Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Desperate Retail

Desperation seems to be the order of the day in retail, which makes me yet again glad I'm no longer in it. A bit of Trade Me selling is enough for me, especially now that you can keep on rolling over the same 50 titles without any great effort (or additional cost) until they sell. At present I'm not selling much on Trade Me because I haven't been putting any real time into it (even on Trade Me, surprisingly enough, you have to turn the stock over and provide some new titles) but this morning, having had a bit of time, I've done some shuffling around, put about ten new books on (when I say 'new' I mean new to my part of Trade Me) and shifted some of the 'older' stock over to sella.co.nz. They don't sell much on sella, which bought out zillion.co.nz, where they didn't often sell either. These small scale websites have a huge job to compete with Trade Me, and the main reason I use them is to 'store' stuff until I copy and past it back onto Trade Me again. It saves me having to start from scratch each time.

Books aren't one of the top sellers on any of these auction sites - but they do sell. Which brings me back to retail in general. Nowadays around Christmas we have the pre-Christmas sales, which start about November, then the December sales, and then the just-before-Christmas sales, which smacks of desperation. And if that wasn't enough we have the Boxing Day sales starting the day after Christmas - and reducing the Christmas sales still further.

When these Boxing Day sales first began, they were a way for the retailers to get rid of some of that unsold Christmas stuff. Now they're just part of the whole ridiculous sales-surrounding-Christmas period, which goes on for virtually a couple of months. There are so many sales that no one's buying anything at full price. In spite of the accountant at work who says that the retailers will have bought stuff at really low prices, and can afford to sell them off, I suspect that this isn't entirely the case. There may be big retailers, like Farmers, or the Warehouse or Briscoes, with their endless special weekend sales, that can do this - it's part of their ongoing modus operandi. But the small retailers, who don't have the benefit of mass buying, just have to discount their goods and cut their losses, and from my experience, the more you discount the more you have to sell - and sell fast, in order to keep ahead of the cash flow difficulties that then arise.

I don't think this whole business of sales all round Christmas are helping retail in the slightest. All they're doing, for the most part, is helping retailers cover their costs. It's likely they're not even covering their costs any more. They can't be making any real profits. Discounts, when they aren't your normal way of selling are just a killer. You can't keep giving away your stock. The more you encourage people to look for sales and bargains, the more money you are going to lose. It's a fact of life. I've been there.

I'm happy to stick to Trade Me, selling books that I bought at nonsense low prices in the first place, or which have been donated, or which I no longer need on my own shelves. These don't cost me anything, effectively, so any profit I get is a gain. And I don't have overheads...
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