Keeping Track Of Inventory Manually – As a retailer, counting physical inventory is probably not on your to-do list. A tedious task, counting goods in a store can take hours, and for some merchants, it also requires a temporary store closure.
But even if it’s a job you don’t like, physical inventory is a must for any salesperson. Keeping a close eye on the inventory you have on paper versus what is actually in store helps you maintain inventory accuracy, detect causes of shrinkage early, and ensure you always have the right amount of inventory at the right time.
Keeping Track Of Inventory Manually
Physical inventory is the practice of personally counting retail products. The process typically involves a member of the retail staff (or a team of employees) walking through the retailer’s sales floor and warehouse and counting each item. The data is then recorded manually, using a pen and paper, or electronically using a mobile device.
Rfid Inventory Management System
The purpose of the physical inventory is to audit the store’s inventory and ensure that the inventory details the retailer has on paper match the inventory on hand.
To make it easier for you, we’ve put together some practical tips for setting up the physical inventory process, taking inventory, and more. Check them out below.
You may be in lockdown mode, but still want to make sure you have good control over your stock levels. Maybe restrictions in your state or country are easing and you’re getting ready to reopen your store.
Limiting contact with people outside your home is one of the best things you can do to prevent catching or spreading the virus.
Free Equipment & Inventory Tracking Spreadsheet Template
So see if you can do a physical inventory yourself or with a household member if you have a larger catalog.
Do you need to bring your staff? Take steps to protect yourself and them. Personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves must be worn in the store.
And remember to keep a safe distance (at least 6 feet apart) when counting products. You can do this by allocating different areas where you and your team can count products. For example, you can ask a team member to count items outside a store while you are in the warehouse.
Another option is to schedule counting in shifts so that you are not in the store at the same time. For example, you can designate an employee to come in the morning and take inventory in the afternoon.
How To Manage Inventory In A Retail Store
The fewer items or devices you touch, the better. Only have one device per person when counting products. So instead of using a clipboard and pen and paper, opt for an inventory counting app like Scanner that people can download to their phones without the need for additional devices.
Also try to limit the products you touch. If possible, scan the product’s barcode without removing it from the shelf.
Now that we’ve covered the health and safety considerations for inventory during COVID-19, here are some more general tips to make inventory much more efficient for your business.
Have you ever tried cycle counting (aka partial counting)? It is a process of continuous counting of goods, thanks to which you can monitor stock levels without disturbing the operation of the store. Known as one of the most effective inventory counting methods for retailers, recurring counting can be done daily or weekly (usually before the store opens) and can free you from having to fully count inventory.
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Philip Pravda of SuitCafe.com highly recommends this method. “I had four high-end menswear stores and my method of doing physical inventory was almost daily,” he says.
“I would choose small departments of a store or a specific brand of shirt, dress, coat, etc. I would count them by style and size numbers. Then go to my computer and compare. Running an entire store for a small business is difficult because you’re always helping customers, and you certainly don’t want to close it early or all day for inventory.”
Similarly, Preston Wily of the e-commerce website SewellDirect.com says running partial inventories on the go has worked well.
“Our shipping department is assigned several audits each week – high-volume products are reviewed much more often than low-volume retailers, but each product is counted at least once a year,” he says. “We also catch problems much earlier, which prevents them from turning into big problems.”
Expiration And Renewal Tracking Software
On the other hand, if counting cycles isn’t your cup of tea, or if you feel like you need to do a full inventory in addition to partial inventories (as some retailers do), the other tips in this post should make your life easier.
Traditionally, a physical inventory is done with a pencil and paper. The staff would use the nature inventory sheet to count products and reconcile data in their system.
While this method can get the job done, it is very inefficient and requires double entry. Not to mention that physically counting inventory is already a “manual” task, so the last thing you need is manually counting and recording data.
If you use POS software or inventory management software, check to see if it offers inventory counting features that you can use.
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For example, Vend’s inventory counting feature makes it as easy as possible for retailers to count inventory. Features such as simultaneous counting enable faster inventory counting across multiple devices, and Vend’s quick scan mode allows retailers to count inventory with a barcode scanner or search SKUs
If you already use Vend, check out our new inventory picking features and use them the next time you take a physical inventory in your stores.
Scanner App: Digitize your counting process with Scanner, a free mobile app that makes it easy to count your inventory.
The scanner allows you to conduct full and partial inventories using your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Just scan the product barcodes with your device’s camera and the app will automatically record and save all the necessary product information.
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The scanner also syncs completed inventories to your Vend account, so you can easily update your inventory once your inventory is complete.
Not a Venda user? Scanner will create a CSV file that you can easily email to you and your employees.
Save time and reduce human errors when counting inventory. Click the link to learn more about Scanner, a free barcode scanning app for inventory.
RFID: Need a more advanced inventory tool? Consider RFID technology. Short for Radio Frequency Identification, RFID allows chips to be embedded in the packaging of goods, making it easy to track its location. RFID is very useful, not only from a loss prevention point of view, but also when it comes to maintaining inventory accuracy.
How Can I Keep Track Of My Inventory For Free?
Consider what Mammoth, a California sporting goods store, is doing to improve inventory. Instead of conducting full inventories, the company physically counts its expensive, heavily discounted items daily, then reviews a percentage of its inventory every two weeks to count all items.
Mammoth also uses Truecount RFID software to generate reports on what it should have in stock.
“Truecount allows us to create a comparative report based on what our computerized inventory system says we have in stock and what we can count,” Mammoth co-owner Phil Hertzog told NRF. This job is done after closing, and the next morning they reconcile the inventory to look for discrepancies. In the event of a discrepancy, staff are informed where the missing items should be so that the location can be physically verified.
Pro Tip: No matter what your tech stack looks like, make sure your hardware and software are working perfectly before counting. Check your barcode scanners, review the functionality of your software, and do some tests to make sure everything is ready before the official calculation.
Your Go To Guide For Inventory Control
Do not assign the inventory to any employee. The team carrying out the inventory should consist of both experienced employees and those who can provide a fresh perspective.
You will need experienced team members as these staff members will be more familiar with your policies and the location of various items. However, someone who is so used to your store or warehouse may overlook minor issues and details, so having people who are a bit new to the team can be beneficial.
Another option is to hire external inventory counters. This is useful if you don’t have in-house expertise or resources to count. The actual counting procedure will vary by provider. It’s best to contact an external inventory counter and track their processes.
The timing of the inventory process is very important, so think about when (and what time) to schedule your inventory, and then plan (far) ahead.
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When (and how often) you need to take full physical inventories is up to you. Some stores do it once
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