It’s a sad, but honest fact, that sales are not consistent throughout the year. Like the temperature outside, sales are cyclical, and no matter what you do, or how hard you try, you can’t change it. The best thing you can do is prepare for a sales slowdown financially and emotionally. The first step in preparation is knowing exactly what you’re up against.
Knowing what to expect
The Summer Slowdown is real. Even during Covid, people would rather spend their money on trips or experiences than items. People aren’t stuck inside binging on Netflix like they are in the winter months. They’re able to go hiking, spend a day at the community pool, or work on projects around the house. June through July tend to be slow for all retailers, and resellers are not immune. Mid-August through September, things pick back up with back-to-school shopping and generally keep ramping up all the way through December.
Directly after Christmas and the post-holiday high, things slow down again with people returning goods, rather than buying them. January is known as the worst month for retail, and I’ve personally found that to be true. Most people spent all of their disposable income, and maybe a little more, on holiday shopping. People sit inside, enjoying their new presents, and hibernate until Spring. Once tax returns start rolling in, things slowly start increasing again.
Sales never come to a grinding halt, but we all know the self-doubt that can plague us when we don’t hit our sales goals. Staying positive is important, and a huge part of staying positive is staying busy.
Tips to get yourself through
Picture comedian Robin Williams saying, “It’s not your fault,” over and over. It might seem a little over-dramatic, but it’s true (and over-dramatic is kind of my thing). You can’t make people go shopping, and you can’t make them buy more. Some months are just slow and that’s it. But a positive mindset can change everything. Don’t think of it as surviving the slow months, think of it as preparing yourself and your business for the busy months.
When you want to make a big change in your business, having time on your hands can be a gift. It might feel useless to list a hundred new items and only sell three, but you’ll thank yourself during the busy seasons when you don’t have time to list. Plus, sales aren’t the only way to grow your business.
Reselling is such a fun job because there is always the potential to learn more, and there’s no wrong way to approach it. I know people who have built their businesses from thrifting, buying pallets online, shopping wholesale, taking apart and redesigning clothing, even straight-up dumpster diving! Personally, I have no idea how to source from online auctions, but this summer, I plan to find out.
Slower months give you the opportunity to learn about different methods of sourcing, new platforms, even branching out to new categories you never imagined yourself selling. There are tons of people making YouTube videos and online courses that could lead to the next big breakthrough for your business. I love learning from someone who’s an expert on something really weird. There are huge Facebook groups dedicated to things like antique dolls, anime figurines, medieval spinning and weaving tools, pre-war model trains… If you can think of it, Facebook probably has a group dedicated to it. What makes all of these groups the same, is that the members genuinely love talking about whatever their thing is. You can just show up and learn. The next time you hit a yard sale, you might find a treasure that you would have left behind last year.
Speaking of Facebook, social media provides a great place to network. My business wouldn’t be where it is without the amazing people I’ve met on Instagram. I’ve connected with a ton of other sellers, potential buyers, and a lot of future business partners.
My friend started a handmade jewelry business using recycled materials. We did a craft fair together and she didn’t sell a single piece. I felt awful for dragging her along with me, but later that night, the buyer for the Philadelphia Museum of Art gift shop reached out to her. She had seen the photos of her stall on my friend’s Instagram page and invited her to apply for a spot selling in the museum gift shop. She did, and now she consistently has to restock her museum stall because her pieces move so quickly. You never know where your connections from social media will lead. (Trust me, I never thought I would be writing for the List Perfectly Seller Community blog!)
And if you can’t find a business partner or event that’s right for you, make your own! Find other sellers in your area and host your own First Friday, block party, or outdoor summer market. You get to be in control, get your product in front of a new audience, and it’s an opportunity to partner with local businesses and sellers.
My final piece of advice is to look into and try out new tools to help your business grow and operate smoothly. In January 2020, I implemented a new inventory system and this change keeps me (mostly) organized. Then I signed up for List Perfectly in February of 2021 because January of last year had been an awful month, and I needed a change. My business has nearly doubled in just one year!
Slow months don’t have to feel like a punishment. They can be great opportunities to reorganize and set yourself up for success in the future.
