Rolled white towels on shelf at spa

I received an email the other day from the consignment sale that I use each spring and fall.  They were recommending that I encourage my kids to start cleaning out their toys now before the holidays to make room for new stuff.  It actually was pretty smart when you think about it.  A great way for kids to help mom get ready for the next consignment sale.  Without really trying.

Cleaning up and the end of the year seem to walk hand in hand.  The process is such a great mental exercise.  It gives us room to breathe and find new creative energy.

If you visit a lot of local brick and mortar stores, you have probably noticed their end of the year inventories that they take.  This is their version of a shop clean up.  They need to make a note of every product that is still on their shelves when the year closes.  I am sure they also keep track of things that haven’t been selling and what items they can’t keep in stock.

To do this end of the year shop clean up, a small brick and mortar (and even sometimes the big ones) close their stores for a day to get it done.  All the employees have to come in ready to count, sort and organize.

Even though your online shop does not have a brick and mortar location, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a clean up every once and awhile.  Just like a brick and mortar shop, your shelves might need some dusting (virtually and in person) and your products might need a refresh.

Since December is a slower month for us, especially right before the holidays, I decided to set aside a week for a large shop clean up.  There are lots of things that need my focus this year – pricing variations, photos, removing products that don’t sell, improving keywords and an overall shop refresh.

Woman with mop cleaning the kitchen floor with the text overly "Time for an End of Year Shop Clean Up"

Here are the things that I’ve been working on during this year’s shop clean up.

Fix Pricing

I don’t know about you, but this has been a rough year for pricing.  Between the huge postal service shipping increase last January to the increase in Etsy fees, all of our costs have gone up.  But do to not having time, I haven’t raised our prices to reflect these increases.

At first, I didn’t think this would be a huge deal.  But these last few months, I have seen a huge reduction in our profits.  With the rest of our material pricing going up – paper, ink, shipping supplies and digital services – it can only mean one thing.  It’s time to raise prices.

When I started looking through our pricing set-up, I realized that there were even some products that fell through the cracks. The pricing hadn’t been increased since we opened.  My mistake.

Pricing is important.  Without the correct pricing, you could find yourself owing money at the end of the month instead of making it.

It is also important to make sure that all of your pricing is consistent.  When reviewing my pricing structure, I found our newer invitation designs were priced more expensively than our older ones.  This is what happens when you try to fix things a little at a time.

This week I am working on updating all of our pricing to reflect all of our increased costs this year.  I am also making sure that the pricing of our products is consistent across the board.  This includes both our Etsy and Shopify shops.

To determine if your pricing is accurate, calculate if you are making a profit based on your current pricing.  If your time is not getting paid for, then there is no profit.  This means it’s time to reevaluate your pricing strategy.

Decide What’s Gathering Dust

As I started to look at all of the Etsy fees this year, I began to pay attention to the items that weren’t selling.  Usually, a shop’s inventory follows the 80/20 rule like everything else in life.  80% of your items will NOT sell and 20% of them will be your best sellers.

If you are on Etsy, that might mean that you are paying the $.20 listing fee for 80% of your items and never selling them.  Although some of these items might be a great way to make your shop seem full, you also could be wasting important dollars with renewal fees.

Although Etsy only charges $.20, it adds up quickly depending on the item.  If you are on Shopify, there is no fee for the items that you add.  That being said, though, you might want to still figure out which ones can be dusted off.

When looking at the items during the shop clean up, I focus on the ones that aren’t selling at all at first.  I check to see if it’s a pricing, photo, marketing or design issue.  I also see what their views have been for the last year.  If an item hasn’t received any visits within the past 6 months, something is wrong.

With Etsy items, the biggest issue with selling them is creating a successful marketing strategy.  Most items don’t sit there because there is something wrong with the design.  There is usually a bigger problem and it all leads back to having a successful marketing strategy.

Before removing an item from your shop, make sure that you’ve marketed it correctly.  Have you put it in front of the correct audience?  Have you written a blog post, set-up advertising or added it to social media?

The dusting off process is more than just clicking the delete button.  It’s also about looking at how you are marketing your products.  During my clean-up, I noticed that our baby shower designs don’t sell nearly as well as I would think.  The ones that do sell often are more unique than a typical design.

I also took note that there isn’t nearly the selection as other shops.  I also might currently have an audience searching for children’s designs – not babies.  This is an area I will need to work on next year.  Instead of just removing these listings, though, I am making a plan to improve our marketing of these designs in the new year and get them in front of the right eyes.

Another question to ask is what you could do to improve the design.  Is there a certain color or styling that customers request for the design that you don’t currently offer?  These might be clues on how to reinvent a design that isn’t selling.

Customers always ask us to add their photos and text to their notecard design.  After being asked this question over and over again, I realized that this was the modern direction parents want to go with notecard designs.  I am sad to see the art of writing drift away, but I also need to listen to my customers for design direction.

What do you do if you come across an item that hasn’t been visited in months to a year?  If you find an item that has been dormant with views and sales in the past year, it might be time to say goodbye.  Trends change rapidly in today’s market and that item might not have interested buyers in the same way.

