Tips To Clear Out Surplus Inventory And Boost Online Sales

Running a retail business, whether an online ecommerce site or a brick-and-mortar store, comes with its challenges, one of which is the issue of surplus inventory.

Surplus Inventory – What is it and Where Does it Come From?

Surplus inventory can be any quantity of excess stock. Sometimes it’s intentional, such as if you have an upcoming promotion or spike in seasonal sales. Other times, a retailer can be stuck with surplus inventory through no fault of their own—say in the instance of a global pandemic or in times of political upheaval. But most often surplus inventory is a result of bad planning and demand is lower than anticipated.

Why Surplus Inventory is Bad For Your Business

At the most basic level, surplus inventory takes up physical space, which costs you money. And not only in storage—each item represents non-liquid assets, which limits your purchasing power. On top of that, if you’re in an industry where things cycle out of style, or even worse, expire, that surplus stock is depreciating in value by the day.

What does this all add up to? Less profit for you.

Often, businesses will grow desperate and slash prices, sometimes below cost, in order to rid themselves of surplus inventory. But don’t despair. There is a better way.

Refresh and Remarket Your Products

Woman employee showing a customer options for ordering pants on a handheld deviceSometimes, the problem doesn’t lie with the product itself, but in the way, it’s being marketed to your customers. Take a hard look at what you’re doing compared to the competition. Can your presentation use a refresh?

There are so many ways to refresh and remarket a product, from the way it’s presented to where it’s located in-store to a complete overhaul in display signage or online graphics. The possibilities extend to email campaigns, as well, where you can devote an entire mailing to converting an item from your surplus inventory.

It’s important when using this approach to weigh the risks and benefits. You don’t want to put more money into inventory unless you have reasonable cause to believe it will help move it.

Feature Your Products

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s often overlooked. Whether on your website, in your display window, in your newsletter, or across any digital marketing campaigns, simply feature the products you want to increase sales on.

Some great ways to do this include having banner ads on your ecommerce site, offering free shipping on these items, playing with the metadata to improve search ranking, creating content (like a blog post) around the product to draw attention to it from a different angle altogether.


Bundles are a great way to unload surplus inventory, with the added benefit of making your customers feel as if they’re getting exceptional value. Try placing surplus items in a bundle with other, more in-demand items for a premium, or you can group together several surplus items and sell them at a discounted rate.

There are so many variations on bundling, from creating themed packages to combining popular and less-popular items, to offering a free item when purchasing a bundle made up of other inventory.

Sales, Discounts, and Promos

If after trying the above suggestions, you are still left with surplus inventory, it’s time to look at sales, discounts, and clearances.
For sales, plan strategically. Seasonal promos are often a great idea, as well as two-for-one promotions, free gifts with purchase, or even doing a straightforward overstock sale. But don’t overdo it.

You want to ensure the idea of a sale remains exclusive and desirable.

You can also discount items, starting as low as 10-15% and going as high as you wish without cutting into your costs. As a last resort, you can also heavily slash prices and hold a clearance sale.

Alternative Marketplaces

If your surplus inventory isn’t moving on your own website, you can try using a third-party marketplace such as Amazon or even Facebook. Other options include bulk reselling your inventory to another business that specializes in offloading surpluses.


When all else fails, you can usually find somewhere to donate your surplus inventory. Not only does this allow your business to be socially responsible, but it’s also great for your brand. In some cases, there might be a tax receipt involved, but even if not, this is one of the ways that businesses can give back to the community and should never be overlooked.