A Guide to Stock Control; How to Improve It
Stock control is a process used to maintain the suitable quantity of stock for a business to be able to meet customer demand without delay, at the same time as minimising as far as possible the costs of holding stock.
Stock control exists to ensure a business always has enough stock for customers. Of course, balancing money spent on acquiring and storing stock is also a crucial factor. It sounds simple, right? However, although it is prone to suffering the impact of events beyond the control of the business (like extreme weather, economic crises, supply chain breakdowns and more), it can also be sabotaged by using substandard or corrupted data.
When it comes to types of stock in general, what exactly are we talking about? In retail, the main elements are the following:
- Raw materials
- Unfinished products
- Finished products: what most recognise as unsold stock, in storage and ready for distributio
- In-transit goods en route to the customer
- Cycle inventory, distributed to a business from a supplier or manufacturer and sold on to end users
- Anticipation inventory: surplus to immediate needs but stored in case of rapid sales increases
- Buffer inventory, “safety stock” – a ‘safety net’ in case unexpected issues or inventory requirements emerge
Historically, companies controlled their stock manually, by populating and updating stock control spreadsheets. That meant workarounds and manual errors were prolific and caused businesses discomfort and excessive costs.
Stock management in retail
Retailers have a lot of money tied up in stock, so their stock control processes must make efficiency an imperative so that turnover runs as expected. Those processes run from inventory planning, establishing order cycles or balancing stock, to tracking inventory to be alert when replenishment is needed.
There are two cardinal stock management sins for retailers:
- Lack of awareness of what stock levels are at any given moment,
- Lack of certainty that product data populating stock information is correct
If you have no awareness of your inventory levels, your eCommerce platform is populated with products which cannot fulfil orders received. You take a financial hit, and your reputation for reliability will suffer.
Management standards for product data are addressed by integrating stock control software with a PIM system, and regarding the stock levels. Calibrate your solution so it is:
- setting minimum and maximum quantities of sales to receive alerts
- optimising display and promotion of ‘cash cow’ products
- assessing product performance
· mining previous inventory management reports for insights
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Tips for managing stock efficiently and mindfully
These five tips are certainly not exclusive, but they should be high on your agenda if you want control over your stock.
1. Maintain a Relationship with Your Suppliers
As you travel towards genuine competitiveness in digitally driven commerce, these fundamental changes require organisational recalibration in terms of delivering on business aims. The mission and practices behind full-scale digital transformation can only be embedded and acted on by analysing and finding the pain points in the organisational culture – this means entrenched attitudes, assumptions, and activities. Our expert business consultants, with extensive experience with brands, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are perfectly equipped to work with you to create a digital transformation roadmap to approach this seismic change with confidence.
2. Practise the 80/20 inventory rule
Received wisdom says 80% of profits come from 20% of stock, so it makes good practice to prioritise management of this 20% of product inventory. These products are your most profitable, so monitor them constantly in relation to stock levels and planning.
3. Audit stock
Many retailers conduct a comprehensive stock audit once a year. Others do spot checks on best-selling products on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. It doesn’t matter whether it is one or the other – thoroughly check inventory regularly to ensure it is consistent with what stock you believe you have. Moreover, check the quality of the product data you use to ensure that further down the value chain, bad and incomplete data doesn’t stymie attempts at normalising stock control measures.
4. Track sales
Not simply adding up your sales at close of business! Every single day, you need to know what you have sold (the quantity and product variant) and update your inventory accordingly. That’s for starters. You can also extract insights from analysing this data. such as:
- Sales patterns – high sellers
- Unexpected sales drop-offs – often due to poorly presented product information
- Seasonal variations
- High-selling days of the week for certain products
- Products which frequently sell bundled together
It’s a question of looking at the bigger picture of how your range of products sell – find out why, not just how many.
5. Invest in stock control technology
More time is spent during business growth on inventory than on operations, to avoid stock getting out of control. Inventory management software makes tasks easier and faster to manage. Before choosing a solution, do due diligence on what you need, what you don’t need, and how user-friendly any given tech system is.
Most options are native cloud-based, using automated and real-time notifications to check stock visibility in all locations and across all SKUs, categories, and variants. This means gains for your sales, operations, warehousing, fulfilment, and more by:
- using devices to locate any stock in real-time, thus heightening warehouse efficiency
- enabling better stock location planning by optimising warehouse space use to reduce pick and pack lead times.
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Final words - integration and unification
Stock control software or POS systems aren’t the only technologies which help to manage stock. You need to integrate your tech stack with systems that ‘talk’ to each other and work holistically. Inventory management software which can’t communicate with your product information management system means there is a gap in the information you need to control stock, frequently leading to inaccurate inventory counts.
Our PIM consultancy services have helped many clients to thrive and perform in the eCommerce world by improving how they manage their product data processes and quality by leveraging state-of-the-art solutions which integrate with stock control technology to help you cover all bases.
Get in touch with us and we can have a more in-depth conversation about how we can help you to move to the next level in your eCommerce journey!