12 Retail Experts Share Their Top Tips for Effective Inventory Management

If you’re a retailer, you know how much pain inventory management can cause. Without the right tools and systems, inventory management can eat up huge amounts of your time and even result in lost revenue — damaging both your business and personal life.

Here at Vend, giving retailers the tools to avoid these disasters and to successfully manage inventory is one of our top priorities.

That’s why we asked other retailers and experts to share their best tips for how to win at inventory management. Take a look at some of the responses below, and consider how you can implement this advice in your own business.

1. Organize your storehouses and make sure everything is in its proper place.

“Keep the storehouses organized! This is key to infrastructural continuity. Disorganization can cause stock to get backed up or even lost, which hinders the replenishing process of the shelves and also puts additional stress on employees.

(Never add more stress than is necessary for any position, as this can cause the employee to become overburdened and unable to work properly.)

If everything is in its proper place, you’ll know when something is missing, thereby minimizing loss and theft at the head and not the tail. Employees will be able to cause stock to flow fluidly, and resources will be freed up for additional tasks.”

Francis Matthew Auriemma, President at Far-Aum Quest, Business Consulting Enterprises

2. Track regional demand for your products.

“Monitor SKUs regionally to see where products are most and least in-demand. Send low-selling stock to stores where it’s in higher demand. Win-win!”

DeAnn Campbell, Client Services Director at Harbor Industries

3. Set the right stock re-order points.

“Assuming an auto-replenish scenario, ensure that every product’s minimum/safety stock is accurately set. Do your claims/write-offs daily to ensure that your suggested orders are accurate. Adjust minimum/safety stock for seasonality (e.g. increase soups in winter).”

John Kotze, Retailer at Pick n Pay

4. Stay on top of loss prevention.

“It’s all about centralized systemic redistribution processes, which should be controlled by a loss-prevention manager during the whole year. Incoming goods and transit must be monitored and clarified by one department within the company. It’s the only way to prevent loss and generate a good inventory outcome!”

Sara Haering, Stock Inventory Manager at Charles Vögele Trading AG

5. Invest in inventory management training.

“#1 is absolute attention to detail when training and developing your inventory management staff and system. In several different scenarios, I’ve seen excellent staff and processes fall short of their goals because the training and implementation weren’t cohesive.

It’s hard to row a boat across the ocean when everyone is paddling in different directions.”

Jaymison Haeussler, Retail Expert

6. Keep your team in sync.

“What if we get store ops, purchasing, and marketing on the same page? Successful products can’t be guaranteed, but when the team’s in sync, it’s easier to get behind strategy.

On the supply side, demand has to be planned and its results measured. Customer behavior will always dictate the destiny of a product, so constant observation of the trends is a must.”

Mauricio Jaschkowitz, Chief Operating Officer at GNC and Arca de Noe Shop for Pets

7. Invest in the right people and technologies.

“Invest in an excellent barcoding and inventory management system. And most importantly, hire people who know and follow good policies.”

Julie Leja, Experienced Analyst and Account Manager at S&F Foods, Inc.

8. Optimize your receiving process.

“For small retail stores, we’ve found optimizing receiving processes is key. I believe that’s our bottleneck. If you can eliminate mistakes there, it will solve lots of problems further in the process. Doing monthly partial inventory counts and full quarterly ones helps as well, especially if you don’t have lots of SKUs.”

Kestas Masanauskas, Chief Operating Officer at LifeLine Repairs Inc.

9. Know that it takes multiple steps and best practices to successfully manage your stock.

“At the warehouse: 1) Hire good people. 2) Have a clean, organized environment. 3) Create good processes for picking and sorting, and be consistent.

At the store-level: 1) Hire good, honest people. 2) Create great loss-prevention processes to deter internal theft. 3) Train employees on reticketing, register, and stock-handling procedures. 4) Encourage great customer service to deter external theft. 5) Have a clean, organized environment. 6) Know your stock.”

Maria Marino, Store Manager at Lane Bryant

10. Know how to handle dead stock.

“Have an exit strategy for dead stock, and make sure you know what you’ve got at all times.”

Isabel Pavey, Innovations Project Manager at Terry White Chemmart

11. Make sure each person’s role is right for them.

“Put the right people in the right roles. When I started as a department manager, I was passionate and eager. I had my top 10 to 15 item numbers memorized, and I checked them daily. I focused on making sure my inventory levels were accurate and appropriate. People who care will get it right.”

Sandie Preedom, Co-Manager at Walmart Stores

12. Don’t force stock orders.

“Only order what you sell well. Each week, order again if needed. Don’t force minimums just to mark it off your to-do list.”

Amber Wright, Store Manager at Petsense

The bottom line

We hope these words of wisdom give you a better idea of how to succeed when it comes to inventory management. If you find you’re still struggling, check out Vend’s Inventory Management Guide for more tips to help you stay on top of your stock.

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.

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