Structure a Sale to Unload an Oversized Inventory

How do you get rid of an inventory of reproductions, note cards, calendars, or anything else you no longer want to promote and sell? Have a sale!
Here are some parameters for structuring your sale.
Big Sale

Count Your Inventory

Conduct a detailed inventory of what you have in stock.
Set a goal! How many would you like to sell?

Decide on the Discount

The easiest way to have a sale is to offer a flat discount on everything you decide to include.
Decide that you really want to get rid of inventory – a lot of inventory. Figure out the costs that were involved in making those reproductions and see that you recoup as much of your investment as possible, but also get rid of as much as you can.
How low can you go with your prices? 30% off? 40% off?

Keep It Simple

Resist the urge to provide a lot of options in your sale. The worst sale results I've had were when I offered 3 options for buying my book.
It hard to explain complicated options well enough that people can discern the value in each. When people have to make a decision based on too many variables, many of them will abandon the idea. Make it easy for them to decide: Yes or No.
Trust me. Simple is best – for you to explain the details and for potential buyers to reach a decision.

Add a Twist

I know I just said to keep it simple, but you should also make it interesting.
You could, for instance, start your sale with 70% off and subtract 10% each week as motivation to buy earlier. So the second week your sale items are 60% off and the third week they're just 50% off.

Stick to a Time Frame

Decide on your beginning and ending dates and stick with them.
People need a compelling reason to buy NOW. The sale has to end within a relatively short period of time.
Make it a 1- or 2-week sale so that you don't have to promote it after that. Long sales get tiresome and people lose interest. After 2 weeks, you can quietly keep the discounted prices if you have remaining inventory.

Collectors First

If the original has sold, offer the reproductions to the owner of the original at cost. No, you won't make any money on this, but you will gain trust and a deeper level of friendship from your collector.
After that, extend your offer to previous buyers first, perhaps even giving them a little bit extra because they purchased at a higher price.
How have sales worked for you? What lessons have you learned?

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15 thoughts on “Structure a Sale to Unload an Oversized Inventory”

  1. This winter, I finally made the decision to let go of my older artwork: a style that I was no longer making, small items that were gathering dust in the studio corners, and even some broken pieces that I had never gotten around to repairing. I decided this during the last week in November and had the sale Saturday before my birthday two weeks later in December calling it the “Last Chance Holiday Sale: Cash or Smash!”
    The premise was that whatever didn’t sell was going to be smashed on my birthday so that I could mentally move on by literally smashing my old work to make room for the new artwork. The weather was horrible the day of the sale, but the success was phenomenal! I ended up selling virtually everything – some pieces went fast and for almost full price, some were almost 90% less than the original price, but the euphoria of physically removing them from the studio left a wonderful open space in my psyche for the new work I am now creating.
    Moral of the story: make the sale meaningful for both yourself and the collector.

    1. It really was wonderful finding homes for all of these pieces – maybe the threat of having them be destroyed was what worked… on the other hand I had a few people ask if I was quitting art and some others that thought I was moving, LOL.
      It was an amazing, fun day!

  2. Thanks for this advice on sales, at this point we don’t have reproductions and our stock does not overfloweth. My two favorite sales were for things as of yet unmade. Amber mandalas of hope and a jury duty day sale (I drew the design while waiting but offered the deal before I left for the courthouse).

    1. Not too structured. One quick post on our Facebook fan page saying price. I sold two of the mandalas and three of the jury day design.

  3. “Give it away, give it away, give it away, now…” I took the advice of the Red Hot Chili Peppers…(from the song Give it Away)…In return, people gave me things…This worked for me…(The return gifts were not conditional btw, just spontaneous & not necessarily at the same time as the giving)…This ended up solving any overload inventory issues, as well as handled promotion & word of mouth advertising…Not sure about the tax repercussions of the receiving of gifts, but I’m sure someone else does…

    1. You have such a generous spirit, Sari. I love that this worked for you.
      Interesting thought about tax repercussions.

  4. Pingback: 8 Ways to Have a Sale — Art Biz Blog

  5. Alyson, are you recommending the sale strategy even for original works? I was thinking of trying an auction to find homes for older pieces but this sale idea and the ones mentioned in your post today sound simpler. Thanks for your help and ideas!

  6. Hi Alyson, I’m a little confused as why would original art collector will be interested in reproduction?
    Thanks for all your advice, they are extremely helpful!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Yeok: They might want a reproduction for their office, to give as a gift, or for a vacation home. You just never know. Can’t hurt to offer.

  7. I think this would be a good idea for a lot of my art. Much of it has been sittin around for a good while.
    The trick would be to get a pop up shop together for the sale!
    In a great location.

  8. Pingback: When You Can’t Decide « Art Biz Blog

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