During Covid-19 many retail stores have been forced to close, particularly in Victoria, with customers given the options of shopping online or through Click & Collect. This is a huge challenge for retailers who are now stuck with surplus stock in their stores.

Here are key considerations for retailers looking to shift surplus stock:

Turning stores ‘dark’ – fulfilling from store

If you have surplus stock in your stores, particularly those in densely populated areas, you can turn them into ‘dark stores.’ Fulfilling from stores reduces transportation costs and provides quicker service for customers, shortening the time to deliver from days to hours. It can also reduce environmental impacts and carbon emissions in the last mile of delivery.

Real-time view of inventory

You can’t shift stock from stores if you don’t know what you’ve got in-store. A distributed order management system that supports global inventory transparency, can supercharge your order fuilfillment to be even more efficient and meet customers’ expectations quicker and more often. With a purpose-built distribution order management system, retailers can route requests to the right location to optimise the dark store that is best positioned to handle the fulfillment.

Invest in Click & Collect

For many consumers, being able to buy online and collect in store is considered the cheapest and most convenient option. Australians increasingly don’t want to pay or wait for their goods to arrive in the post, are out when the delivery arrives or have to queue up at the Post Office (which is never open at a convenient time anyway).

Home deliveries can be unpredictable and at times can frustrate the customer, leading to the increasing popularity of more convenient and flexible ways to collect purchases. Using Click and Collect means customers don’t risk a trip to the store and the goods they want are out of stock. For many customers being able to choose where and when they go to collect their item(s) puts them in control.

Ensure an efficient pick and pack process

If you’re going to ship from store, you need to adopt an efficient pick and pack process. Unlike distribution centres, retail stores aren’t designed to optimise pick and pack processes. As a result, smart retailers want to reduce the time it takes to pick and pack each order.

If you don’t have dedicated pickers, it’s crucial to expedite the process as much as possible. Firstly, because you need to get inventory off the sales floor fast, so it’s not accidentally sold (resulting in a cancelled order). Secondly, it gives retail assistants more time to juggle the responsibility of helping store customers.

One way to expedite this is to skip the scanning of items (or entry of a pick quantity for each line item) during the pick process. Just have staff enter data for the short picks. This reduces the time it takes for each pick and lets them spend more time helping customers. What’s more, analysis of short pick data can be gold for fine-tuning your replenishment strategy, analysing demand trends, and can also improve stock accuracy.

You might also consider picking during off hours, before the store opens, to give staff more time to complete pick tasks. That way, you can pull inventory quickly, and pack it later.

Whether you automate the grouping of pick tasks or manage them manually, remember, every step saved is time staff can use to help make another sale and get rid of that surplus stock.

Targeted promotions

Bundling slow-moving items with a best-seller, complementary items, or multiple units of the same item can all help turn a profit on those aging products. Free gifts can be used for certain items or purchases over a certain amount.

While promotions will be an important part of retailers’ surplus inventory toolkit, it’s important that your messaging is sensitive to the difficult period that some consumers are facing. Be mindful of those challenges when developing promotional and advertising copy.

Graham Jackson is CEO at Fluent Commerce