When I first started selling my essential oil blends at Old Rooster Creek Flea Market in Princeton, TX, I was afraid I'd sell out of things fast, so I made several bottles of the blends I thought would be best sellers and brought them to my new booth.
BIG. MISTAKE! Long story short, I ended up with a lot of product that timed out and I had to dispose of it.
Let me share with you what I learned from that experience.
1. Make samplers of the essential oil blends for potential clients to try, then if they order, make the product fresh for them.
This pertains to the blends in liquid oils. I keep my essential oils, my carrier oils, and my stock blends refrigerated, so it only takes about 10 minutes to make fresh product. Many of the liquid carrier oils have a one year (or less) shelf life (i.e. Grapeseed Oil, Hemp Seed Oil) which means if they expire, product containing them expires. My clients love the idea that they're getting a product made when they order it and are happy to wait while I make it.
2. Make small batches of products like lotions, skin butters, and deodorants that will sell within a few months. These take a lot more time and effort to make, but they have a longer shelf life because butters tend to be more stable oils. I generally make enough to fill 8 - 10 containers (i.e. bottles, tubes) at a time. When all of them are sold, I make a new batch.
I determine the number I need based on the sales I make. For example, the flea market where I have my booth is not well known yet, so traffic is very light. It takes about three months for me to sell 8 bottles of my Sweet Summer Lotion during the colder months, but only about four weeks to sell 8 bottles during spring and summer (when mosquitoes and flies get really bad). Since I buy the all natural lotion base, I purchase more in March than I do in October -- which brings us to the next recommendation.
3. Pay attention to trends and seasons. Some months have higher overall sales volumes and some products sell better during certain seasons. My skin butters and lip balms tend to sell better during the winter (specifically, in January and February) because they're deeply moisturizing and protective of the skin barrier. My BBG butter sells better in summer and fall (usually June through August) because insects are biting and people are spending more time outdoors during these seasons.
Paying attention to specific times with higher volume of sales of a product will allow you to plan ahead and order the supplies you need to keep up with demand.
4. Stock the supplies you need and will use up before they expire, and store them appropriately. To do this, you need to know the shelf life of your supplies. Citrus essential oils generally have a shelf life of 1 - 2 years, so you wouldn't buy a gallon of lemon essential oil for personal use. On the other hand, if you sell a lot of lemon essential oil, a gallon might last a few months before you sell all of it. Patchouli essential oil can last up to 20 years (or longer), so buying a larger quantity that might take years to use up would be fine. Some companies put 'use by' dates on their labels, and this is very helpful. If there is no 'use by' date, write the date you open the bottle on a label and attach the label to your bottle.
Storage of your materials fits in here because how you store your oils affects their shelf life. If you buy a quart of Olive Oil and store it in the cabinet above your stove, that oil will likely go rancid faster than a bottle that's been stored in a cool place. The general rule-of-thumb is to store oils and butters tightly sealed and in a cool, dark place. This will slow the oxidation process and keep them from going rancid too soon.
Refrigeration may not be necessary, but it is my preferred method of storage. I have one refrigerator for my essential oils, and another for my carrier oils.
5. Make stock blends of essential oil blends you've created. For every essential oil blend you see in my online store, I have a 'stock blend'. That means I've already combined the essential oils in the proper proportion for that blend, but I haven't diluted it yet with a carrier. In most cases, my stock blends are made in 5 mL bottles so they are used up long before they can 'time out'. Since Total Knot Out and Joint Candy are my two best selling blends, I now make the stocks in 1/2 oz bottles. When a blend is ordered, I simply put the drops from the stock bottle in the (disinfected) container, add the Vitamin E and the carrier oil(s), cap the container, and label the product. It cuts production time by more than half.
Having stock bottles of my blends is the reason I can make my essential oil blends fresh for my clients at the flea market. These stock blends are also kept refrigerated to maintain their shelf life. (It's important to note here that the shelf life of one of these stock blends is that of the 'shortest-lived' oil in the blend.)
So how does this affect on-line orders? When you order one of my products on-line, your product will be fresh. Items like essential oil blends or bath salts will be made within 24 hours of receiving your order. Products like deodorants, skin butters, lip balms, and lotions will generally be made within one month prior to your order, or will be made fresh within a day or two after your order. All product labels will include the date that product was made.
My freshness policies allow me to personalize your products. For example, if you want to order Sweet Summer Lotion and you would like me to add Lavender Essential Oil to it, we could make arrangements to do exactly that.
(Note: Old Rooster Creek is an indoor flea market which means my booth stays set up. I have a workroom at the back of my booth. Half of that workroom is kept disinfected so that I can make product there.)