Stretching Your Inventory Dollars

piney-woods-gift-basketInventory is the center of your business.  Without it, you couldn’t make a gift basket BUT this is the one area where your budget can be hurt the most.  You have to rein in that desire to buy every “cute little thing” that you see that could “add just the perfect touch to a particular basket.”

The first secret to staying within a budget while building your inventory is to create a plan.  The first decision is not what baskets you are going to offer but that very first decision is WHO IS YOUR TARGET MARKET.  What group of people will you be selling to first?

Remember that you can’t be everything to everybody.

And you also can’t offer everything to that target market — not in the beginning, anyway.

Decide what kind of basket that target market will want and need.

Gourmet gift baskets are probably the easiest to start with.  One thing that many in this industry tend to not understand is that gourmet means different things to different people.  The word gourmet means simply “good food.”

Since gourmet gift baskets are what most new to the industry start with, this is the area that I am going to discuss.

Plan a generic gourmet gift basket.  You can then use labels, gift wrap, and all sorts of other inexpensive things to actually theme this basket for a particular occasion or industry.

Start small with your inventory.  If you haven’t made any sales yet, you probably want to buy locally and buy retail. Buying by the case will be cheaper per item but you may end up with lots of products that expire and can’t be used so in the long run may be more expensive.   But even when buying retail, you can stretch your dollars by shopping carefully.

Here are some tips to help you do exactly that:

1.  Containers:  
You don’t need a lot of different containers.  Start with just one or two basic baskets.  Baskets without handles are usually cheaper to buy and cheaper to ship.  You will find that most of your customers aren’t as concerned with the container as they are with the products inside and the overall impression that the gift provides.

Look at options other than baskets as well.  The dollar stores usually have both silver and acrylic trays that can be used to create beautiful designs for only $1.00.  One of the best kept secrets as far as suppliers is Nashville Wraps.  Their minimum order is only $25 and you can find all of your supplies there.

For containers, look at the gift basket boxes.  They are sold in quantities of six and are an excellent way to theme a design.  I have many different designs that I use the very same products in for different themes.  But one way to stretch that budget a bit further is to buy one or two of the solid colored boxes and then create themed labels to glue onto the front.

2.  Wraps and ribbons

Nashville Wraps is the secret here as well.  Buy a roll of 20″ cello, a roll of curling ribbon to tie the top of your cello, and 2-3 rolls of ribbon.   If you haven’t learned how to tie a bow yet, there are some videos on Nashville Wraps’ blog.  Pull bows, which are also available on their site, are another option.

3.  Filler

For trays, you won’t need filler since you will create the design directly onto the tray.  For baskets, however, you will need something to go inside before adding your products so that the products don’t sink into the basket.

The base can be created a number of different ways.  Ends of unprinted newsprint rolls can sometimes be purchased from your local newspaper.  Some use peanuts placed inside a plastic bag.  What I use is something that most gift basket people frown upon but it works well for me.  I place a couple pieces of tissue inside the basket with the ends hanging out over the sides, then wad up printed newspapers and place inside the tissue.  The ends of the tissue are then folded over the top.  If needed I will fold another piece of tissue to go over the top.  Then I add my shred on top of that.

Shred is that curly stuff that is used to finish the base.  You can buy it in 25 pound boxes from Nashwille Wraps but if you are just starting out, you can also buy 8 ounce bags of shred .  You don’t need all kinds of colors.  One generic color will work just fine for all your designs.  Another secret that I would like to share with you that I use for many of my basket designs is the Eco-friendly Shred that Nashville Wraps sells.  It is heavy enough that you can use it without having to create a base in most baskets.  It goes a long way, is inexpensive, and looks good.

Another secret is that when you use shred, use your hands to stretch it out as it comes all wadded up into a tight package.  It will go a whole lot further, fill more baskets, and stretch your budget.

4.  Products

This is probably what you have been most anxious about and is the one area that can destroy your budget.  In the beginning, buy just a few products.  Many beginners think that they need different products for every design.  YOU DON’T.  With a few products, you can create any number of designs.  If you want a theme or different color, wrap a product in gift wrap.  Gold gift wrap on a box of $1 cookies can be an awesome addition to a gift.

Don’t buy by the case in the beginning.  Buy local until you’ve made sales.  This next statement will be heresy to many in the industry but is something that almost all of us do.  Check out your dollar stores, your Costco or Sam’s Club, and even your closeout stores like Ross and Tuesday Morning.  Look for quality, good size packages for the money, expiration dates, and price.  You’ll find many of the same products that you can order wholesale by the case at these stores for less than you would pay wholesale.  And no shipping.  This is also a good way to test products before buying a whole case.

Fillers for your gift baskets can be created inexpensively as well.  For floral and greenery, cut strands and stems apart and use separately.  Use labels and gift wrap.  Pillow boxes and even small gift boxes (also available at Nashville Wraps) can be filled with candy, nuts, cookies, and other products that you buy in bulk.  If the bulk products are not individually wrapped, you may need a Kitchen Handler’s permit from you health department to repackage.   If you have that permit and are allowed to do so by your health department, you can create all kinds of “private labeled” products with your own unique label.

When you get those orders flowing, you will then want to buy by the case either directly from the manufacturer or from a distributor such as Northwoods or Imperial Foods  If you aren’t familiar with a product, you can ask the opinion of others who have used it before on our facebook group.  If you aren’t already a part of that, you should be.  It’s another free resource.

But whether you are just starting your business or have an existing one, it is essential to watch those inventory dollars and stretch them as much as possible.

5 thoughts on “Stretching Your Inventory Dollars”

  1. This is a great startup article Joyce, with many wise tips, especially buying locally first to dip your toes in the water and to find out what your market actually wants. One small thought could be to add a small feedback note to the gift, so that you can find out how well people liked your gift. As I bought an existing business some of this was already set in place for me, but at the same time, when I went to introduce new products I found it interesting to test the market, with buying small amounts of the products first.

    • So very true, Diane. Watch for the next blog post which will be about the mistakes that others have made in their first year of business. I have one that I will be sharing soon about the fact that no matter how experienced you are or how long you are in business, you should always be a “beginner at heart.”

  2. This is also good to remember during your “slow season”, if you normally experience one. Summers tend to be rather slow here, so I still buy some items locally to fill in before my Fall orders arrive.

  3. This is a good article. I am comforted to see that many of the suggestions you have provided I have been practicing. Just recently getting my business and wholesalers license, I have been buying retail. Fortunately for me, I see myself as being blessed to come across products at the right time that were less than wholesale and with ample expiration dates for my designs. After acquiring those licenses I have been ready to purchase the cutesy items wholesale. But a wise person told me to hold off. LOL it was good advice to help me save $$ until I am in a position to move the items and not end up eating those goodies. My waistline would not forgive me for doing so. Thanks Joyce for sharing your wisdom.


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