on Facebook and Instagram, or in my newsletter beforehand,'' she explained. Alerting an audience to the upcoming sale is important, as well as already having an established customer base. ''You need to have at least a group of people who know your work,'' Ahmad agreed. Making sure a flash sale is conducted where a business's community already is will also help it succeed.
Another way to unload back stock is through donation. This is another tactic Wilfong likes to employ. She is approached weekly by large organizations or neighborhood schools asking for items for charity auctions. ''I'm happy to [donate]. I feel grateful to be able to do stuff like that,'' she said. Wilfong's overhead is low, as she doesn't work in 14k gold or semi-precious stones, and her clay creations are set in vintage pendants and rings. She notes this and said, ''I'm sure if I was doing diamonds it would be a different story.''
It's important to keep product lines fresh and interesting. Ahmad introduces something new to her product line at least once a year. Making and introducing new items can be exciting, inspiring, and can help entice new and existing customers. ''I love adding new stuff in,'' she said. ''Especially when replicating things, I get a little bored.'' The candles in her pop-up shop are the culmination of years of tweaks and adding new products, and following a more modern aesthetic--leaving the old behind. By utilizing sales strategies and a little ingenuity, her back stock won't get in the way of the new, and Ahmad is free to present her business as it is now--modern, fresh, and clean.
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In this way, working with materials that don't have a high cost, Wilfong is able to repurpose some of her back stock if it's not selling. ''If I make a pendant and it doesn't sell, I can take it off the silver chain that it is on and use the chain for something else,'' she said. For Ahmad, it's a little different. Now that she has discontinued her literary candles, she still has unused candle tins and scents. To not lose money on her investment, she needs to be a little creative. ''I'm trying to think of new ways to incorporate those into new products,'' she said. Ahmad is looking into adding a line of bath salts and is contemplating using the tins that were originally used for the literary candles.
Another way to unload back stock is via trade at craft fairs, and a good network of craft-related businesses makes this a ripe possibility. ''I rarely ever actually buy Christmas presents anymore,'' Wilfong said. This is because she'll trade some of her work for pieces made by other artisans. While she'll trade anything from new to back stock, items that haven't been selling often get swept up in the heady experience of trading with other vendors during a craft fair.
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