What to do with unsellable merchandise?

After many years in the silver jewelry business I finally understand
the importance of getting rid of old stock. About a year ago I
dedicated one showcase as our “clearance” case; every item in it is
50% off, and it has really helped to get rid of stale designs that
for whatever reason(s) customers didn’t like enough to buy. However,
some merchandise at 50% off STILL has not sold, and I’m unsure what
to do with it.

I could mark them down further to 75% off, but I’m concerned that
such extreme discounting cheapens the customer’s perception of the
rest of the store / the rest of our merchandise. Alternatively, I
could just donate them to Goodwill. Ebay might be a good alternative,
if I had both the time & expertise, neither of which I possess. Any



You can try what Ebay calls a Selling Assistant (I believe). Someone
who is willing to sell for you. I am not sure of the details but I
see lots of auctions where the Seller is selling for someone else. It
might be worth looking into. Another choice is to look into Benefit
Auctions, such as the ones sponsored by the American Cancer Society
and Jewelers for Children. If you think of a cause you would like to
support and contact them directly, they will probably be delighted to
accept your donations.

Best of luck,

Vera Battemarco

I saw an interesting article dealing with this same issue in one of
my trade magasines. (Instore I think…)

You mark down the wholesale cost on the item and write the markdown
off as an expense. So if an item has a $100 cost to it, you can mark
it down to $25 cost and take $75 as a write off on your takes. You
then sell the item for $50 making a 50% gross margin.

You could also donate the item to charity and write the whole thing
off. Elementary schools routinely do silent auctions. It would get
your name out in the community as one of the good guys. Not to
mention the added benefit of not having to look at the item every
morning when you set up… :slight_smile:

-Stanley Bright
A&M Jewelers
Baltimore, MD

the next time someone ask’s you for a donation to a charity auction
give it all and use it as a tax write off -goo

Ebay might be a good alternative, if I had both the time &
expertise, neither of which I possess.

There are companies that will sell things on eBay for you, and you
pay a percentage. They are called auction drops. Around here, these
companies are big enough to have bill boards at the freeways.


Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

I would look at E Bay or donate it to the non-profits wanting stuff
to auction. One might get you some money, the other a tax deduction.

Bill Churlik

A few ideas:

In my area we have an eBay store. They photograph them, sell them on
eBay and take a percentage. This might be an alternative for you if
you have one that’s close. Go to the eBay website and click on the
Sell button, they’ll have a link to search for a "trading assistant"
in your area. Evidently some “assistants” even come and pick up

Also, the other day a friend of mine told me that they are having a
"reverse auction" at his store. The merchandise, which has been
advertised in their newsletter and on their website is reduced in
price every day until it’s sold. Over the course of two weeks one
piece reduces in price from $3,500 to $500. This store has better
than average traffic and a sizable mailing list, so it’ll be
interesting to see how this plays out.


The owner of store I used to work for struck up a deal with a store
in a town about 50 miles away to swap out old merchandise from each
store. An entire case was devoted to swapped work. This fellow was
heavily involved in his state’s jewelers association and knew a lot
of the other jewelers in his state. It may be harder to do if you
don’t have such a good network of store owners, but worth
considering. Last I heard they are still swapping.

Larry Seiger

What about donations to other charities? Our store gets hit up
constantly for donations, and sometimes you can give that sort of
merchandise for silent auctions and door prizes. Often “old dog”
merchandise is attractive and nice quality, it just isn’t the right
look or price point for your market. Donating helps your community,
gets your name out, and builds goodwill. -And your cost is tax
deductible :slight_smile:

Good luck,
Jenny Sweaney

Mardon Jewelers
3640 Main Street
Riverside, CA 92501


Have you considered taking the pieces apart? The silver scrap and
stones could be used in other pieces.


Hello, Doug.

I remember reading somewhere that Peter Carl Faberge would melt down
the old to make the new. I think it was in the book “Faberge -
Imperial Jeweller”, which I bought at the Hermitage in St.
Petersburg, Russia, 1997.

