Guess what? If you have kids, then you already know it’s back to school time in the retail stores, and back to school signals the end of the retail season for spring/summer specific riding gear and casual wear. If you have not already planned to mark down these goods or have a sale this month; it’s time to plan a sale or execute one quickly. Customers may still be buying this product, so that means you can capture the last of the market while it’s in play. We never know when the season will shut off; it could be next week, or it could be late October. In any case, start to close out stale inventory NOW!
Markdowns should start at 20-30 percent if you have good sizes and decent selection remaining. Move discounts to 40-50 percent if your products are well picked over. I have written about this so many times; you NEED to get as much cash as you can out of the season-ending products, so you can reinvest in new inventory for fall/winter goods.
Last year a few snowmobile dealers got into inventory trouble when the snow-riding season was not kind, and dealers had too much inventory to move. When February and March hit and they were still heavy in snow product, they had no cash to buy spring/summer goods. I can’t tell you what the right amount to purchase is for your store, but when the clock is running, you have to make strategic decisions, so you don’t get burned. Many of these snow dealers have been put into jeopardy with cash flow they are still sitting on from the last year’s inventory. You would think that they could carry it over and try again this fall, right? Wrong. The colors and styles will vary from last year; dealers won’t have full size runs, and some of the product has become shopworn from customers trying on items and from stores that are not well kept. Customers know the goods are not new!
How do you merchandise a sale? I favor stores that have sales featuring new product (front and center in best locations) and take last season’s apparel and locate it on a sale rack(s) in the back of the store or down an aisle with large clearance signs. Avoid using signs that display a percentage off. Simply use a clearance sign and mark each item on the clearance rack. “Sale” should be used for current items, while “clearance” is for moving out older inventory.
The key to winning retail sales is getting product in as early as possible! And display the newest goods in the best locations. Make it a priority to update graphics, signs, fixtures and anything the product brands offer to make a big visual presence. Purchase a few items as special buys to lure shoppers. Always use direct mail and social media, and make phone calls to top customers to let them know about the new season’s goods. Dress mannequins in the front of the apparel zones with the newest gear. Customers want to see what is new, not what you could not sell.
Most importantly, yes it may be too busy in the stores to even think about this, but accessory and apparel managers, this is one of your jobs, and you must work season changeovers into a list of GOT to DO IT! It’s money down the drain if you don’t.
Jennifer Robison’s career began in 1987 when she served as a service writer/parts sales for a high-end import auto dealer before becoming one of the first generation of Harley-Davidson Motorclothes managers at a Northwest dealership (1991-2000). From 2002 on, Jennifer has been with Tucker Rocky Distributing. Jennifer has educated the Tucker Rocky sales force and dealers about the powersports apparel business and powersports retailing. Jennifer’s expertise is in powersports retailing, merchandising and display, promotions and in-store marketing. She has lectured and written about powersports retailing and continues to perform dealer educational workshops and seminars across the United States.