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I was in my favourite fashion store last week and ended up walking out in a huff. Their new season stock had arrived and was plentiful – or so I thought. Every dress, top or pair of trousers I liked didn’t have my size, and I looked at almost anything. Normally this wouldn’t bother me too much, but this has become a regular occurrence in this shop. As I looked at the rails, there where copious amounts of sizes 4, 6 and 8 which I’d love to squeeze into, but it ain’t happening, especially after Christmas. I know I sound bitter, but at one point I counted, there were ten of the same dress on one rail, all a size 8, except for one, which was a 4. So, I plucked up the courage to ask the store assistant if there were any more sizes, of anything. ‘No’ came her reply. ‘They always sell out really quickly.’

This is where my frustration set in. Surely a store of this size would know what sells well in which location? I mean, they are an international fashion store, stock what sells, not what’s left.

As the shop assistant walked away, there was no offer to check the store stock, or find out if another store had the dress in the size I need. Maybe this was because she just didn’t want to help, maybe she hadn’t been trained on stock management, or maybe the shop just don’t offer this service. I’m sure any mystery shopper would be in their element marking this store down!

The lost art of stock control

Retailers nailing their stock control is an art and should be part of the foundations of increasing revenue. At GCSE business studies, you always learn about the ‘Four P’s’ – Product, Place, Price, Promotion and going back to basics is often the best way to move forward. The shop I visited had the right product at the right price, but in the wrong location.

Advanced stock control isn’t complicated, retailers just need a management system that lets them do it properly. True omnichannel retailing should be about having real-time access to accurate, multi-location stock, that makes stock taking easy for your staff, handle any inter-branch transfers, manage click and collect for web orders, and above all, ensuring you have the right stock in the right location, so it actually sells. Not to mention, keeping customers loyal.

Not a day goes by when we don’t hear about high street retailers issuing finance warnings, I saw a headline this week from Drapers stating that as many as 30,000 retailers are in ‘significant distress’ and recent research suggested that retail out-of-stocks are costing the industry billions every year, disappointing customers who will go elsewhere to get what they want – or even worse, buy it on Amazon! I just want to point out here that I like Amazon, I’m a prime member, but I prefer to look and buy in store.

Understandably, it’s easy to say retailers should improve their stock control, but the reality is that, often there are large complex systems in place blocking the way. If a retailer can’t adapt to the way people shop, then biting the proverbial bullet and overhauling stock and retail management systems is a must.

We live in a world where data is available to us at the push of a button, or tap of a screen, and stock management data is no different. So, it’s worth noting that when its time to review and refresh your retail management software, there are many benefits that investing in a system with intelligent stock control can bring.

Five benefits of improving stock control

  1. Real-time, accurate view of stock across all locations, letting you see what is selling in each store and moving stock around to maximise sales and ultimately your bottom line.
  2. Automate your purchase order process and set minimum and maximum stock levels, ensuring you can keep your stock as up to date as you need.
  3. Take orders on items in transit, great for larger or specialist items, such as furniture or limited editions. This means you can offer pre-orders and not miss out on those vital sales, keeping you and your customers happy.
  4. Be flexible with your stock and sell in part-units or create product kits. This gives you the opportunity to package similar items together, offering promotions and discounts, based on your own rules.
  5. Advanced reporting on stock control, providing accurate and live data that lets you stock take more efficiently and can automatically suggest inter-branch transfers of stock, depending on what sells best and where.

Keep your stock in order and your customers will love you! Download the free RetailStore platform brochure to find out how you can delight your customers.

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