If you are a designer, one idea is to take designs that aren’t overly popular any more and make them freebies for your audience.  I will send retired designs to my newsletter list or write a blog post for them to give away to my audience.  It’s a great way to recycle.

Another idea if you are a product designer and pre-make your items, you could host a giveaway on social media.  Instead of making new items for the giveaway, give those items away to a lucky winner.

Brushes and pencils in jars at a shop with the text overlay "Time for an end of the year shop clean up"

Review shipping costs

Shipping has gone up and up over the years.  If you charge shipping to your customers separately, then these costs haven’t affected your bottom line.  But if you have rolled your shipping costs into your product costs and offered free shipping, you might be starting to see these costs eat into profits.

Etsy just started applying their new 5% transaction fee to shipping costs too.  These extra fees add up.  In order to recoup some of these fees, you might consider rolling them into your product costs.

My shop offers free shipping.  We always have since we sell digital and handcrafted goods in the same listing.  It just seemed easier when I set it up.  Due to being too busy, I have not been consistent in raising product costs to help cover these shipping costs.  At first, this wasn’t a big deal.  The postal service increases seemed minimal for years compared to the profit being made.

But last January, the increase was more than a couple of cents.  It went into dollars depending on what I was shipping.  Also, I am now forced to send items via priority mail shipping if they are over 16 ounces.  This raised many of our shipping costs on larger orders through the roof.

During your clean up process, review your shipping costs.  Do you offer free shipping?  Does it make sense to start offering free shipping?  If you choose not to offer free shipping, does the cost of the product cover the transaction fee charged for shipping?

If you are on another platform – such as Shopify – there isn’t a fee for shipping costs yet.  Definitely double check, though, if there is a tax on shipping costs in your state.  I just discovered one in Pennsylvania and had to add it in to the check out process when I set up my new shop.

Keyword search

When I was reviewing my shop back in the summer, I noticed that I hadn’t used the best keywords when setting up my product listings.  My choices were pretty random and I chose words that I liked.

Over time, I have learned a lot about the importance of keyword research.  I recommend using EtsyRank.  It will connect directly to your Etsy shop and grades your listings.  It’s a great way to know how you are doing with SEO without knowing a ton of SEO.  The best part is that it’s free for the basic services, which should be all you need.

Even if you have your own shop on a different e-commerce platform – such as Shopify or WooCommerce – you can still use EtsyRank to find keywords to add to your product listings.  Use their keyword tool and type in your product keyword.  Their search engine will give you other related words that you can use in the listing and for tags.  It also keeps a search history so that you can reference it if you are listing a similar product again.

Adding more visuals

So, it turns out we are a visual society.  We love to see photos of what we’re buying, information presented graphically and videos of how to use our new product.

The biggest thing is that few customers read product listings any more.  They also don’t read your shop’s policies.  I am lucky if they check the Announcements page for our current turn around times.

Every day, we have customers who assume our shop experience will be just like the last Etsy shop experience they had.  This becomes a huge issue because every Etsy shop is different.  If you usually work with a shop who gives you unlimited proofs or color changes and we don’t, customers get frustrated.

I heard recently that one way to solve these misunderstandings is to include more visuals.  Etsy now gives up to ten photos to include in your listing.  I usually only have one or two product photos, so there is lots of room to add more information.  Also, many customers are now purchasing from their mobile phones.  The Etsy mobile app hides the description of the product.  You have to open up the description tab to read it.  Most customers don’t take the time to do this.  If they do, they don’t read it.

What to do?  Your shop clean up gives you the perfect chance to add more graphics.  I have designed a basic graphic explaining the few things that you absolutely need to know before you buy our product.  These are things about our process, what to expect and where to find our turn around times.  I also have designed a graphic to encourage customers to sign up for our mailing list for an extra discount.  The link is still in the listing, but at least they know it’s there.  Both of these graphics were created through Canva.  You can find the easy how to here.

Also while cleaning, check on the quality of your photos.  If you notice that an item isn’t selling well and the photo is just okay, try taking a new picture or creating a new flat lay.  The problem might be the way the item is presented to your audience.

Changing variations

Customers, especially on Etsy, love to make their purchases extra unique.  They enjoy customizing colors, changing wording and using their favorite typography.

Most of our shop’s listings do not include these customizations and we do not encourage them in our shop due to the time it takes to make them.  That being said, adding some variations to your listings might create more buzz in your shop.  You could add choices for color changes, introduce a new product format (such as a digital version) or add something extra (such as twine or ribbon to a tag).

If you choose to add a variation to your listing, make sure you let customers know about the options.  Create a new graphic or photo that showcases what your customers can choose from.

Final Thoughts…

The shop clean up process is important for any business.  Many might keep the task until the spring when it seems more natural.  I find my spring season full of chaos.  December is a much quieter month for us and it’s nice to end the year with a cleaner shop look.

Your shop clean up process is also a perfect thing to write about in your newsletter.  Tell your audience about the things you are updating, changing and moving on.  You could even host a shop clean up sale and majorly discount items that you want to get rid of.

However you decide to complete your shop clean up, make the process fun.  Be sure to set goals and reward yourself at the end.  You should be feeling proud when your shop is ready to tackle the new year ahead.

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