We’re having a little bit of a crisis at Beauty Bliss: stock is selling faster than we can bring it in.
Non-retail people that I speak to act as if I should be really happy – things are selling! Sure, sales are up (which is awesome), but not being able to order in stock to meet supply is a very real issue.
Our primary focus has always been the sale of brands that are trending online - sourcing and selling the hottest new products. The downside of targeting this type of product is that we’re competing for what is often very limited stock. We’re competing with a horde of overseas stores and in many cases, with the brands themselves as they sell direct to their customers online.
Brands are limiting the quantities of their popular products which we can purchase and we’re rarely given any indication as to when the next batch will be manufactured. One of the eyeshadow palettes that takes us several months to restock sells out on the Beauty Bliss website within 15 minutes. It’s madness.
We’re also in a bit of a rocky period where we’re experiencing delays with our shipping providers, delays with New Zealand Customs, and delays with brands manufacturing new stock. Overseas laboratories are working around the clock to meet the demand of cosmetics that are trending on platforms like YouTube and Instagram. Makeup is a booming business.
It may sound like we’re playing a game that we can’t win, but while a lot of our catalogue is selling out, it’s only a small number of the products that cause a frenzy. The key for us is making sure that our other offerings are good enough to encourage people to buy more from Beauty Bliss.
With inventory challenges and to avoid having a store that has nothing to sell, we employ a couple of techniques to help us continue to grow and meet our monthly targets:
When we have a brand or category that has a number of out-of-stock products, we start to hide products from the website. While it can sometimes cause a little bit of confusion as people worry items have been discontinued, it’s much better than the alternative, which is a catalog full of ‘Out of stock’ signs. We also find that a tidy website full of options encourages sales - if there are sold out products, customers will often wait until they are restocked before placing an order. We need to encourage sales. After all, if a customer waits around, it’s very likely other products will sell out during their wait.
We also make sure we communicate with our customers about delays. Any information we can source from our suppliers is gold - if we can tell a customer that something will be restocked next week, they’ll often wait around rather than shop elsewhere. If there’s no information at all, there’s really no incentive for them to stay loyal.
The last technique we employ online is opening up pre-orders on products as soon as we’ve secured stock from suppliers that we trust will deliver on time. Pre-orders are great for cashflow, but we’re more concerned about giving our customers a good experience. If they can know that they’ve secured a hot product, a small wait for it to arrive doesn’t bother many. After all, we’re selling fun desirable items, not life-saving essentials.
Not having products to sell in the physical store is a lot more of a problem. Empty shelves and point of sale stands that are missing half the product are not a good look.
We’re mitigating the risk of an empty shop by shifting our focus when it comes to the physical store to more of a static catalog of brands/products. We still have the hot on-trend products coming in, but we also have brands with reliable product lines that form a permanent catalog. This also aids us hugely in the purchasing of point-of-sale as we can see a good return on our investment over time.
It’s certainly a shift to start stocking products that we know will take a little longer to sell but means that our Wellington store is always full of exciting options for our customers.
Have you experienced problems keeping your store well stocked? I’d love to hear from you! You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter as @toni_b
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 745 August/September 2016