Dribs and Drabs Make Bitter Coffee

Okay, you’ve heard it before, but what are “dribs and drabs”? It is an informal phrase and means “in small or scattered amounts”. For retailers, dribs and drabs refer to miscellaneous ones or twos of specific items that seemingly are lost of the store shelves or hang rails.

All too many retailers simply don’t think about or worry about these small pockets of inventory that seemingly have lost their salability or consumer attraction. Such inventory seems to just meld into the store decor and are all but invisible to management and the consumers.

Such seemingly insignificant inventory unfortunately has substantial cost components associated with it. When taken in the aggregate, it can represent a lot of frozen inventory dollars. Such scattered and stale inventory consumes cash and generates a lot of ancillary expenses for insurance, shrinkage, handling and obsolescence costs to say nothing about the opportunity costs if such inventory was liquidated and invested in quality fast moving items.

In addition to the cost issues here, such dribs and drabs also takes up a lot of space on the shelves and racks to say nothing about its scruffy appearance. The primary consideration here is that such bits and pieces of inventory negatively affects sales, profits and appearance.

Inspiration from Costco

What’s the solution? Let’s take a look at what Costco does for such inventory, for their shelves always seem to be full, fresh and absent the dribs and drabs. For inventory that will not be reordered, at some specified point, Costco just loads this type of inventory on pallets and sells it to other retailers at special pallet load prices. They have preferred purchasers for such goods.

In other cases, Costco conducts auctions for such inventory. In any event, the bits and pieces of scattered inventory has to go either by sales to other retailers, by auction or as a return to vendor. Costco in turn, reinvests these rendered dollars in fresh, fast selling inventory.

Okay, maybe you can’t or won’t move out such inventory like Costco, but the concept is the same. Gather up all such inventory on an ongoing basis, mark it down and promote it out the door. The store will look better, enjoy better sales and please a lot of customers who will relish a great bargain. Net result? Greater cash flow, nicer looking store, more space and lowered carrying costs.

In the alternative, you can hold a quarterly special sale of all such small and scattered inventory combined with special goods you purchase at off prices to really make a great consumer offering at really attractive prices. Such periodic promotions will gain a lot of consumer following and positive attention for the store.

In the alternative, consider doing a twice a year outdoor tent sale wherein you collect all of the inventory you want to flush out combined with all sorts of inventory purchased at deep discounts. These types of promotions can really gin up sales and reputation for you store.

Next step? I suggest you take a long slow walk around your store and record the amount and dollar value of all your dribs and drabs. I think the score card will get your attention and propel you into action. Have at it!