8 Steps to Stocktake Success
The end of financial year can spell dread for many retailers, especially if there’s not a solid plan in place for yearly or half-yearly stocktake. While many businesses keep track of inventory on a weekly, or even daily basis through their inventory management systems, a manual count to match up the records is still widely practiced and recommended in the retail world.
We’re going to be tackling a lot of the finer stocktake details in the weeks to come, but we thought we’d kick off this series with a list of eight steps to stocktake success. When you have a plan to follow it’ll be a lot less frantic than what it has been in the past. If this is your first stocktake, this will also be helpful.
For the purposes of this article, we have not provided an in-depth instructional on how to complete your stocktake, as this will vary greatly depending on size of store, equipment, inventory management system, and other technology. What you will find here are the steps to ensure your stocktake runs smoothly. Good luck!
What is stocktake?
Stocktake is a count of all your inventory, both in store and in your warehouses/storerooms. Most businesses complete stocktake once or twice a year, with a few completing stocktake a little more frequently. How frequently you do a stocktake is up to you and what you think feels right for your business.
Counting all of your stock allows you to match this back to your electronic records and uncover any discrepancies in the numbers, which may be due to unorganised inventory management, theft, damaged stock, or any number of other reasons. Discovering the reasons why your stock count doesn’t match up can help you implement strategies to profit more in the future.
Step 1: Confirm your stocktake staff
It’s best to lock in the staff you’ll need for stocktake at least two weeks in advance, but preferably more. Remember, you’ll need to complete stocktake in one day if you want the most accurate numbers, so don’t underestimate the number of people you’ll need on the shop floor.
Make it very clear to employees that stocktake is important to the business and that cancelling the shift will require a doctor’s certificate or other valid proof.
Step 2: Stocktake training
Anyone who has gone through with a stocktake without training staff beforehand will know that this step is absolutely necessary. This doesn’t even have to be a huge event - simply gather your stocktake staff together for one hour before or after opening hours and run through the plan with them.
Explain what the purpose of stocktake is and what will be expected of them on the day/night. If you are having them input numbers electronically, train them on all equipment. If you have a certain order you’d like the stock counted in, also run through this. For example, many stores have staff count stock top to bottom, left to right.
Step 3: Map it out
This is the part where you create a map of the store and mark each area clearly. This will allow you to check off sections as they are counted and to estimate how long it might take each team to go through one section.
It’s also a good time to plan which team members should cover which sections, based on how well they know them.
Step 4: Plan your teams
It’s best to have teams of two people each - one to count and one to write down the number or input into a device. When planning your teams keep in mind that it’s best to avoid putting two best friends together, as this may encourage chatting and distractions on the day.
A smart move is pairing older, more experienced members of staff with less experienced ones. This ensures no one loses their way, and will minimise confusion with with process.
Step 5: Prepare logins and inventory sheets
If you are using portable electronic devices for the count, your staff will need logins in order to use them. The same goes for any staff inputting numbers into a computer from handwritten sheets.
If you’re not using portable devices, you will need to have sheets ready and printed with all inventory listed, so your staff can write the correct number next to them. Ensure all sheets have a field where the employee can write their name or employee number.
Step 6: Pre-count and bundle your stock on stocktake eve
This tactic involves grouping items into tens and bundling them, leaving a few loose items in front, in case a customer purchases them. For example, if you have a rack of 24 t-shirts, you can tie the coat hangers together with a rubber band or separate with a cardboard divider, creating two groups of ten. There will then be four loose t-shirts available for purchase. This is a big time saver on the day and helps to avoid stocktake running long into the evening. Storeroom stock can also be counted like this on the day before.
Another thing to remember on stocktake eve is to stop all movement of stock from the storeroom to the shop floor. Shelves can be stocked with new items after the count is complete.
Step 7: Make stocktake fun
Counting hundreds of items can be a real chore for everyone involved, so try to keep your staff happy on the big day. If stocktake runs into the evening, order pizza for and let the team take breaks when required. It also helps to play some good - but not too distracting - music.
Step 8: Complete a sanity check
Once the official count is in, move teams into areas of the store where they weren’t counting and ask them to randomly check every 20 items to ensure the count is correct. This helps pick up any major errors and will save a lot of time in the long run.
With stocktake complete, it will be time for you to analyse the data and find the discrepancies. We’ll be going over this in later weeks, so stay tuned!
Have you completed a stocktake before? What would you add to this list?