Clearing_Inventory_body.jpgby Iris Dorbian.

If you're a small business owner who sells clothes, electronics or other products, there’s a good chance that from time to time you might be left with excess or unsold inventory from the previous year. You could try to clear out these items with a special sale, of course. But suppose the items are seasonal—such as ski equipment—or customers are simply indifferent, having moved onto the latest gadget or trend. What are the most efficient and cost effective ways to clear out last year's inventory?

Donate surplus items to charity

Rather than simply dispose of last year's products, you could consider earmarking them for charity. For instance, if you are a small fashion retailer saddled with last season's styles, your local Salvation Army might be interested in picking up these items. Not only will you be clearing space for current merchandise, you’ll be performing a good deed while also getting a tax write-off on these donated clothes.

And if you're confused about which charities will accept your extra inventory as donations, you can always consult a company like Zealous Good, which helps connect businesses to local organizations in need.

Brittany Martin Graunke, founder and CEO of the three-year-old Chicago-based Zealous Good, says her company frequently works with small businesses. Most donate office equipment, furniture and supplies, she says, but others also offer up excess inventory.

"We like to think of it as a new and easy way to give back to your community while also being savvy about your business needs," she says, explaining her firm’s mission.

She does offer a few caveats:

"Never donate something you wouldn't give to a friend," she advises. “At the same time, use common sense as well. If it’s 2014 and you have thousands of 2013 calendars, there is likely no reason to donate these.” Also, don’t assume that a charity is going to be interested in everything you deem dispensable.


“Just because you're donating to a charity in need, doesn't mean they need everything,” says Graunke. For example, if you’re looking to donate excess sweatshirts, you might be surprised to learn that some shelters want only professional clothing or certain sizes. By determining in advance if a charity can actually benefit from your excess inventory, you'll save yourself the stress and frustration of giving a charity inventory they don't need, she adds.

Go paperless

If your excess inventory is in the form of old documents, some of which you have might have held onto longer than necessary, turn to technology to lessen the paper trail.

Donna David, a professional organizer in New York City, is a staunch proponent of this tip. “Use technology to help clear the clutter,” counsels David, who works with many small businesses on their spring cleaning. “Scan your documents and store online and in the cloud so you can shred most originals.” She urges small business owners to do this on a regular basis. “Discard the things you don't need: recycle, shred, or toss,” she says.

And if you've have an excess stack of business cards, David suggests that you eliminate them by using either the Camcard or Cardmuch app. “Just snap a picture of the card and data will be stored in your contacts,” she notes.

Recycle electronics for cash

Rather than discard old or excess items like cell phones, tablets, or other similar gadgets, you might consider using a company such as Gizmogul, which specializes in paying people for their old working or non-working electronics and excess furniture.

According to Barry Schneider, co-founder of Gizmogul, this is a great way for consumers and businesses to get the most value out of unwanted electronics or furniture. Not only does this afford business owners the opportunity to buy new equipment or furniture with the cash they receive via recycling, but it can also remove clutter and open up some much needed space.

However, if you consider this option, Schneider shares a few tips:

       --Trade in early. The longer you wait, the more your phone will depreciate in value.

       --Before taking your old cell phones to a recycling company like Gizmogul, make sure the device can be used with a difference service provider, suggests Schneider. “It will increase the value of your phone instantly,” he says.

       --Perform a basic data wipe on all electronics or gadgets. To completely delete any other data on your computer equipment or device, e-cycle your trash with a company that provides a certificate of data destruction. This allows you to be sure that sensitive information won’t end up in the wrong hands.

Clearing out excess or old inventory is a terrific way for a small business to make space for new merchandise. When done regularly it can help a company stay current with customer preferences and help out charitable organizations along the way.

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