5 Tips to Help Retail Employees Stay on Top of Inventory

Inventory management can be a huge pain for retailers. Staying on top of stock levels, performing regular inventory counts, managing stock across multiple channels or locations — if it’s not all done right, it can eat up hours and hours of your time and force you to do wasteful manual work.

It’s crucial that you have an inventory management solution that works for your business and that you give your employees the knowledge, tools, and training to effectively use that system and to stay on top of stock control.

If they’re empowered and enabled to do these things, you’ll in turn be able to fully reap the benefits of smooth inventory management: increased efficiency, greater security, and easier sales and data tracking.

In this post, we’ll share some quick tips to help you and your employees stay on top of stock. Keep reading to ensure you and your team are always winning the inventory management game!

1) Set up your products correctly.

If your system is disorganized or if your employees aren’t fully comfortable with your inventory management solution, they’re going to have a hard time keeping tabs on stock. For this reason, it’s important to set up your products correctly in the system.

Use product categories to group items into more manageable sections and to make them easy to find. Don’t give in to temptation when it comes to skipping categories, either; it takes only a few extra seconds, and it’ll be worth the investment.

Once you’ve decided how you’ll categorize products, make sure you give this information to your team so they know what to look for if and when they’re in need.

We recommend creating a simple spreadsheet where you can keep track of keywords and attributes — and then sharing the sheet with your employees so it can function as a company-wide tool.

2) Invest in inventory training.

If you want your employees to effectively stay on top of stock control, you have to ensure they’re familiar with the ins and outs of your processes and technologies. The best way to do this? Provide detailed training for every member of your team.

Professional inventory training will ensure that each one of your employees is competent and knowledgeable when it comes to the importance of the inventory management process.

It’ll teach them how to use basic tools such as inventory spreadsheets; inform them of the essential nature of inventory counts and the different types of counts you can perform in-store; give them the confidence to minimize inventory-related mistakes and losses; and generally make them more comfortable dealing with inventory on a daily basis.

So what exactly should you cover in your inventory training? The specifics will vary based on your business and your system, but here are a few lessons to consider:

How to enter/edit/delete new products in your system

This will eliminate confusion and mistakes, and knowing the basics will give your employees the confidence to operate the system with ease.

How to conduct inventory counts

Inventory counts are essential in retail, as they allow you to maintain accuracy, avoid shrinkage, and ensure you always have the right amount of stock at the right time. Teach your employees how to conduct inventory counts so they can effectively help you during the process or even spearhead a count themselves.

How to order/receive stock

These are inventory-related tasks that you’ll want your employees to handle on a day-to-day basis so you don’t have to constantly worry about them. Train employees on knowing when to order more stock and on how to do it in your system, and make sure they know how to receive stock when they’re working.

How to prevent loss

Misplacing merchandise or failing to keep accurate inventory records can quickly lead to significant losses in your retail business, so you want employees to be properly trained and informed in this area.

3) Take advantage of training and/or onboarding services from your inventory management solution.

Many inventory management solution providers in today’s market offer training or onboarding services so both you and your employees can learn how to take full advantage of the system’s features and capabilities. The team behind the service itself will be able to give you the most comprehensive overview of the system, and they’ll be able to provide support and further assistance in any necessary areas.

Consider giving your existing provider a call to ask about these options — or, if you’re contemplating switching providers, see if you can get your new one to bundle onboarding and/or training as part of a sign-up deal.

4) Set the right user permissions.

Managing user permissions in your point of sale system is essential for ensuring maximum security and minimizing losses in your business. It’ll also help employees stay on top of inventory by simplifying what they’re allowed to do in the system.

For example, you may want your cashiers to be able to perform returns and exchanges but not to be able to apply discounts during those busy sales periods. By only allowing managers to perform discounts, you can be confident that it’s for a good reason.

Also be mindful of who can view certain types of information. Will you let everyone on your staff see supply prices, margins, and gross profit figures? Or is that for your (or your manager’s) eyes only? Whatever the case, be sure to stay on top of those permissions.

It’s probable that your existing point of sale solution offers a user permissions feature — so if you’re not taking advantage of it, do yourself a favor and remedy that situation. And if you know it’s there but you’re just not sure how to use it, call your provider and ask for a quick rundown.

5) Use the right tools.

Behind every great system are the tools to back it up — which is why it’s crucial that you find the right tools to help your employees stay on top of inventory.

These can take any form (inventory spreadsheets, mobile apps that sync with your system, forms you print off to help with inventory counts), but we suggest choosing tools recommended by your inventory management solution. This way, you can be sure that whatever you’re using is optimized for your particular system and that there won’t be any unexpected glitches or issues between the two.

Take Scanner, for example. Scanner is Vend’s free mobile inventory barcode scanner app, and it’s designed to take the pain out of inventory management by eliminating manual data entry.

Scanner functions as a complete mobile counting solution, and you can use it on its own or integrated with Vend. It allows you to perform inventory counts (full and partial) — all straight from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.

It recognizes products in retailers’ Vend catalogs; pre-populates product names when they’re scanned; shows completed counts and upcoming counts created in Vend; and syncs with Vend to update counts and stock levels.

With tools like Scanner, helping your employees stay on top of inventory can be a breeze!

Wrapping up…

Here’s a quick summary of the tips we just outlined:

1) Set up your products correctly. This will save you and your employees time, and it’ll minimize confusion and costly mistakes.

2) Invest in inventory training. Providing professional inventory training for your employees will help them understand the importance of the entire inventory management process. The right program will also cover important topics such as loss prevention.

3) Take advantage of training and/or onboarding services from your inventory management solution. Most modern-day providers offer services such as these, and getting the information straight from the source will ensure your employees know your inventory management system inside and out.

4) Set the right user permissions. This will allow you total control over what actions your employees can take when it comes to inventory — giving you peace of mind and minimizing the risks of theft and loss.

5) Use the right tools. Inventory management tools (such as Vend’s Scanner app) can be hugely beneficial when it comes to helping your employees stay on top of inventory.

Do you have any tips of your own?

Share them in the comments!

About Nikki Michaels

Nikki is Vend's content and copy wizard. American-born and Auckland-based, she's into reading (a lot), writing (obviously), and travelling (always).