Where does unsaleable product come from?
Accidents during transport, weak packaging, customer returns, shoppers demoing the product, improper merchandising and storage, lack of price maintenance, attempted theft, and unexplainable “mystery” damage are some of the biggest reasons product waste exists. Clearly, a problem with such a wide range of contributing challenges will require more than one solution to fix – and that is precisely what makes product waste such a difficult issue to fix. In fact, in realistic terms, it is practically possible to completely eliminate. Aside from shipping product to a store in armored boxes and never allowing employees or customers to touch it, the problem will continue. But all hope is not lost. Even when total elimination is not possible, drastic reduction of the epidemic is. With that in mind, let’s take each reason for unsalable product and assign solutions.
Let’s solve this
Accidents during transport: Allowing one product to share a container with another product that can spill is a big no-no. One bump in the road and the nail polish just ruined five other products around it. Additionally, the use of water-resistant packaging like plastic (paper can be quickly destroyed by moisture) can allow the salvaging of most products – even when a spill occurs.
Weak packaging: It’s a shame when a retailer has to throw away a perfectly good product because the packaging is damaged. Nevertheless, it’s a reality. Aside from marking down the price of a product, there’s no way the product will sell (and marking down products can lead to negative quality perception). At a store level, there isn’t much that can be done to reinforce weak paper packages, but using clear packing tape across the box can help.
Customer returns: Customers return products for many reasons, but not needing the item and not being able to use the product for one reason or another are two of the most common reasons. This is why it is necessary for product packaging and retail staff to provide useful information about what the product is or isn’t. Additionally, asking the customer what they are trying to accomplish instead of simply which product they want can go a long way towards helping them find what they need – all the while reducing the possibility of returns later.
Shoppers demoing the product: Have you ever been curious about a product and wished you could touch it? You’re not alone. Humans are tactile beings, so we like to touch and feel things. But all too often, product packaging doesn’t allow the customer to feel the product. As a result, some customers take the problem into their own hands by opening a product, which often results in it becoming unsaleable. One solution here is for the retailer to provide demonstration products when they notice a particular item being repeatedly taken out of the packaging.
Improper merchandising, storage, and pricing: If a product isn’t priced correctly or straightened to look good (or even on the sales floor in the first place!), the chances of a sale are reduced. This results in the product being on the shelf longer, which in turn results in more wear and tear on the item as it is handled by more people. That is one of many reasons why keeping items straight and neat on store shelves is so important: it decreases sale time and protects against loss.
Attempted theft: I’ll be writing an entire article about this topic soon, as it costs retailers millions of dollars each year. And although some items are stolen, other times the thieves are caught red-handed. When this happens, however, the product that was being stolen is often damaged. Crushed boxes and cut plastic are not uncommon as a shoplifter wants to leave behind the packaging to an item in case they are stopped by a store employee. Solutions to shoplifting are complicated, and we will tackle them in the later article.
Unexplainable “mystery” damage: “How on earth did that product end up like that?” Sometimes, it’s hard to explain what happened. But one thing is for sure, having an awareness of products, quantities, and their locations will reduce the likelihood of this scenario. When products are where they belong, they’re less susceptible to damage.
What other ideas do you have that can help retailers manage product waste? Comment below!