It’s the frustrating bane of the small to mid-sized business owner: Customers come to your store for essentials, food staples or favorite items and your shelves are bare. The disappointed consumer heads out the door to another shop whose aisles are brimming with what they want, never to return.
Conversely and equally frustrating: shelves that are full are stocked with non-selling products getting old and gathering dust. In either case, the loss of potential profits stings hard.
Businesses need to keep their shelves stocked with high-demand items. Covid-19 brought this important lesson to many stores that were unable to meet demand for toilet paper and paper towels. Post-pandemic, the need for merchants to ensure that their shelves are fully stocked with highly sought items, continues to be a critical factor in running a profitable business.
Inventory is an asset only if you have the right amount of product and the right brands of products; for example, ordering soft drinks based upon accurate sales data from inventory tracking software. If there’s a popular brand of soda that’s trending and you’re not on top of it, then sales of your suitable inventory could stagnate, leaving you over-stocked and with reduced profits.
So how do merchants make sure that their shelves stay full with key items? A major factor in retail success is being organized and knowing your inventory as well as your demographics’ wants and needs.
“Receiving sales data in real time can inform on what stock to reorder immediately. Sales data and inventory management are possibly the most important aspects of store operations,” said Elie Katz, president and CEO of National Retail Solutions (NRS). “Simply stated: You can’t sell what you don’t have, nor will unwanted, unpurchased products fly off your shelves.”
Modern point-of-sale (POS) systems that include data analytics to provide up-to-the-minute sales information and provide alert systems when stock is low, are a key resource to operating a successful business.
“In the past, proprietors may have relied on store employees to report inventory through paper lists or by eyeballing items. The problem is that staff isn’t nearly as reliable as leveraging technology to let you know when it’s time to reorder popular stock as well as perhaps running a clearance sale on items taking up valuable shelf space,” Katz said. “There’s no chance of human error when examining inventory based on data-driven analytics.”
Another strong benefit of 24/7 inventory management is that it weans storeowners from buying too much in bulk which can often lead to surplus, unsellable stock. While it may be difficult for merchants to adapt to new technologies, the return on investment in a top-notch POS system is well worth the effort.
Seasonal and holiday products are important to keep in stock. Using their point-of-sale system’s sales data and inventory tracking, merchants can go back to the previous year’s sales to see what sold – in which season and in what quantities – best informing how much to order and when to restock for the current year.
Consider capitalizing on your location. For instance, if your store is located within close proximity of a beach or neighborhood swimming pool, you’ll want to stock cold drinks, ready-made sandwiches and take-out foods, plus sunscreen, beach blankets and chairs, goggles, inflatables, and sand buckets for the kids.
Also, during winter, gloves, hand warmers and ice scrapers, for example, are crucial items. As fall and Halloween loom, consider selling costumes for eager trick-or-treaters, and re-up your candy stock. For Christmas, you’ll want the hottest selling gift items, from small products like “I Love You” key chains to more expensive gifts such as video game consoles.
“Using the POS system to manage sales data also means that business owners needn’t be chained to their stores,” Katz said.
The best POS systems allow merchants to check sales status and order inventory from anywhere, 24/7, via a remote app and/or online merchant portal. So storeowners can monitor their store whole taking a family trip or personal time away, without worrying about the business.
Keeping your shelves stocked with items that sell should not – and cannot – be a guessing game of intuition and gut hunches. Using old-school methods and relying on your employees to report on your store’s sales and inventory puts you at a disadvantage.
“Leveraging the latest POS technology will keep your business well organized and well stocked with items that sell. The technology is here to help you stay ahead of your competition,” Katz said. “Research what’s best for you to help manage your store most efficiently and generate revenue while decreasing your costs.”