6 Ways for Retailers to Avoid Empty Shelves and Lost Customers

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Last updated on June 5, 2020

6 Ways to Avoid Empty Retail Shelves

We all know empty shelves drive customers away and give your competitors an opening to grab your business.  If a customer leaves, they may never come back.

Don’t let out-of-stock items hurt your sales numbers.

Here are 6 ways to keep your store shelves stocked with best-selling products.

1. Check shelves often throughout the day

Physically walking around your store is a great monitor of the pulse of your store. It doesn’t matter if you are operating a store with 20 aisles and tons of islands or a small corner shop.  Walk around regularly; you will begin to “feel” which areas of the store are better for sales and which product lines are the fast movers.  Relying solely on “feel” can be dangerous to your profitability,  but it can tell you what areas of your store are getting the most traffic over a long period of time.  As you move product lines in and out of locations you may find that one corner or aisle is better than others.

As you walk around you will also overhear customer feedback and perhaps comments as to other types of products they are looking for to complement their purchases.

Everyone needs a break during the day. Getting  up from your desk and going for a walk around the store will help you pick up valuable insight into customer reactions to your product offerings.

2. Use Point of Sale and Inventory Tracking Technology

Point of Sales

Almost every store runs an electronic tracking system through their cash register or point of sale machine.  Even if you are a small store or booth at a country fair you should be using a tracking method that will allow you determine what is selling the best. It can be as simple as writing down the order of what sold.  Sales tracking will enable you to see if there was a better selling type or item design  or to spot sales trends.

Use the reporting available to get a clear picture on how fast each type of product or design style is selling.

The danger of "the feels"

Don’t rely on “I think” or gut feelings. I can remember years ago being told by people that Item X was the big hot seller at a tradeshow booth.  I asked others if they were seeing the same trend and they all agreed. They had been selling “tons of item X”. What really happened was that the salespeople heard the first sales manager proclaim this was so and this  put in their mind that Item X was a top seller and they too had been selling it like crazy.

When we checked the sales records, we found Item X was actually one of the slowest selling items.  Data rarely lies.

Use the reporting and technology to replace “I think” analysis and instead restock with products that are proven sellers.

3. Follow Market Trends

Test New Product Lines

Keep an eye on market trends, both upcoming and current ones.  The reporting discussed in point 2 above will help identify your store’s current trends. 

Outside of the store there are many ways to keep an eye on what is trending in your industry.  Your industry may have different key websites and magazines, but the research process is the same as listed below.

Here are some ideas from the home décor industry that I use to follow trends.

  • Listen to a variety of podcasts such as “Speaking of Gifts” by Gift & Dec magazine. 
  • Read as many industry magazines as possible, Gifts & Dec​ or Gift Shop Magazine
  • Go to websites that educate retailers, such as Smart Retailer
  • An often-overlooked site is Google Trends.  Using this tool will help you to track current trends, compare trends and see upcoming ones.  The information is based on their search volume and is FREE.  Google Trends is well worth the 10 minutes it will take to learn to use the tool.
  • Read the consumer magazines on the products you are selling or researching.
  • Talk to your customers, send out questionnaires to your email list and take the time to talk with customers in your store. 

The more information you have, the better your understanding will be about which types of products are trending.

4. Test New Product Lines

Test New Product Lines

Save space on the floor to test new product lines.  You may have seen a trend starting to gain ground based your research, as discussed above, and now it’s time to test it out.  Have locations in your store that will serve as an area for a small test order of a new line.  Tracking these against your primary lines will give you an idea of how it may sell.

Of course, give yourself some leeway on the test.

If you are very far in front of the trend or didn’t make your customers aware of the new line, you may find yourself giving it the big “No” before it had a chance to do well.  Set your metrics and then support the test line to give it a chance to succeed.

5. Order from Wholesale Suppliers with a Passion for Design

Design

Keep your store fresh so customers constantly come back to see what is new.  If you’re not testing new lines your store will become stale and  customers will go somewhere else to find the next “in” trend. Their normal purchases, ones that you have counted on, will go the stores with fresh ideas.  

Keep them excited as to what is coming next so they continue to shop in your store.

The best way to do this is find those suppliers that have passion towards design.  Those wholesale suppliers invest the same time and money into trend research and new styles that you do. 

Tradeshows

Walk tradeshow floors that you normally would not, break from your routine and find those up and coming suppliers, away from suppliers for whom “it’s all the same year after year”.

6. Hold Suppliers Accountable on Delivery and Customer Service

Delivery

Whether your order is based on a 20 year relationship or the first order being placed with a business, your supplier must be the one that will stand up and say “yes”, we will ship on time and we will give you great customer service.  

You should be able to get timely answers to your questions through your e-commerce login, a call to the office or a follow up to your sales rep. They should be just as concerned as you are about the dreaded "empty shelves" and make sure your store is fully stocked.

A supplier that values your business and lets you focus on giving the same great service to your customers that they give to you is the partner you should seek out.

If you are looking for a home décor wholesale supplier that has a passion for design and understands the challenges you face as a retailer, ELC Designs Group is here to provide you with the great products to make your business grow.

6 ways to avoid empty shelves

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