AV Inventory Hoarding

by Jimi Gonzalez

  • Systems Integrators can be hoarders. We have warehouse space, so we like to fill up every square inch of it. It’s important to remember that we’re selling technology, not celebrity autographs or baseball cards. Everything that UPS delivers to our offices is going to decrease in value and relevance. Although we’re not in the antique business, that projector you’ve kept in stock for the last year could be considered one. There are many seemingly justifiable reasons for why we keep the stuff, but once your warehouse is full, it is easy to lose track of what you actually own. Years later, when you finally clean out the warehouse you’ll say things like “I never knew we had this.”, “Hey, we didn’t need to order more of these after all!” and “What am I going to do with all these S-Video cables?”.

At my office, we accumulated a mighty collection of odd pieces and parts; mysterious mounts, blank rack panels of all sizes, boxes of power supplies, random remotes, and bags of hardware of curious origin. So, we started a long cleansing process. If it wasn’t useable, it went to the dumpster. If the manufacturer would take it back, we returned it. If it made sense for a job, it was used. If it could be sold, it was gone. The process isn’t over, but as a group, we’ve become vigilant about making sure that whatever comes in the door, goes right back out or has a good reason for hanging around.

When you’re talking about offloading inventory, the first place that comes to mind is Ebay. I realize that Ebay is a dirty word for many manufacturers and it really should be the last option for an integrator. It’s no secret, people buy on Ebay for the deals. So, because you waited to get rid of that first generation blu-ray player, you’re really going to take it in the shorts. Unless you are selling current consumer goods, there aren’t going to be lots of people looking for your item, and without multiple participants, your auction is going to be very unexciting and unprofitable. Therefore, you’ll need to offer your items at a fixed price, or “Buy It Now”. Expect lots of e-mailed questions that will terrify you, since some people on Ebay are not very technical and don’t always understand professional gear. Also, you’ll need a clearly defined return policy since many buyers will send items back after they realize they didn’t need it or it was too complicated for them to use.

There are also the fees. Ebay fees are complicated and constantly changing, but you should estimate around 10 percent once Ebay and Paypal take their cut. When you add these fees to the time it takes to manage an Ebay sale, it’s often better to suck it up, accept the manufacturers restock fee, and get on with your life.

Of course, you shouldn’t even sell items online unless you are authorized to do so in your dealer agreement. If you are authorized, the internet isn’t an entirely scary place to sell your unwanted goods. There are niche auction sites (such as AudioGon.com or VideoGon.com for high end residential equipment) and if you do some research, you can offer your products on special-interest forums where people might be looking for exactly what you are selling. Amazon also has a Seller program that reaches a lot of technology buyers without having to sell at rock bottom prices.

Double-checking equipment lists before you submit your purchase orders is an important ounce of prevention, but accidents and scope changes will happen and inevitably some items will return to your warehouse. As soon as they arrive, you should evaluate and determine the fate of your returned gear. Will the manufacturer take it back? Is there an upcoming job that you can use it in? If you put it on the shelf in the warehouse, will you need it in the next six months? Alternatively, if you just can’t bear to part with your inventory, you can always invite an A&E camera crew or open your warehouse on the weekends as a museum of AV history.