Retail Inventory Management

Retail inventory management is a powerful tool that can dramatically grow your business, while minimizing administration time and costs. However, the system you choose must suit your particular needs. The complexity of a system changes, depending on your goals, the type of business you operate and how your industry or niche changes over time. However, it is important to establish a system early on, before sales and clientele increase to a point where your operation demands one. An inventory management system, particularly POS (Point of Sale) software, should be part of your initial business plan. It is an investment that will directly affect the success of your retail business.

When I was nine, my parents bought a retail store in our small town. In those days, it was called a “variety store.” It offered magazines, cheap novels, candies, some stationery and a selection of souvenirs for whistle stop visitors from the nearby train station. Beginning with the store purchase, and every year after that, my brothers and I were “voluntold” to help take inventory. To this day, I shudder at the thought of counting every single item in that tiny, cluttered store. We used pen and a printed list we somehow produced — magically, it seemed, in a day when no one had personal computers.

Retail inventory management has transformed into much more than a necessary accounting task at tax time. The right system for your business will be responsive and much more efficient. Although it will not eliminate the need for a physical count at fiscal year end, you will find your data to be much more accurate, with a customized list that updates continually to reflect sales throughout the year. The right POS for your business will provide another level of checks and balances for increased accuracy. Our retail inventory management professionals can help you decide what system works best for you.

A well established inventory management system will assist your business in growing with you as you hone your focus and adapt to changes in the market. In a relatively short time, my mother transformed the family “variety store” into a “gift store.” She changed her target market to include a more discerning clientele, which still included tourists, but branched out to local residents who appreciated one-of-a-kind items that my mother would carefully source at major “gift shows” every season. It always amazed me that my mother seemed to be able to account for every item on her shelves. She painstakingly chose pieces, and knew when they sold, went missing, or were out of place. She also knew how to tailor product for her clientele, and when she needed to replace or refresh inventory.

Two problems resulted from my mother’s style of inventory management. First, it is difficult to staff a business that relies on one person’s vision. Even in a small business, it is important to be able to delegate tasks effectively. In a sole proprietorship like our family business, the entrepreneur dreams of being in control of time, both personally and professionally. If there is no policy or system in place for inventory management, it is difficult to hand tasks over to a qualified employee whom you can trust to represent you well. While part of this issue involves management style, division of labor is a real problem if there is a change in circumstance, illness, a need for the leader to be away, or just a desire to take a holiday. In larger businesses, delegation is essential for successful operation. You simply must be able to delegate tasks so that you can keep track of business transactions 24/7. You may also need to have remote access to reports. POS software can accommodate your business in hitherto unimaginable ways.

The second problem of my mother’s style involved time management. Her best talent was in customer service. She had a knack for understanding individuals, and anticipating what they would need or want. However, her time was divided among many tasks that diverted her from her passion. The shop was successful, but it required a considerable investment of my mother’s time to keep track of product. She particularly struggled with the day to day record keeping of a business. Administration is often not an entrepreneur’s passion. The demands on a business owner’s time increase as the business becomes more successful. In our family business days, time management solutions were limited for visionary entrepreneurs, as they tried to balance their creative talents with the administrative tasks involved in keeping a business on track.

Contemporary inventory management systems reduce the amount of time it takes to monitor retail activity. The right POS system records every item and tracks its progress from source to customer. With easily accessible reports, it provides an overview of sales. It can also give a detailed account of which items sell well, and which are not moving. POS frees up administrative time, with notifications about when to restock, or perhaps clear out an item that is not moving. It tracks seasonal variation. The right POS will take the guesswork (or hours of painstaking analysis) out of your business operation.

The most critical role of a great POS system for inventory management is to establish a policy that can be implemented over the long term, by more than one person. When a system is in place from the beginning, it sets a template for growth.

At the launch of a business, it may not seem necessary to have POS software in place. You may be able to manage inventory in a small business on your own, or to recruit people close to you for help. You will find it difficult to sustain your operations. However, with a system in place, you will much more easily adapt to success. In fact, early preparation for growth can actually ensure that you are successful, and can open up possibilities for your business much sooner than you might have anticipated. You will not find yourself involved in costly and time consuming backtracking to reorganize ad hoc solutions you created out of necessity. With a simple plan in place, you will be ready to make the changes you need. With the right professionals available to help you at every step, you will launch with a system that is simple and flexible. You can adapt in an ever changing, highly competitive environment.

Retail POS platforms are simple, efficient tools for cutting edge, long term solutions. Our retail inventory management professionals are skilled at finding the right fit for your business. Contact us today to tell us about your business. We will work with you to help you focus on your vision. Whether you are recruiting friends and family to help you sell at the weekly farmer’s market, or launching brick and mortar retail space with several employees — whatever form your retail business takes — you will appreciate the foresight of investing in an effective inventory management system.