How to plan financially
I think I’m preaching to the choir when I tell you guys that reseller income is NOT like 9-5 income. We don’t get a paycheck with the same amount every other week. The graph of our income would look more like one of those twisty roller coasters at an amusement park. My advice is to save and budget accordingly.
Create a savings plan with your family so that you have something to fall back on during the dreaded J months (January, June, and July). Map out your expenses and make sure you have enough to cover them. It’s not only an important part of your business, it’s a great way to introduce your partner/kids to budgeting and household finance.
Bills, for the most part, are predictable. I know how much Netflix costs me every month, and if that cost ever increases, they let me know months in advance. My electric bill is a lot more variable, but most companies try to help you with that. My electric company, BGE for example, offers budget billing. They charge you the same amount every month based on your average usage over the last year. That means that you won’t get a bill with a big surprise during the months you use more heat or air conditioning. Contact your utility companies and see if there’s anything you can do to make your bills more predictable.
And finally, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the answer might be to not go shopping…Hear me out! When my sales start sliding, I have the urge to go thrifting and get all new inventory in my store. I feel like the reason my clothes aren’t selling is that I have the wrong clothing listed, and I want all new stuff. I’m sure you know the feeling.
But I’ve learned that sometimes, it’s not my inventory’s fault. Sometimes people really just aren’t shopping. So now, I stock up on inventory when my sales are coming in and just keep on listing through my stockpile when sales are slow. By the time I run out of inventory, things have usually started picking back up, and I can lovingly reunite with Goodwill.
The same goes with buying supplies for my business. If I buy during good months, I don’t feel it’s a huge financial hit. I quickly make back the money I spent and keep going. When I have to stock up on boxes or tissue paper during slow months, I hate seeing my profit margins shrink, and I tend to start overthinking every dollar.
We all know what a vicious spiral overthinking can be, so save yourself the headache and make a plan!
How to plan emotionally
Knowing that sales will slow down doesn’t necessarily stop you from feeling bad when they do. It’s totally natural to feel a little anxious, again, trust me. Anxious is where I live! But there are a lot of things you can do to remind yourself how successful your business is, and of all its high points.
One great way to up your serotonin level is by looking at love notes from previous buyers. We all know how much a great review can improve your day, so why not save all of your best ones? Create a slideshow on your computer, save them as highlighted stories on Instagram, or if you’re like me and you prefer physical copies, print them out and fill a binder for yourself. What you do really matters, and you deserve to be reminded of that.
I also like to keep track of my biggest successes. Success can mean whatever you want it to. For me, it means the items I bought for the least amount of money bring in the biggest profit. My favorite piece so far was a vintage Renee Tener maxi-length cardigan. I bought it at the bins for about $2 because it smelled so bad that no one else would touch it. It was in perfect condition but reeked of mothballs. I spent a week washing, rewashing, and airing it out in the backyard before selling it for $150 in profit. I keep a file of my biggest sales. I like to flip through it when I get a negative review or a return request. They remind me of the days I was dancing on air from making my weekly goal from a single sale.
Another cheap and simple way to boost your mood is buying a map of the United States and marking off every state you ship to. See how long it takes you to ship to all 50 states. Can you do it in a year? A quarter? A month? It makes you much more mindful of where you ship, and bonus, it’s free content for your social media sites.
My last, but probably most effective advice on staying positive, is to start mentoring a new reseller. It’s totally true that you don’t know how much you’ve learned until you teach it to someone else. I offer to help newbies on Instagram, and I love getting questions. I’ve had the opportunity to review people’s closets with them, walk them through their first sales, and give advice on basics like shipping. I’ve also asked for advice from the sellers I look up to, and I’ve almost always gotten responses.
I love reselling because of the income, sure, but I really love that it’s such a positive group. We’re all different, and those differences are what make this such a vibrant and interesting community. We don’t compete, we collaborate. We make our own sales while cheering each other on. I’m proud to be a part of this community and doing what I can to make it stronger and more supportive. If you want people to have the freedom that you have, then tell them what you wish you knew when you started. Join some reseller groups and answer questions. The List Perfectly Facebook group is a great place to start connecting with other sellers!
You’ll get through the slower months, things will pick back up. Just remember the good times, and lean on the community when you need to.