We do a lot of inventory buying over the course of a year, and — as much as I’d like you all to think that we never get it wrong — we do. Sometimes. Sometimes we buy an item that we have seen at a trade show, or in a supplier’s catalogue, thinking “Oh my gosh, this is so awesome! Amazing! People will love this!”
And sometimes it turns out to be a dud. Wrong price, wrong moment in time, wrong whatever. And there it sits on the shelf, along with a bunch of its identical twins (since most things have to be purchased in lots of three, or six, or even a dozen), gathering dust and feeling unloved.
What’s a retailer to do? Well, the worst thing a store manager can do is just to let the item sit, hoping against hope that eventually it will sell. (“Surely eventually someone will notice how terrific this doohickey is! Look, people! See how awesome?”) Different retailers use different kinds of analytical and measurement tools to determine when inventory merits the title of ‘dud’ — how many pieces of whatever have sold over a certain period — but we all pay attention to this kind of thing. And when some particular item triggers those no-seller alarm bells, it has to be cleared. Gong!
Retailers have one of those classic love/hate relationships with inventory clearance. It’s a tool to be used sparingly (since we want our inventory winners to way outnumber our losers, right?) but there are times when nothing else will do. And guess who wins big in this case? You do. Because — and I can’t stress this enough — there is nothing wrong with the item itself. It just didn’t sell at the regular price, for whatever reason, so out it goes.
A case in point: a few years ago, one of our favourite game publishers, Gamewright, brought out a game called “Pool Sharks”. This is an action or dexterity game, in which players actually play a form of pool on a small table, trying to sink the balls into the fish-mouth-shaped pockets using plastic shark “guns” instead of cues.
Pool Sharks is actually a pretty good little game. The pieces are sturdy, the balls are nicely weighted, and the action is fun. We thought the shark-cues were a bit hokey, although kids seemed to love them. Still, we found that propelling the cue ball with your fingers (as in crokinole) seems to work just as well.
Unfortunately, Gamewright has discontinued Pool Sharks. I’m guessing that the game was expensive to manufacture (lots of plastic) and to ship (lots of weight, comparatively speaking), and sales just didn’t justify keeping Pool Sharks in the line-up. So, seeing as how it’s now an orphaned product, we’ve put it on clearance. This was a worthwhile game at $30, but now it’s half-price, on sale at $15. (Does that make it twice as worthwhile? I should say so.)
We’ll also clear items when they are the last of their kind, so to speak, and we won’t be re-ordering (for whatever reason). Our example this time is the Calico Critters’ Deluxe Village House. We stocked Calico Critters, a line of cute little anthropomorphized animals and accessories, for about 10 years. (They were kind of like the Martha Stewart version of Playmobil, with a definite gingham-and-denim sensibility.) We finally decided the two lines overlapped too much for our comfort, and we opted to stick with Playmobil. We cleared the Calico Critters, and now have only a piece or two left. The sturdy and very attractive Deluxe Village House was originally CDN$170; now it’s $85. It’s a great dollhouse — the Playmobil furniture and people will easily fit inside it, as will lots of other dollhouse stuff.
So, if you are looking for a bargain, do drop in and check out our bargain section. Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you find it!