I feel the same way. But stores are terrified of the thought of extra items being left over past the end of the season. They’d prefer to sell out on a small number of items, compared to selling more but having some leftovers.
Let’s say there’s an item that they buy for $18 and sell for $20, and the sell every last one of the 100 they got. So they spent $1800, sold them for $2000, and made $200 profit.
Unfortunately, they have a lot of unhappy customers – such as you and me – who arrived after the last ones were gone. They could have stocked 120 and kept us happy, but look at these numbers:
Buying 120 of them would cost $2160. Suppose they sold 115 of them, leaving 5 unsold. The 115, at $20 each, brings in $2300, giving them $140.
See that? They sold 15 more, and earned $60 less! And that’s with only five leftovers!
Granted, there are a lot of variables at work here: If the profit margin was wider they could afford to have more unsolds. And there’s the possibility that they might have sold out of the entire 120. But it’s just not worth it: When buying for $18 and selling for $20, they’d have to sell 118 of them in order to get the same profit as selling out on just 100. And selling the hundred is MUCH easier.
The above calculations are counter-intuitive to many people, because we simply look at the $2 profit per item, and don’t realize what happens when there are unsold items at the end of the season. This is why this problem is particularly powerful for seasonal items, such as clothing, air conditioners, and snow shovels. The typical customer will react, “Why don’t they just hold on to it and sell it next year?” There are many answers to that, but the simplest are: (1) Holding it until next year means taking up valuable storage space, not to mention watching to make sure it doesn’t “walk” out of the warehouse. Perhaps even more importantly: (2) This year’s clothes will be out of style next year, and this year’s appliances will be replaced by newer models. No, the merchant says, we must sell it now or it won’t ever get sold. So they are very conservative with how many they purchase to start with.