Because of the COVID-19 crisis and the threat it poses on high-risk individuals, governments all over the world have attempted to slow or stop the spread of the virus by imposing temporary closures on non-essential stores. Thanks to the intermittent lockdowns, the retail industry has faced and will continue to face a substantial shift: projections show that retail sales had dropped between 2019 and 2020. While certain sectors that are deemed essential, like food and groceries, continue to enjoy growth and increase in sales because supermarkets and grocery stores have largely remained open and consumers continue to stock up on essential goods and supplies, many “non-essential” sectors such as the clothing industry have experienced a dip, with the New York Times calling it a “catastrophic” time for retailers.

Perhaps the most hit by the COVID-19 crisis are SMEs or small and mid-sized businesses. With more people finding themselves without a job or having a lesser income, not everyone will have the means to spend on their wants. One of the things SMEs have to contend with now is unsold and old goods, on top of returned items. Here are some ideas on how SMEs can deal with returned, unsold, and old merchandise while weathering out the COVID-19 storm.

Look for resale opportunities.

A journalist found that that returned and unsold online purchases are often sent to landfills instead of checking if they can be re-sold. Instead of immediately deciding to dispose of your unsold inventory, here are some ideas on how to re-sell them.

  • Re-merchandise or re-market. When an item is not selling, consider adjusting the way you’re positioning or marketing it. Change the way you’re describing it on your posts, or re-position those items in your physical store. Switch up the arrangements to freshen up your merchandise.
  • Triple-expose those items. Highlight and post about them more regularly, but not in a way that makes your audience sick of them. Find fresh ways to market them each time you’re posting about them on your business’ social networks.
  • Sell at a discount, but be strategic about it. Don’t slash off a majority of the price right off the bat; start small, with a 30% discount. Add some bells and whistles as you promote your discounted prices; consider holding a virtual event or party. Be smart about discounting your prices, though, and don’t do it too often; your consumers might get used to you slashing off your prices, and they might hold off on buying just to see if you will end up discounting your products.
  • Bundle them up. Consider bundling up the unsold items together. With the holidays coming up, more consumers will be looking for deals that would give them a bang for their buck.
  • Offer as freebies or rewards. If you can come up with a reward system, you would be able to build a loyal base of consumers, while being able to make good use of unsold inventory.

Partner up with a reverse logistics company.

For returned items, partnering up with a reverse logistics company is a smart choice. These experts can maximize the value of your returned items by evaluating if the products must be re-stocked, re-packed, returned to the vendor, liquidated, or scrapped. Because 89% of consumers will purchase or not purchase based on a business’ return policy and experience, this is an area you cannot afford to neglect.

Donate and take advantage of marketing and tax opportunities.

There’s so much need in the world right now, and donating your unsold inventory can be a good way to give back to your community. At the same time, you can also use those donations to maximize tax deductions in your state. Research on how tax deductions work in your location because rules vary from state-to-state. Use digital marketing at your disposal, as well—choose a movement or a charity that is near and dear to your heart, and find a way to bring awareness to that advocacy by partnering with them and promoting them on your business’s platforms. More than being able to make good use of your unsold stock, gaining new marketing material, and potentially getting tax deductions, you would be able to do your part in helping others through difficult times.

For Your Business, and the Planet

Because returned, unsold, and old inventory can end up in landfills instead of being used for a good purpose, business owners need to take initiative in making sure these items go to a new home. It will be good for your business, and you would also be doing the planet a lot of favors.