Dan Woodard, munching pinyon nuts in Gallup

Hi there,

You could look around your area & see if any schools, churches,
hospitals or other worthy causes could use them for silent auctions
to raise some $$$$$$$. Then if they have a non-profit status, you
could recoup a fare cost value for tax time. I know our schools are
always open to donations for charity functions etc…Then it’s good
PR for you (cards or an ad in the brochure) and $$ for them…In
fact, on a slightly different note, we just gave a full set of used
drums to a local community church for them to use or sell…I have
been trying to learn for several years but I can always play at
lesson time–when that day comes and now these can put them to better
use and I’ll just tap with a stick from Sheila E… Anyway, just a
thought-back to the bench and that last solder of the day!

Take care, Jo-Ann Maggiora Donivan

Hello Doug,

Just because nobody has mentioned it, competition prizes.

A fun in store competition, maybe educational with gem and jewellery
facts or ‘guess what this is’ maybe completely off the wall. Whatever
you can do to get them in the store to see your stuff. If you have
enough pieces to get rid of you can make it a regular monthly event,
mail all your old customers inviting them to come in and have a go at
winning free jewellery. Tell your local newspaper and radio station.
Free jewellery is news not advertising.

Anthony Lloyd-Rees.

I’ve untied a few rings that had a lot of gold in them, drawn the
wire down a couple of sizes to get the kinks out, and tied them into
new ones. Had an old thumb-ring, made before I knew what size they’d
be before I started, that had half an ounce of 18K yellow gold in it.
Nobody bought it for years and years, and I finally took the material
out of it and made a wedding set for a custom order.

Recyling the materials, I think, is a better idea than reducing the
price past your break-even point, because doing the latter also
affects the value of similar work elsewhere.


I have an idea that might help with your unsellable merch. I used to
do this way back when I was doing candle parties and had lots of
extra candles and holders at the end of the year. I would send a
mailer to everyone on my mailing list (this should be substantial in
order for you to make enough money) inviting them to a quarter
auction. I’d rent out one of those big rooms at an elks lodge or
similar and a few hundred people would show up. Each person as they
walked through the door would buy raffle tickets (one ticket for a
quarter). They were encouraged to purchase at least $20 worth or
more. They would then write their name on the back of each raffle
ticket and take them to their seat.

Ok, so once everyone is seated and holding their raffle tickets, the
merchandise comes out. I had someone play “Vannah” and show the big
crystal candle holder valued at…oh I don’t know…$65. Then I
would pass a jar around where anyone who wanted to have a chance to
win that item would put as many raffle tickets as they
wanted…obviously the more tickets they put in, the more chances
they would have at winning that item. Once the jar made it’s way
around the room I’d get it back and swish my hand around in it for a
few seconds to build the anticipation and then dramatically call out
the name of the winner. The winner was usually beside herself with
excitement that she had just won a $65 item for $.25 or so. There
were times when people were running back to the raffle table to buy
more tickets only after a few things had been raffled off. It was
always hugely successful for me.

That was a long time ago and honestly I had forgotten all about that
until I read this string of posts about what to do with unsellable
merch. Quite honestly, I don’t think ebay’s all that when it comes to
selling jewelry. I’ve never done it but I’ve always checked out what
other people’s work was going for…way below value, usually. I
think that if I did this type of raffle to sell my jewelry I would
sell the tickets for $1 each instead of $.25 and have the work
displayed in cases as people came in so they could inspect it more
closely prior to the raffles. If you have a devoted customer base
and a large mailing list, I don’t see why this wouldn’t work well for
you. Plus, it would be a hell of a lot more exciting than selling it
on Ebay! Good luck and if you try this, I’d be interested in how it
worked for you.

Polly Spencer
Mary Amalia Jewelry
Portland, Me.

Very interesting idea, Polly–I bet people would get a kick out of
this type of auction! I’m definitely going to remember this