Love them, or hate them, strawberry Pop-Tarts just may be the key to successful inventory management. A few years ago, Walmart found that when a hurricane was forecasted its stores would run out of strawberry Pop-Tarts. This was because they don’t need to be refrigerated and have a long shelf life. Pop-Tarts are the perfect snack during the power outages that often follow hurricanes.
So Walmart started to look at how weather conditions affected customer buying decisions and then stocked up on in-demand items like Pop-Tarts. You may see a similar trend in your store such as umbrellas flying off the shelves when it is raining or cold drinks on a hot summer day.
A winning inventory strategy is to have the inventory that customers want in-store and online when they desire it the most. A strong inventory management system will help you do this and that begins with an inventory count. You need to be able to see what you have in order to know what you need to get.
Just the thought of doing an inventory count can send ripples of dread through any business owner. It can be a time-consuming and tedious process. In fact, 43% of small businesses don’t use inventory tracking at all and 37% of companies struggle with inventory management.
However, the benefits of inventory counting far outweigh the challenges. You will achieve more accurate records and ensure that you always have the right items, at the right time. It is possible to perform a full inventory count without losing your mind or your patience. Here’s some guidance for leveling up your inventory process.
What is a full inventory count and why does it matter to my business?
A full inventory count is when each and every item in your store is counted and recorded. This differs from a partial inventory count when you count only some, but not all, of your products.
It is recommended to conduct a full count. Think of it like eating a pizza. You would probably rather have the full pie rather than just a few slices. And a whole pizza equals a full stomach and leaves you satiated rather than just having a little taste and wondering what else you’re missing out on.
Beyond just helping determine inventory discrepancies, a count can also give you clarity with theft monitoring, budget planning, and earnings accuracy.
What are the advantages of conducting a count using Square Point of Sale technology versus pen and paper?
Driverless cars, the Roomba, and Amazon Alexa. There is so much cutting-edge technology at our fingertips yet it can still be hard to leave the old ways behind. Case in point, 24% of small businesses are still tracking their inventory with a pen and paper.
Doing a physical full inventory count involves humans counting products and scribbling down the data manually. This data is then audited against business records which requires double manual entry. It is practically the Stone Age equivalent of inscribing a stone tablet with a hammer.
A more beneficial alternative to this arduous process is to instead use the right tools for inventory counts. For example, you can use an inventory barcode scanner in tandem with your Square Point of Sale system to cut down on manual entry and prevent errors. Scan your SKU or UPC codes and then send the information directly to your POS system.
Is performing a full inventory count something that my staff can do?
You probably know your store’s products better than anyone, but you also can’t do it all. Select a few team members that are detail-oriented and have a strong understanding of your items to help. Offer a reward or spot bonus in response to the groaning you are sure to hear.
Here are some ways to make it easier for your staff to assist with inventory counting:
- Give each employee a specific set of items to count during their shift so there is no duplication of efforts.
- Organize your store’s floor and backroom so that items are easy to track down in their right spots and labeled correctly.
- Create a store map that includes all the locations to look for a set of items. For example, a shirt may be in the window display, on a mannequin, on a rack, and in the stock room.
- Position items with the bar codes facing out so they are easily scannable.
- For items on racks, set up a system to slide the item to the side once it has been counted. For items on shelves, have two bins and move items from one bin to the other after they have been scanned.
Do I need to close up shop while performing a full inventory count?
Usually, a full inventory count is easier to conduct if you do not have customers in your store. You’ll be pulling out products and moving things around which can be potentially hazardous to your shoppers. Ideally, you’d do your inventory count before or after business hours. If this is not possible, then choose a slower time such as when you first open.
If you decide to close completely, then make sure to give your customers a lot of advance notice. There is nothing worse than a patron with dollars to spend having to be turned away and sent to your competitor instead. Communicate your temporary closed hours on your social media, website, Google business profile, email, and with signs around your store.
Notifications should also be given to your suppliers and vendors so they do not show up with deliveries while you are conducting your inventory count. This also helps so your staff will not be pulled away from counting to interact with suppliers and lose focus.
How can inventory management software help with simplifying my inventory count?
Inventory management software, such as SKU IQ, can take your inventory count process to the next level. You can sync your eCommerce inventory with your Square Point of Sale system so as items sell online, your physical inventory counts will auto-adjust, and vice versa.
Inventory management software will give you greater insights into your stock with real-time data. You will be able to easily see your inventory stats, improve your forecasting, and prevent overselling. Solid inventory management can result in savings on excess stock and labor costs due to a more efficient system.
Most businesses typically conduct a full inventory count once a year and it is usually done at the end of the year or the beginning of the new year. After each count, it is suggested that you make notes about how it went so you can remember what worked or didn’t work the next time around.
You could also get some strawberry Pop-Tarts and put them on your desk as a reminder to always be on top of your inventory!