Monday, February 28, 2011

I've mentioned before that I've got a lot more stuff in my backstock than I should  Like the book says, "You can't sell it, if it's not on your floor."  How true. How true.  Plus there's the whole "where do I put this shit?" problem.  We've been dodging my tubs for weeks now.  I've been getting them whittled down and over to the booth, but when you have over a dozen and you take them in one or two at a time, it takes a while to get them all gone.

So where does the backlog come from?  Well, for one thing, when you buy a couple of items here and a couple of items there and a couple of items somewhere else, it adds up a lot more quickly than you realize.  So, when that faboo bulk deal comes along, and you pick it up, you realize you've got no place to put it.  When I make a super-large buy, I do try to get it to the booth ASAP, but it's not always possible.  Larger items tend to go in soon after they're purchased, as well.  That helps save on space, but also leaves me with tubs of smalls, and you can only have so many smalls in your space before they start overwhelming your customers and slowing sales.  I do sell a lot of smalls, for sure, but there is a limit to how many of them I can put in my booth.

The other factor that comes into play is the winter hiatus.  You have to be prepared and ready to stock when the weather is cold and there are no sales to go to.  Of course, you can hit other vendors, flea markets, and the thrifts during those months (and I do), but the prices are higher there, so you get less for your dollar, which means you still have to supplement.  The problem here is that it's hard to predict when the yard sale season will end.  Last year I was able to hit sales until December 16, before they started drying up.  There have been a few sales listed constantly since then, but they didn't really appeal to me.

Now, I planned for sales to dry up around early to mid-November, so already I'm overstocked and the year ain't even over yet.  I've been holding some things back all summer in anticipation of needing them in the late fall, and now I don't.  Plus, most of what went into the booth after Thanksgiving was Christmas stuff, something else I didn't take into consideration.  I didn't need as much of the other stuff because it wasn't what was selling, and you have to go with the flow.

So, I'm sitting here now.  I've forced myself to pick up very little "new" stuff since the first of the year. I'm putting thing out as fast as I can, but I'm still overrun.  Sigh.  I hope the log jam breaks by the time sales season really starts.  I'm not sure how long I can constrain myself once the call of the junker spreads throughout the land.

There is a bright side to this, however.  It has lifted my spirits enormously during the bleak days of winter to go through my overstock  It brings back memories of good sales and warm weather and fun days. It also reminds me that despite everything, there were happy moments last year.  I just can't seem to remember them without help.  Also, looking at good buys I made last year sometimes affirms to me that I may just a penny ante second hand dealer, but I am pretty darn good at it.  I may even (sometimes) know what I'm doing.

The situation with my job last years was really hard on me psychologically.  You can only work in a toxic environment for so long before it begins to wear and tear at you, and that place had been pretty toxic for the last three or so years.  Doing the booth has let me heal and get in touch with a lot of skills and things that I had blocked off simply because I wasn't allowed to use them.  It's worth stepping around a few tubs in the house to get back to me, I think.

If you're going to carry backstock, however, you should do it right.  Here's what I've learned:

1. Wrap and pack everything for serious long term storage.  You may think that you're only holding something back for a few weeks, but anything can happen.  Something can turn over.  Something can shift. Something can break.  You have to protect your investment, if you want to sell it eventually.

2. Clean, inventory, price and store everything at the same time.  As much as I do love going through my tubs and getting them ready, I also realize that I'm touching these items for the third or fourth time.  I really wish I had them ready, so that I could just grab a tub and go to the booth.

3.  If you store miscellaneous items together, put an inventory list in the top of the tub, so you'll know what you are taking when you grab it.  You might not need any more of a certain item in the tub, and the list will prevent you from carrying it all the way to your space before finding that out.

4. If you have items that are part of your "specialty" or "niche", then store them all together.  It will make restocking those items easier.

For some additional advice and more/different perspectives on overstock/backstock, check out the blog for the book.  If you haven't yet read Selling in an Antique Mall, you can see all the ordering options at the blog.

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