How Often Do Stores Do Inventory

Customers love a fully stocked store, and even better if you can get your favorite products from one store all in one shopping trip. Before you shop, you can go directly to a big box store app or website to create a pick-up order. This will simultaneously confirm that something you want to buy is in stock at the location you are going to. How do stores keep track of their inventory and keep in-demand items in stock for you? How often do stores do inventory?

Advances in technology enable stores to update inventory with every sale digitally. However, stores operate differently on hundreds of available inventory management software. Typically, each item is associated with a barcode, and inventory is managed remotely as each item is bought. 

Retailers have varying scanning technologies and inventory software in place. Keep reading if you are wondering how retailers keep track of their inventory and how to find items you want in stock. 

How do stores know when to order something?

Many types of inventory management software are available to stores depending on the size of their inventory and the technology to track it. Some POS, or point of sale systems, include inventory tracking capabilities.

This means as a cashier sells an item via the POS checkout software, inventory is simultaneously updated. Items also include an SKU or stock-keeping unit, a scannable barcode carrying a unique code to help identify a product. So, the associate can also use a handheld scanner quickly on products to roam the aisles while taking inventory.

Traditionally, physical inventory of products was done using a pen and paper. The store associate walks around tallying up individual products available to sell. Unfortunately, this requires twice the amount of work because the associate must record this inventory digitally.

Once you establish which POS system your store is using and update your scanning devices, you should be able to receive basic inventory reports updated after each sale. POS systems can include helpful inventory management capabilities.

Some stores enhance their inventory management systems by linking their ordering software to their POS systems. This enables the point-of-sale system to trigger a reorder when the stock gets low.

Stores may do a physical inventory audit if the store is experiencing strange calculations from its software.

How frequently is inventory counted?

Inventory management software keeps a live count of what is in stock and what is sold. Some stores rely on this software, which is updated all the time. Stores also perform spot checks, which is a great way to identify high-theft items and discrepancies. 

All products have barcodes captured by scanners when a company receives deliveries and again captured when an item is scanned for sale to a customer. Smart software used by retailers keeps track of inventory efficiently as it moves off the shelves.

If items are damaged, returned, or expired, employees, will need to manually input this data into the inventory system. If there are discrepancies after all data is collected, there could be a mistake worth investigating.

Spot-checking your inventory by asking employees to take a physical inventory of any department or product type can also help identify problems without relying on your inventory software. How often stores do this varies, but some do this on a periodic, seasonal or annual schedule. By spot-checking, physical inventory can improve your inventory’s accuracy, ensuring you’ll have items in stock when a customer wants them.

Companies like Home Depot hire outside inventory teams to help with audits.

How can you find an item if it’s not on the shelf?

Before shopping, check to see if the particular store has an app or website showing “in stock” items. For example, you can search a specific item in the Target app and filter by “pick-up.” Once you do this, you will see if that item is available for pick-up within two hours at your store of choice. If not, you can change your store of choice to see if it’s at another store nearby.

In this Reddit post, self-professed employees of Trader Joe’s say customers will ask them to “check the back inventory” all the time. Trader Joe’s has its own quick lookup software for finding in-stock items.

Keeping track of items

Companies are continually looking for ways to boost efficiency, lower labor costs, and keep a close eye on inventory.

As we discussed, stores use SKUs or stock-keeping unit barcodes to keep track of inventory delivered and sold. SKUs are very helpful for individual retailers because staff can customize the information captured by the barcode. For example, updating its characteristics like size, weight, color, and more can distinguish the product from other products sold there.

Additionally, products use RFID tags and NFC tags for tracking items. An RFID is a sticker placed on an item carrying a UPC, or universal product code, with a serial number to identify each item uniquely. RFID readers can only read RFID tags. A range of mobile devices can read NFC tags.

Both SKUs and UPCs are used for tracking inventory. SKUs are used for internal use created by the retailer, and UPCs are used for external use consistently across retailers. UPCs are numeric-only and are always 12 digits, whereas SKUs are alphanumeric and can be anywhere from 8-12 characters.

An NFC tag stands for near-field communication and is also a sticker placed on an asset that can store information to launch a website or make a contactless payment, such as with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Android Pay. Retailers can use NFC tags to track inventory, too.

Take your inventory digital 

In conclusion, there is much cloud-based software out there if you want to level up how your store takes inventory. Transitioning your POS, or point of sale software, can seem daunting.

You may have to update your computers and scanning devices to help transition to a more automated inventory tracking system, but this will save you time in the long run. How often you take inventory can soon become irrelevant, as the software does a lot of the work with each sale and keeps track of the inventory for you.

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