Spring Clean Your Inventory, Not Just Your Store

by | Jun 11, 2024 | 0 comments

A sparkling clean retail store is an inviting environment to shop in. But really smart spring cleaning involves much more than just washing windows and dusting shelves.

Spring house cleaning was a time-honoured chore back in Victorian times. Being able to open the windows and doors and let in the fresh air allowed housewives to not only air out stuffy carpeting and upholstery, but truly deep-clean away the soot and grime accumulated over a winter of burning coal and wood indoors.

Paul Reed
The Showroom Guy

Fortunately, not too many auto parts stores are heated with coal or wood today. But it’s still a great time to do an annual major sale, analyze and adjust your inventory, and perhaps even rearrange the store while giving it a thorough cleaning.

In contrast to other kinds of retail sales – Black Friday, Boxing Day, and the like – for auto parts stores, spring is a great time to do a big annual sale. The change of the seasons means removing displays of winter merchandise and replacing them with warm weather items. But rather than storing all that winter stuff in the warehouse for the next eight months – taking up not only precious space but actual inventory dollars – they’re a natural to clear out in a spring blowout sale.

But don’t stop there. Take a critical look at your inventory turns for the last six months to a year (or any time interval that seems right for your store). Flag anything that hasn’t moved in that time, or moved more slowly than you expected, and put it on sale as well.

Even though it may seem counterintuitive, include a number of spring items along with the out-of-season stuff. These will attract attention and bring customers into your store. Highlight some high-volume spring merchandise in front window displays or prominent displays inside the store: summer wiper blades, washer fluid, summer weight oils, car washes and tire cleaners, even tires.

In some cases, your suppliers may be willing to provide special merchandise to put on sale to beef up your sale offerings. But don’t forget the core reason for the sale is to unload stale or out-of-season inventory.

Then promote the dickens out of your sale. Place sandwich board signs outside the store advertising “Spring Blowout Sale!”, accompanied with signs on the front windows. (You can order or buy professionally made signs or make your own using Bristol board from the office supply store.) Use special sale stickers and shelf talkers to identify marked-down items throughout the store, and create sale displays in prominent places, with appropriate signage. Advertising in local markets – radio, newspaper, online, etc. – is also a great way to attract attention both to your store and the sale.

Ideally, a great sale will promote the store and attract new customers. So an old-fashioned spring cleaning will help put your best foot forward. Deep-clean the windows, inside and out, and go over every every surface in the interior of the store, from floors, to counters, to light fixtures, to walls and cabinet fronts. Thoroughly dust each shelf and product on display. This is a good time to get an instant visual indicator of what’s moving and what isn’t.

Spring is also a great time to reorder the interior of the store and rearrange your displays and departments. Especially for customers who visit your store regularly, after a while they stop “seeing” products that have been in the same place month after month. If you switch up departments regularly, it offers a whole new view of the merchandise and allows customers to see items they may not have noticed before. It also encourages them to speak to an associate to ask where something has moved to.

However, don’t forget the cardinal rules of good store organization: keep your fastest movers near the back, to encourage customers to walk through the store for items they have come in to purchase. Try to have a logical flow from one department to the next: tire cleaners next to car wash products, oil next to filters and oil change kits. And small items should be placed in bins near the cash counter to allow associates to keep them organized, assist customers with bulk purchases, and to prevent shrinkage.

Informative signage can be used for more than just promoting your spring sale. Promote popular spring tasks such as oil changes or switching to summer tires and take the opportunity to promote your premium brands. (Your supplier might have promo materials you can use or cross-merchandise with.) This is another reason I like LED signage in the store: it’s eye-catching, easy to program, and allows you to present a different message as frequently as you want.

Spring-cleaning your inventory doesn’t have to be restricted only to spring; depending on the size of your retail operation, it might be a good idea to monitor inventory on a regular basis – seasonally or even monthly – to stay on top of what’s moving and what isn’t. (After all, running out of a popular item is just as bad as having too many gathering dust.)

Especially for a busy auto parts store, taking time to thoroughly clean the store – which often means keeping staff after store hours, or having everyone come in on their day off – may seem like the same kind of drudgery our grandmothers faced a century ago. But a clean store is not an option these days, especially when your competition is just a few clicks away. Making it a pleasant experience to visit you in person – for expert advice, good selection at reasonable prices, and attractive surroundings – is well worth the investment.


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