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How to Turn Dead Inventory Into Cash Through a Warehouse Sale
Outdated and dead inventory haunts most small businesses, especially growing businesses that need cash. Old product lines, failed concepts, or just too much of what used to be good inventory can weigh on your balance sheet and drag down investments in future opportunities. You may be sick of throwing your dead inventory at customers and ready to send it all to the landfill. However, a great way to get some cash back is to turn your warehouse into a pop-up shop and host a warehouse sale. A cowboy knows that with the right price, an old cow can still pocket some much-needed cash.
To run a successful warehouse sale, you need to do three things: advertise effectively, prepare thoroughly, and actively manage the sale.
Opening your warehouse to the public creates a new shopping destination that consumers are unfamiliar with. Even if you price everything for pennies on the dollar, you won’t sell much if no one knows about the sale. Here are some ways to make your sale known:
- Flyers – put on cars and passed out to friends. This is the most convenient way to start advertising. Focus on the store parking lots that pertain to your products. Also, obey all laws and abide by company rules.
- Craigslist – post some of the higher ticket items you would like to sell to generate interest and attract people to you.
- Newspapers and Announcements – depending on your target audience, this is still a great way to reach people effectively.
- Facebook Even if you don’t have a company Facebook page, encouraging employees to take time out at work to share with all their friends is effective for generating crowds.
- Neighboring companies – visit your neighbors, vendors and customers and inform them of the sale. Many will stop by for lunch to see what you are offering.
- Signs – in partnership with local businesses and neighbors, posting signs and arrows around will help generate curiosity and customers. Just as garage sale signs get people to their destination, you’ll want to place lots of signs to lead people to your warehouse, who might be hard to find otherwise. Billboards are an added bonus if your budget allows.
- Email blasts – if you have a mailing list, now is the perfect time to use it. Offering incentives through blasting can help retain the company even after the sale. If you don’t have an email list, use the warehouse sale as an opportunity to build one.
- Word of mouth – kindly ask people who come to buy from you to inform others about the sale. This can go a long way in attracting more customers.
- Radio – if you have the budget, usually several thousand for an effective campaign, radio is a great way to attract scores of people. Start advertising about 10 days in advance and increase your ad frequency before the event.
- Television – While commercials can be expensive, local news stations may have several options for presenting the sale at a lower price.
A successful marketing campaign for a warehouse sale, especially a first sale, takes 10 to 20% of what you would like to sell. If you only want $10,000, a budget of $1500 will suffice. If you want to download much more, plan to advertise more.
Chances are your warehouse was not designed for consumer shopping. Converting your warehouse into a shop will help consumers feel more comfortable and spend more. Preparation requires two parts: (1) traffic flow and security, and (2) pricing and merchandising.
Traffic flow and safety
Some of your clients will likely bring children with them. This is crucial to remember as you plan your sale because a typical warehouse presents many dangers for six-year-olds running around. Both to protect your buyers and to manage inventory that won’t be included in the sale, you’ll need to lock down areas of your warehouse where you don’t want everything touched. Some orange security fences from Uline work great. You will also need to post signs to answer the most common questions you will hear, “Do you have restrooms?”, “Do you accept returns?”, “Do you accept credit cards?” or “Where can I check out?” IKEA does a great job with signage in answering questions from their customers, so use IKEA as an example.
Prices and merchandising
Extremely low price is the key to moving your dead inventory. Remember, no matter how much you paid for it, your products are only worth what the consumer will pay for them. Discounting 75% or more of what the product retails at is a good place to start, but you’ll probably need to discount some products much more. Let the cliché of “stack it deep, sell it cheap” drive your pricing decisions. Remember, inventory sales aren’t about margin; inventory sales are about getting money back from dead stock. If they generate margin for some reason, you might want to consider opening a retail channel.
Whether it’s black sharpie on cardstock or beautifully printed graphics, large signs work great for informing customers of your great pricing. Usually showing different prices helps: retail price $79.99, discount price $29.99, in-stock discount price $8. This technique helps customers know what a great price they’re getting.
Work with your accounting department to figure out how to include sales tax in your prices and sell everything in round figures ($1 or $3 rather than $0.99 or $2.97). Although 99 cents is below the psychological barrier of a dollar, never having to deal with coins at the checkout will help people pass much faster than counting change.
For bulk miscellaneous items, or anything you only have tons, let people fill a bag for ten or twenty dollars. This builds excitement and sells products that you wouldn’t sell much individually.
While many people arrive at a warehouse sale expecting to rummage through boxes, bins, and pallets, the easier it is for customers to reach your products, the more you’ll be able to move around. Stacking six pallets, placing a slip sheet on top, and then arranging items is a great way to get merchandise where consumers can easily reach it. Plus, the wide aisles reduce congestion, especially for moms with strollers or customers filling up on what you’re selling.
You’ve spread the word about the sale of your warehouse, and you know hundreds are planning to come. You also spent hours with your team preparing everything with beautiful signage and low prices. You’ve done a fantastic job so far, but when the first customers enter your warehouse, the bull run has just begun.
The key to moving the most inventory and generating the most cash is to have someone who can make pricing decisions present throughout the entire sale. You should have a big black marker in your pocket and you should use it often. Find out which products you absolutely want to disappear and reduce the price until they start moving. If five dollars is two high, try three dollars or buy one for five, get one free. Be strategic in your pricing, however, you’ll make more money selling two items for five dollars than any single item for three.
Another reason to be in the room is to negotiate. “Interested in that old water cooler? – make me an offer” – and accepts almost everything. You talk to customers and answer their questions. With such low prices, the sale is very easy and usually just explaining the price is enough to close the sale.
Warehouse sales are also great opportunities for your product development team to talk directly to customers. Consider listing some future products at heavily discounted prices to see which ones sell. Talk to people and find out what you can do to avoid dumping future inventory. Plus, having people who can explain all the features and benefits of your product, and even give personal recommendations, helps get more people buying more.
At the end of the sale, invite the liquidators to take whatever is left over. Not only will this help you save dollars on payroll when cleaning, but it will also completely clean everything up so you can move forward. Selling at a loss hurts, but it makes you pocket money. A business can survive a loss of net income, but a business easily drowns in a cash flow dam, which a stock sale can breach.
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