Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

by : 
Kim Perkins
April 1, 2014

Question: A friend of mine who has a similar store in a neighboring state recommended I purchase a line of bath-care products that were “flying” off her shelves. I did and was so excited, but they have only collected dust on my shelves! I made a major investment (for me) and now I’m not sure what to do.

Answer: Even though it’s not much consolation at this point, you have learned a valuable purchasing lesson: Do not make a huge investment in any product line unless you are sure it will be well received by your customers. Better to place a smaller initial order and have to reorder right away than be stuck with merchandise that doesn’t move. As you have unfortunately discovered, not all merchandise sells well in all geographical areas.

The first thing I suggest is to contact your friend and ask her to send you a photo of her display. Did she do something clever and eye-catching? Is the product easily visible? What kind of signage did she use? If nothing stands out visually, it may simply be that this particular line sells well in some stores and not in others. It happens. At that point, I would try to move it to a new location within the store and see if that generates more interest. If not, you could offer a “Buy One, Get One” special on that line to help you recoup at least some of your investment. If that doesn’t work, I would call the vendor, explain the situation, and ask if they would allow you to return. Finally, I would donate it to a local nonprofit and write it off to the “looked like a good idea at the time” history book. Rest assured, we have all made an entry in that book from time to time!

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to