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How to Manage Your Inventory in a Holiday Retail Season Unlike Any Other

/ 10.27.2020 / News,Operation Educate,Retail Tips and Tricks

Inventory management is set to take a starring role for retailers during the upcoming holiday shopping season. While it’s always important, understanding and managing inventory will be a make-or-break factor as retailers navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting changes in customer shopping behaviors. Forty-four percent of retailers see inventory as a potential obstacle to their success this holiday season, and 55 percent of consumers are concerned about inventory availability as they prepare their shopping lists. 

As a result, laying the inventory groundwork ahead of time is more essential for retailers than ever. That means doing a physical count of on-hand inventory and reconciling it against the reports produced through your point-of-sale (POS) system. Then, utilize your data to forecast the inventory you need to meet projected customer demand, considering market trends, past holiday buying patterns, and planned promotions. 

Based on the upfront work, place your orders early, build in appropriate cushion amounts for key items, set automated stock reorder points, and outline just-in-case plans with your primary suppliers. With preparations in place, turn your attention to making sure you have the inventory information you need at your fingertips throughout the holiday season. Learning how to manage your inventory starts with monitoring these three essential reports on a daily basis. 

1. Monitor sales in real-time.

Every retailer’s mantra in this unusual retail season is “expect the unexpected.” One way to do that is to keep your finger on the pulse of your inventory, so you can quickly identify unexpected patterns or potential shortages. 

Monitor the day-to-day fluctuations in inventory with automated reports produced through your POS system that detail sales activity, including best-selling and slow-selling items. When you stay close to your sales numbers, you gain the flexibility to adjust on the fly – whether that’s ordering additional inventory or discounting items to drive sales. 

It’s a careful balancing act. It’s estimated that retailers miss out on up to $1 trillion in sales because they don’t have the inventory on-hand to meet customer demand. However, there’s a price to pay for over-stocking as well. Unsold inventory costs U.S. retailers an estimated $50 billion annually. 

Daily, weekly, and monthly sales reports, each with different levels of detail, deepen your understanding of both your inventory and your customers. Looking at the numbers daily gives you options to pivot your inventory management in real-time.

Related: 3 Must-Dos as Retailers Prepare for the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

2. Keep your eye on turnover.

Another valuable report to review regularly is your inventory turnover rates. Inventory turnover – also known as stock turn – measures the number of times a product sells through during a defined time period. Higher inventory turnover rates indicate an item is selling well, but you’re not overstocking it. A lower inventory turnover rate could mean you’re maintaining more stock than you need. 

To calculate your inventory turnover rate for a specific period, divide the cost of items sold by the average inventory. As you head into an uncertain holiday period, evaluate your inventory turnover rates, taking into account both increased customer demand as well as longer vendor lead times for reorders. Build in “safety stock” amounts as an extra cushion to ensure you have the products you need on hand. Then, review your turnover rates regularly throughout the season to identify opportunities to dial reorders up or down. 

By closely tracking inventory turnover rates, you can fine-tune your purchasing decisions, helping reduce costs and increase profits. 

Related: 5 Essential Facts Your Inventory Management Reports Should Be Telling You

3. Integrate for insights.

Now’s the time to bring the data from your in-person and online sales together for an integrated view through your POS system. As more buyers move seamlessly from online to in-store to mobile shopping and back again, it’s critical that your inventory tracking keeps up. Having consolidated inventory management means you can ensure you have the inventory you need where you need it, whether that’s in your brick-and-mortar locations, in the warehouse for shipping fulfillment for e-commerce orders, or curbside to meet buy-online-pick-up-in-store requests. 

Along with gaining much-needed efficiencies in a busy season, integrated inventory management enhances your store’s omnichannel shopping experience for your customers. 

More on inventory management.

If you’re ready to give inventory management a starring role in your business strategy, POSIM can help. Download our essential guideCountdown to the Holidays: 10 Steps to Optimize Inventory Management and Increase Sales. Then, contact us for a demo of what POSIM can do for your business, including inventory management capabilities you can count on.

Zach Crenshaw

Operations Manager at POSIM

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