University Surplus Management: The Right Mix to Increase Revenue

If you’re in university surplus, you know: generating surplus sales isn’t an exact science. Every school faces its own quirky constraints, locational restrictions, state requirements, and systems limitations… so for every sale, you work hard with what you can. Fortunately, there are some methods you can use to generate greater revenue for your university — and without a lot of hassle. With a fresh eye on your processes, a mixture of techniques, and a little experimentation, you can crack the formula for serious revenue success.

Be the Catalyst for Greater Surplus Store Awareness

surplus revenue catalustYou and your team know how hard you work to make sure your university surplus generates revenue. But how well-known is your organization across campus? In your community? And how searchable are your operations online? While university surplus stores are beloved resources of well-priced goods for their devoted customers, you might be surprised to discover the number of potential customers who don’t know about your surplus treasures.

That’s why it’s so important to spread the word — regularly — about your organization to departments, to students, to the general public, and the online community. Just think: every school year, a fourth of your student body leaves and a new group arrives on campus. This means a consistent campaign of awareness is necessary to keep up with incoming students alone. Fortunately, there are ways to ensure potential customers, both on- and off-campus, know who you are, where you are, what you do and how you can be of service to them. Here are some ideas:

Create Fusion with Other Secondhand and Salvage Groups

Because surplus items are often unique and merchandise is in perpetual flux, the good news is your surplus shop isn’t in direct competition with other surplus, resale and reuse stores. Instead, consider how you can supplement each other, to better serve your shared customer base with a large, affordable, ever-changing flow of goods. Take advantage of the partnership possibilities to get the word out. Trade signs and flyers and promote them prominently in your warehouse or store. Make sure any materials you share have pertinent details about what your operations do, when you’re open, how to buy, and where they can find you. (Maps are a plus!) Give it some time, and you might just find that you’re all selling more strongly together.

Generate Some Fission at On- and Off-campus Earth Day Events and Other Happenings

Take advantage of community events with a recycling, upcycling or sustainability focus to represent your surplus store. Get creative and show examples of how to transform common surplus assets into fresh, usable, desirable items. By demonstrating the possibilities, you help potential customers see opportunities they might not otherwise consider and reveal your surplus store as an important resource to the DIY, art and recycling communities.

Bond with Campus Sustainability and Better Promote University Zero-Waste Goals

Meeting sustainability goals is critical in the higher ed industry today, giving colleges with strong records on sustainability a greater edge to attract funding and students alike. Yet many higher ed surplus organizations operate independently from university sustainability initiatives, even though the work contributes to overall sustainability and zero-waste goals. Often, these departments are aware of each other’s presence but remain unaffiliated and unaligned. Here at AssetWorks, we’ve actually helped introduce the surplus and sustainability departments within some customer universities, giving them the chance to share their goals and show the administration all they can accomplish.

Positively Charge Your Presence with Clear Signage and Hours

It’s not easy for those who are unfamiliar with a university to find their way across most campuses. There are so many buildings, departments and organizations jockeying for space, it can make your head spin. Not only that, due to the need for space, off-campus warehouses tend to lurk in unexpected, out-of-the-way places. Finding them can be an adventure. That’s why it’s so important mark your surplus store or warehouse with easily-visible store signage and hours of operation. Make sure that same information is available and easily Google-able online, too! Remember: you can’t make sales if no one can find you. Also, it’s important to consider: are you consistent about keeping to your posted hours, so visitors know just what to expect? How many potential customers have made the trip to surplus operations, only to be disappointed by a Closed sign? (And how many of those potential customers decide the hit-or-miss hours mean it’s not worth their effort to stop by again?) Ensure potential buyers get the best possible experience from the very beginning, by clear information and consistent availability.

Put Your Buying/Bidding Process Under the Microscope

Revenue_MicroscopeIt can be gratifying to see buyers and bidders excited about your surplus merchandise. But what about the sales you might have missed? While you know every sale you make, you may never hear about the sales you lost to a complex buying or bidding process, unless someone specifically complains about it. That’s why it can be helpful to take a fresh look at your sales/auction process and ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Do buyers need to fill out detailed registrations, authentications and jump through other hoops to buy or bid on surplus assets?
  • Do you accept online or call-in bids, or is bidding only in-person through sealed envelopes?
  • Do you struggle with glitchy, difficult or inconsistent bidding/purchasing systems? What is the amount of down-time those systems experience?
  • How long does the bidding/sale process take, from start to finish?
  • Is any part of the process complex or confusing enough to deter a customer?

Some simple user tests are a great way to gain more insight into how effective your buying process is. The easier it is to purchase your surplus assets, the more new (and return!) business you’re likely to receive.

Add a Measure of Convenience and a Longer Reach

Once you’ve examined your buying/bidding process, you might realize you need to fine tune some things. You might also consider whether you’re taking advantage of all the best sales options available for your organization.

            • Are your auctions limited to local bidders?
            • Do you have any “Buy It Now” options available?
            • Do you ship surplus purchases outside the area, so you can expand your audience?
            • On how many auction sites do sell? Are your items only on your school site/intranet, or have you engaged with third party sites like,,, CraigsList and others?

By expanding your reach, your surplus assets catch the eyes of more bidders. And more competition among bidders means higher final sale prices and higher overall revenues for you!

Choose Sales Options that Get the Best Reaction

surplus revenue reactionAnother way to generate more revenue for your surplus business is by examining your past sales to inform decision-making about future ones. Where did that item sell best in the past? Are there any observable patterns in your sales records? An effective surplus management tool with asset history information and reporting can help you get the information you need. Tools like AssetWorks’ SMS solution document how each item has been disposed of, when, at what price and through which sales method. It lets you see whether certain items are selling particularly well by certain methods, so you can potentially repeat that success. It gives you insight into what types of items sell best at which times of the year. It helps you avoid selling items for less than you’d like. And it offers real data to back up your decisions. Plus, the reporting helps you confirm your successes, both internally and to administration.

Your Ideal Solution for Revenue Generation

With a mix of a convenient, shopper-centric sales process, greater visibility, the right connections and the data to back up smart sales decisions, you can trigger the customer reactions that raise revenue.

To learn more about how AssetWorks can empower you with more informed sales decisions, contact us today.

Whether you’re tracking one facility or multiple distribution centers, AssetWorks Surplus Management Software (SMS) is a scalable solution, designed to help your surplus warehouse automate and streamline processes, making it easier to achieve both environmental and fiscal sustainability goals.


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