Retail business owners have a lot to consider––but getting your products to your customers on time is probably your top priority.
Staying on top of your product inventory helps you meet customer demand and remain profitable.
But as your business grows and customer demand fluctuates, managing your inventory can become challenging.
How do you make sure you have enough products in stock without overstocking? How do you run a promotion without selling out? These are all common challenges that retail business owners face.
Here are five key inventory planning challenges and how you can solve them.
Why is inventory planning important?
Effective inventory planning ensures you have enough products in stock to meet customer demand. When done properly, it also helps lower your costs of keeping items in stock.
If inventory planning isn’t done properly, it can cause a business to lose money by stocking too many products that can’t be sold.
Planning systems look different for every business, but at its core, managing inventory helps you buy the correct amount of stock and decide when to reorder.
Benefits of effective inventory planning
1. Prevent dead stock
Dead stock is stock that’s gone out of fashion, out of season, or has become irrelevant. Effective inventory planning helps you avoid this costly problem.
2. Avoid wasted stock
If you sell perishable products like food or cosmetics, there’s a chance that they will go out of date if you can’t sell them in time. Planning your inventory properly helps you reduce this risk.
3. Manage warehouse storage more efficiently
Warehouse storage costs often depend on how much stock you’re storing. If you store too much product at once and can’t sell it, your warehouse costs will increase. Carefully managing your inventory reduces overhead costs.
4. Improve cash flow
Paying for stock takes cash out of your business. Granted, you’ll get the cash back when you make sales, but while the products are stock, it’s valuable cash you can’t use elsewhere in your business.
Improving your inventory planning results in better cash flow management.
5 inventory planning challenges and how you can solve them
Scaling your inventory planning solution can be one of the biggest challenges of growing your company.
1. Inaccurate inventory tracking
Small businesses often start out with a manual tracking system for inventory control. You may not think that an automated inventory system is necessary for your stock inventory.
But manual planning processes across different software, spreadsheets, and paper are time-consuming, inefficient, and liable to human error.
Limited visibility in warehouses may mean that your stock is challenging to identify or locate, making it harder to know how much you have.
Inventory tracking across multiple channels also means there’s no way to view real-time data. To stick to lean budgets and remain profitable, you need to know at any given moment during the year how much inventory you have.
Solution: Upgrading to a centralized inventory tracking system that has features for automatic reordering and purchasing. Key metrics will also show you bestsellers and total sales so you can optimize your stock.
- QuickBooks Enterprise Advanced Inventory for consolidated inventory tracking with real-time updates and reports
- G2’s recommendations for inventory management software for warehouse management, barcodes, inventory control, and label printing
2. Inefficient processes
When you’re focused on building your customer base and driving sales, it’s easy to fall into following undefined processes.
An inconsistent or undefined inventory management process may not seem like a problem when you have limited stock and just one storage location to manage. But as your business grows, your sales volume will increase and your inventory will expand. These inefficient manual processes then become hard to scale.
Solution: Implement an Internet of Things (IoT) inventory to track each of your item’s individual locations––and say goodbye to guessing how much of each item you have in stock. An IoT inventory automatically monitors the movement of stock to and from your storage locations. That way, you’ll know which products to reorder more frequently.
- Capterra’s picks for IoT software that keeps you aware of your inventory in real-time
- The best IoT platforms for building IoT applications, according to G2
3. Poor inventory control
Having too much stock can be just as much an issue as having too little. Overstock negatively affects your cash flow and can cause excess inventory problems, like storage and damage. If you sell perishable items like food and cosmetics, it’s even more important to control your inventory effectively.
Alternatively, if you have low stock levels, overselling and running out of inventory is an issue for maintaining customer satisfaction.
Not knowing your exact inventory levels at any given moment makes it hard to plan for how much stock your business needs.
Solution: Regularly auditing your stock reduces human error and helps you stock the right amount of inventory. Accurate and up-to-date inventory data will help you spot seasonal trends so you know when you’ll need the most and least amount of stock. For steady periods of the year, calculate your economic order quantity (EOQ) so you know your optimum stock levels.
- QuickBooks Commerce, which allows you to seamlessly track your products from inventory to fulfillment, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks
4. Supply chain complexity
Global supply chains fluctuate daily, making it challenging to manage your inventory. Raw material shortages, economic shifts, and inaccurate lead times from wholesalers can all impact your stock replenishment. Often, small businesses are at the mercy of manufacturers and distributors who call the shots on when and how your inventory ships.
Solution: Supply chain management software can help you track supplier performance to help prevent disruption to your supply chain, keep on top of stock replenishment, and reduce complicated stocking logistics. Consider setting aside some safety stock for emergency stockouts.
- GetApp’s recommendations for the best supply chain management apps that integrate with QuickBooks Online Advanced
- Logiwa, cloud-based inventory management software with a direct QuickBooks Online Advanced integration to help you manage your supply chain
5. Coping with demand fluctuations
Customer demand fluctuates throughout the year, and your business needs to be agile enough to deal with this. Ecommerce business owners usually see an uptick in orders around the end of the year holiday season. If you’re running promotions, you’ll also experience increased customer orders.
Poor ordering strategies impact your ability to fulfill these changing demands and may mean that you experience more frustrating stockouts.
Solution: Retailers can plan ahead with demand forecasting tools found on inventory management software. These features integrate with your accounting and sales data to help you predict demand and place purchase orders based on changing customer needs, seasonal variation, or product availability. That way, you can match demand levels throughout the year.
- QuickBooks Enterprise for efficient inventory management through a single dashboard
- Forecast Rx QuickBooks integration to learn what to order and when
Plan your inventory efficiently with QuickBooks
By improving your inventory management system, you’ll minimize unnecessary costs and help increase profitability.
Using planning software like QuickBooks helps you know what’s in stock and what’s on order in real-time. Receive instant updates and reports so you can easily track your inventory on the go. You can also integrate your QuickBooks with Amazon, so you can create a master inventory list and sync your products across multiple channels.
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