According to the National Retail Federation, American consumers are expected to return $171 billion worth of merchandise, with the total annual returns accounting for $816 billion in lost sales for retailers.
This presents an opportunity for business buyers looking for inventory in the new year! Retailers are more inclined to liquidate merchandise after the season with extended (and quite flexible) returns policies. The time and cost involved with inspecting returns, repackaging, and putting items back on shelves is simply too high when dealing with an ever growing mound of returns.
B-Stock works with 9 of the top 10 retailers in the US and several of the world’s largest international retailers’ excess and customer-returned inventory. And a look at the numbers will tell you there are a few trends to observe across key product categories. Additionally, we surveyed B-Stock buyers to learn what the holiday 2022 season looked like for them and what it could mean for Q1 of 2023.
- It’s the time for post-holiday returns. Used – Good condition merchandise is 2X that of like new or brand new merchandise in Q4 and Q1 each year.
- Q1 data shows higher retail value in key product categories like apparel, health and beauty, and consumer electronics.
- About 50% of surveyed buyers said electronics were the most sought after item by their customers this holiday season.
- Shipping costs have had a ‘significant negative impact’ on almost half of buyers surveyed (47.76%).
Predictions for Q1 of 2023
To kick off the year, we are sharing B-Stock data to help buyers make the most informed liquidation purchases. We have observed the following:
Holiday gifting turns into ample returns
Holiday gifts are returned left and right at the start of the year. According to B-Stock data, the percentage of customer returns inventory has had a sharp increase of about 20% each January for the last four years.
Not only that, but Used-Good condition merchandise is 2X that of like new or brand new merchandise in Q4 and Q1 each year. Items are returned to stores for a variety of reasons such as the wrong color or size. On B-Stock, Used – Good condition inventory is defined as: merchandise with signs of use from handling and/or customer exposure that is sellable without repairs needed.
Check out these 8 Retail Stores to Consider Purchasing Returns From.
More bidders, more demand
We see 10% more bidders in the following categories: consumer electronics, mobile, and health and beauty in Q1 than in Q4. This is a good indicator of what is in demand post-holidays and for the remainder of the quarter!
When polled, our buyers said electronics are one of their most sought after categories. So it’s worth noting that in Q1, consumer electronics have 25% more auctions than other quarters of the year! If you’re interested in the secondary market for consumer electronics, Q1 is the time to shop.
Inventory increasing in key categories
The ‘retail value’ is a key factor buyers look at when choosing between auctions. It’s the value of merchandise – and the condition, of course – that determine how much you can resell liquidation inventory for. Buyers can expect more inventory (or more retail value) in three categories in particular during Q1:
- Apparel has 20.3% more inventory than other quarters of the year.
- Health and beauty has 36% more inventory than other quarters of the year.
- Consumer electronics has 35.2% more inventory than other quarters of the year.
Mobile and sports and outdoors are heavy hitters
On Supply US & EU, mobile auctions usually have more expensive items (or retail price per unit) in Q4 – this is about 29% higher than other quarters of the year. This is a good insight to keep in mind as mobile auctions have smaller lot sizes, which can lower your shipping costs.
January and February are also good times to check out Sports and Outdoors. These auctions usually have more expensive items after the holiday season. On average, the product’s retail value is 39% higher than other quarters of the year and 55% higher than November and December. Perfect for shoppers who have health top of mind at the start of the year! Search for sports and outdoors auctions!
Now is the time to buy off-season
As retailers look to liquidate seasonal merchandise to free up warehouse space, buyers can bid on bulk pallets of goods for pennies on the dollar. When you buy early, you can add to your savings and be prepared to offer said inventory early as the next season approaches. More importantly, closer to original retail price tags.
For example: You can source a truckload of summer inventory like patio sets, inflatable toys, and warm-weather apparel in the winter to sell in the spring and summer. Look for summer inventory now.
A Reseller’s Recap of Holidays 2022: What it means for 2023
High-level category data only tells part of the story. That’s why we also surveyed over 100 B-Stock buyers to dig deeper into the 2022 holiday season. These business buyers share insights into their sales, promotions, and observed consumer behavior.
Sales & Consumer Behavior Trends
Given ongoing high inflation rates, have you noticed changes in your customers’ behavior?
With consistently high inflation in 2022, there were valid concerns as to how consumers will choose to spend. Just over 38% of survey respondents answered that inflation had a ‘Slight negative impact’ on customers’ behavior.
Inflation’s impact of customer behavior
Significant negative impact
Slight negative impact
What are your expectations for the holiday shopping season in terms of sales for your business?
- 30.83% of respondents expected a ‘moderate decrease’ in terms of sales while 21.80% answered ‘moderate increase’.
- 6.77% and 14.29% expected a ‘significant increase’ or ‘significant decrease’, respectively.
- The remaining 26% responded with ‘About the same as last year’.
What items are your customers looking for this time of year? (select all that apply)
- Electronics – 50.78%
- Home & Garden and Apparel, footwear, and accessories – 36.72%
- Furniture – 26.56%
Apparel, footwear, accessories – 36.72%
The holidays are a popular time for businesses to run promotions. We asked survey respondents if they were running any promotions during the holiday season and over half (56.72%) said yes.
Of those respondents who answered yes, the top methods of promoting their business were:
- Organic social media: Facebook – 64.29%
- Paid advertisements online – 62.86%
- Word-of-mouth – 60%
- Organic social media: Instagram – 30%
What kind of promotional incentives are you actively running?
- Buy one, get one XX% off – 45.90%
- Coupons – 44.26%
- Loyalty program rewards – 27.87%
- Giveaway or contest – 22.95%
- Buy one, get one free – 14.75%
Do you purchase off-season goods in advance and later resell them when items are in season?
Just over 61% of respondents answered ‘Sometimes’ while 15.50% said ‘Most of the time’.
Resellers who acquire inventory off-season – and later resell goods – get incredible deals. Similar to when summer ends, a consumer will see markdowns on items like swimsuits and beach gear. Whatever is left, gets liquidated. The issue for some resellers is holding onto inventory for that long – capital and storage space get tied up.
Percent of buyers who purchase off-season
- Never 11.63%
- Sometimes 61.24%
- Most of the time 15.50%
- Always 11.63%
Shop online liquidation auctions on B-Stock
As Q1 unfolds, resellers will want to keep the holiday momentum going! These insights may be used as a guide to inform upcoming purchase decisions. With hundreds of auctions closing each week, liquidation buyers can find the inventory they need to suit their business needs on B-Stock. Start browsing auctions today!
*Based on a survey of B-Stock buyers. N=134.