What to Expect when Buying Shelf Pulled Merchandise

What are some things to expect when buying shelf pulled merchandise?

Shelf pull merchandise typically refers to items that have been used as displays on store shelves, and then liquidated at the end of the season, or when the store needed to make room for new stock to be displayed. Shelf pulls can include new items, tester items or out of box shelf samples.

While most will be in good selling condition, they may have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Items may have price tags/retail or discount stickers on them
  • May show signs of handling
  • May be defaced/de-labeled (inner labels or tags removed to prevent return to the store)
  • A percentage of the items may be out of box or in open boxes
  • May include a percentage of expired or short-dated goods.

When purchasing such wholesale lots, here are some things you should think about:

  1. Be prepared to take the time to sort through the items and divide the 100% retail-ready items from the ones that need some work. You will be able to begin selling retail-ready items immediately, and save the ones that need work for a little bit later when you have time to work them. At first glance you may panic when you see a box full of items with pink 50% discount stickers on them but once you break it down one piece at a time, you will find that your lot looks a lot better than you may initially have thought.
  2. Remove stickers from certain items if you deem it necessary. You may need to use a blade to help you remove stickers without residue, or use “Goo Gone” or other adhesive removers to make the task easier.
  3. In many cases it can work in your favor to leave discounted or sale stickers on the merchandise. Often times items will come with marked down retail stickers- for example, an item that originally sold at the store for $80 may be marked down to $53. If you purchase it for $10, you can easily resell it to your customer for $20 or $25. Leave the original retail AND the marked-down sticker on the item to demonstrate to your customer just how much of a discount he is receiving off of the item’s original value!
  4. Though some lots may be advertised as overstock or shelf pulls in good condition, it is common to expect a percentage of items that are expired, short-dated (due to expire soon), or otherwise no longer sellable as “NEW”. Large retail stores liquidate these items by the hundreds of thousands of pieces at a time, and lots are often warehoused for several months before they make their way into your hands.  While liquidators and wholesale companies often do their best to sort through the items and include only the good ones, be prepared to have a percentage of throwaway items that are out of date or no longer sellable. If you are purchasing from a well-priced wholesaler, the price you pay for the items should be low enough that despite any less-than-new items, you should still be able to make a handsome profit.
  5. Make sure to read descriptions thoroughly before purchasing merchandise you have not seen in person! In most cases, wholesalers will give you as much information as they can about the lots they have for sale. If any percentage of the items in a lot are expected to be in expired or damaged condition, an honest wholesaler will tell you so in the description of the goods. Don’t hesitate to ask about this when making contact with a company before you purchase. Wholesalers want to protect themselves and in the majority of cases will not intentionally mislead buyers.
  6. Don’t let these things turn you off! There is a lot of money to be made in significantly discounted shelf pull lots. Be prepared to put in a little bit of time and creativity (though much less time than if you were purchasing customer returns), and you will see the fruits of your labor contribute directly to the profits you make.

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