How to Liquidate Surplus Inventory

All businesses experience having too much inventory at some point. It could be due to an ordering mistake, or one item not selling as much as expected. The good thing is there are many ways to liquidate surplus inventory while still making a profit. The most important factor is learning from the experience so it can be avoided next time.

1. Have a Sale

An obvious way to get rid of excess inventory is by having a sale. Be prepared to sell items at a steep discount, at between 35 to 75 percent. But be strategic about the sale. Sales that happen too often lose their value. However, a good sale can bring back a customer for items that are full price.


One option is to employ a clearance sale once a year. This helps clear items that have been sitting in the inventory for several months. Another idea is doing a limited flash sale. This strategy taps into the consumer’s fear of missing out. Lastly, explore bundling items and selling them at a lower price together than what they were separately. The bundled item helps the business at the end, because it increases the average order value.

2. Rebrand/Reposition/Remarket

Sometimes an item isn’t selling because of how it appears to a consumer, or where it is located in store or online. Changing a display can give the effect that an item is brand new, even though it has been sitting for awhile.


Product photography is key for an online item. Try taking a new, higher-quality photo or try capturing the photo from multiple angles. Another tip is changing where an item is located online. A different website design can make an item more accessible to consumers. For an in-store item, bring in a brightly-colored display. Physically move items around, and replace old price tags with new ones. Finally, keep an eye out for staff attitudes toward an item. A customer will be able to pick up if they are unenthusiastic and steer clear.

3. Use an Item as an Incentive

Small incentives can reel in new customers while getting rid of excess items. Try giving the item away during an event or have it as a special perk when a consumer buys an item full-price. This tactic is especially effective to get people to sign up for email lists or increase their basket value. An example would be offering a free scarf with a purchase for email subscribers. Or offering free headphones when someone makes a $50 purchase.

4. Donations

When all else fails, explore giving the items away in a charitable donation. The current IRS code has options for either twice-cost or straight-cost deductions. Large donations to schools or local nonprofits can also help build a positive association with the business and the community.


Commercial junk removal services are helpful for removing large single items, or clearing out an entire warehouse. However, it’s important to research a company first. Check to see how quickly the business can remove the inventory. The faster it is gone, the faster better-selling items can replace it. Find a service that does not turn away items by policy. Also, check to see where the items will end up. A proper service should be able to divert as many items from the landfill to the local recycling center as possible.