Inventory doesn’t have to be pain, I promise. If you know what to do, are well prepared and have a good team in place, inventory can actually be fun! Every year I lend my advice to my 25 stores in the form of a conference call and since you’re smart enough to be reading this, I’ll let you in on the secrets to a smooth night as well. Not is inventory time a perfect opportunity to clean your on-hand counts, it’s also a great time to ensure your Checkpoint System is at the top of its game.
Prep and Prep
Early There’s a whole lot that goes into inventory prep and isn’t something you can just do in one or two days. Prepping for inventory should be a year-round task. This includes keeping your warehouses organized, back-stock constantly purged and commons areas cleared out on a normal basis. If you’re a clothing store, it should be a daily task to ensure all garments have barcodes/pricing indicators. This helps with selling the item and help in the counting process. This also goes for your Checkpoint tags. While you’re out checking each and every rack for barcodes, make sure your team has a box full of Checkpoint tags to snap on any garments that don’t have them. You’re already going through every piece of clothing; why not use this time to your advantage?
Have a plan
Inventories follow a basic routine. Lay area tickets, scan. Variances. When you first lay your area tickets, do so in a logical manner. Each part of the store should be assigned a numbered group depending on your specific set-up (clothing – 3000, shoes – 2000, etc). This way, if you are missing an area ticket late in the count, you can easily identify where in the store it should be. Also, when laying tickets, do them in numerical order and every 4 – 8 feet of shelf space. Try to stay consistent on each aisle so the counting team doesn’t get confused and miscount. Again, incorporate your Checkpoint System into this process. There aren’t too many times a year that you put your hands on each and every piece of inventory. Make it count!
A day prior to counting, it’s a wise idea to “pre-count” your back-stock and warehouse merchandise. This will save you tons of time during the actual count. You’ll have to manage this a little so when items are sold during the day, they are removed from your pre-count sheet. Don’t forget about any outside containers, or off-site storage areas. If you store clothing in your warehouses, I’d suggest pre-counting this a day or so before inventory as well. The more you pre-count, the easier the actual inventory night is. You know what else you can do while you’re counting your warehouse? Yep, you guessed it! Use this time to apply some Checkpoint tags to those items you hadn’t gotten to yet!
I can’t stress this enough. Do your count overnight, when there are no customers in the store. I hate when I see stores trying to conduct inventory during the day. There are just too many distractions to contend with during business hours. At night, there are no customers, no Checkpoint system alarms,no phone calls, no drama and no fussing. It allows you and your counters to focus 100% to the task at hand – getting your inventory correct.
Once you count your store, the computer probably gives you a variance report. This generally shows you what you counted and what the books showed you should have in the store. So, at what variance do you spend time and research the discrepancies? Well, it depends and you have to use some common sense. Most big-box stores don’t chase anything less than $250. You may want to set that threshold a little lower or higher.
Mistakes do happen during inventory and you’ll never, ever, no matter what anyone tells you, or what a third-party business may try to sell you, get an inventory 100% accurate. Humans conduct the count. Humans conduct the variance. There will always exists the inherent human error, but by following some of these tips, you could save yourself a good deal of grief, heartache and a few sleepless nights.
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