The Retailer’s Guide to Back-to-School: Resourceful Strategies for Managing and Selling Excess Inventory

Retailer's Guide to Back-to-School Excess Inventory

The Retailer’s Guide to Back-to-School: Resourceful Strategies for Managing and Selling Excess Inventory

For retailers, the back-to-school shopping season has traditionally been a crucial period that stretches over the summer months. However, this year’s landscape is marked by economic uncertainty and the looming recession. As a result, the back-to-school shopping season is expected to be shorter and more unpredictable, presenting challenges for retailers. 

No reason to feel the back-to-school blues just yet – Net Trade is here to help retailers prepare for potential surplus inventory.

Prepare for the Unpredictability of Back-to-School Demand

Predicting and preparing for back-to-school demand is a delicate balancing act for retailers. The shopping season fluctuates across the country, with different states and counties starting school at different times. Consequently, missing the prime shopping window can lead to surplus inventory, which not only affects the bottom line, but also consumes valuable storage space and contributes to unnecessary CO2 emissions resulting from manufacturing, offloading, storing and transporting excess inventory.

To better brace for the surge in consumer demand during the back-to-school season, retailers should consider analyzing and overhauling their inventory “clustering” practices. For example, clustering could be splitting up inventory between rural and urban areas of a state. Since different areas often have differing school start dates and consumer shopping sentiments, it can be insufficient to solely rely on clustering. 

Instead, retailers need to take a closer look at consumer demographics or geographical locations. It is essential for retailers to understand the seasonality of each product in each store on a hyper-localized level. This means zooming in beyond regional differences, such as Michigan versus North Carolina, and recognizing that even within regions, there are diverse buying patterns. For instance, eastern (the coast) and western (the mountains) North Carolina might have different preferences and shopping behaviors.

Once retailers implement a hyper-localized approach, retailers can cluster their inventory by category. This involves prioritizing factors such as the type of order, size, location of storage and timing of shipment. When retailers cluster inventory effectively, they can avoid the tedious, time-consuming process of shipping surplus from one warehouse to another, preventing missed opportunities due to delayed availability and cutting down on CO2 emissions.

Solutions for the Inevitable Surplus Inventory

No matter how carefully retailers prepare, there will still be instances where retailers find themselves with surplus inventory. In such cases, it is crucial to explore solutions that can help mitigate the negative impacts on the business. Two potential options to consider are cash liquidation and trade.

Cash Liquidation

Retailers can opt for cash liquidation, which involves selling excess inventory at discounted prices to generate immediate cash flow. This strategy can help minimize financial losses and free up valuable storage space. Platforms, both online and offline, specializing in liquidation can connect retailers with potential buyers seeking discounted products, providing a win-win situation for both parties.


Another option is exploring trade opportunities, where retailers can exchange surplus inventory for other products or services. Trade companies can facilitate these exchanges, allowing retailers to transform excess inventory into valuable resources or services that align with their business needs, such as trading inventory for advertising spend to promote new, incoming inventory. By opting for trade, retailers can reduce losses while gaining access to alternative assets that can enhance their operations and extend their advertising budget.

This back-to-school shopping season presents unique challenges for retailers. However, with careful preparation and strategic approaches, retailers can better align their inventory with consumer demand. In cases where surplus inventory does occur, options like cash liquidation and trade provide viable solutions to reduce financial losses and transform excess inventory into valuable resources.

If all else fails, you can call Net Trade to help you start the school year off on the right foot!

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