How to Avoid Stocktaking Errors

4th Apr 2018

retail stocktaking services OCS Retail Support

Whether you are in charge of the operations for a small store or a large warehouse, stocktaking is a crucial part of the retail industry. Inventory was once seen as one of the more burdensome parts of the retail industry’s day-to-day admin, thanks to the need to check every shelf after hours and note down how the physical stock in-store matched with sales records and projections. At OCS Retail Support, we can provide experienced stocktaking specialists to conduct your inventory or simply oversee your staff to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

However, recent technological developments have also been responsible for turning inventory into far less of a chore; radio-frequency identification (RFID) has not only revolutionised self-checkouts and store security, but retail stocktaking services as well. Using RFID as part of your inventory can drastically cut down on the time staff will need to conduct a full stocktake, as well as improving the overall accuracy of the process by up to 95%. RFID tags also hold a greater amount of information than barcodes or other automated methods of inventory.

Even with the use of technology, no system is perfect, and stocktaking errors are inevitable whichever way you conduct your inventory. But there are ways you can avoid these mistakes and enable your business to carry out as accurate a stocktake as possible. Read on for our guide to the most common inventory errors and the best ways to avoid such mistakes.

Why does my business need to take a regular inventory?

Unlike countries such as New Zealand, where businesses are legally obligated to take inventories at the end of each tax year, there are no British laws stipulating how frequently stocktakes need to be taken. However, for the sake of your business’s financial wellbeing and customer satisfaction, it is generally recommended that you conduct an inventory of your store or warehouse’s stock every 6-12 months.

Without conducting a regular stocktake, your business runs the risk of operating at a loss, one which will get worse over time. For example, if you don’t know exactly how much of each item you have available to sell, you may be unable to fulfill orders. Likewise, conducting a stock take will also alert you to any products which have been performing significantly better or worse than expected, which enables you to adjust future orders from your suppliers.

How can my business avoid errors when preparing for a stocktake?

When it comes to conducting a stocktake, there is often a great deal of preparation involved, and many of the initial inventory mistakes can originate at this stage, through simple human error. Even finding the right point in your store’s calendar to schedule the inventory itself can be tricky. A stocktake will need to take place before or after your store closes in order to prevent stock being sold, lost or stolen while the process is going on; if you need to close early to complete the inventory, make sure you have ample time to inform customers in advance about a change in your regular opening hours.

Before you actually begin the process, find the inventory list from your previous stocktake, and ensure that your stock is actually organised on your shelves in a way which makes it easy to be counted. Preparing a floor plan of both the shopfront and the stockroom will also ensure that staff are aware of where stock is located, and make it easier to allocate and assign sections of the store for each member of staff to conduct checks on.

By assigning responsibility for specific sections of the store or warehouse to teams within your staff, you will cut down on how long it will take to plan your stocktake and organise each section of the shop, as well as reducing the length of the inventory itself. Setting your staff up in teams of two or three will also mean that they can keep each other’s counts in check, further limiting any potential for human error.

How to avoid common mistakes during an inventory

As stocktakes are generally time-consuming, it is important to identify any errors early enough that they can be rectified without impacting the rest of the inventory. Conduct a demonstration stocktake on one shelf to show your staff the best way to approach the inventory to suit your store’s needs. Following that, have each of your counters treat their first shelf as a practice run, so that they can recount it to ensure that they know what they are doing, as well as to determine accuracy.

Beyond human error, errors in stocktaking generally occur as a result of stock being stolen, misplaced within the store or simply mislabeled as something else. These errors can be rectified by simply checking as you go, but it is imperative that you are thorough; if there are unopened boxes being checked off, make sure to open them to confirm that their contents are what you expect them to be. For mislabeled items, mark out a section of your shop floor or warehouse where these items can be relocated, and make this area of miscellaneous items this the final section to be counted within your stocktake.

Even though stocktaking errors can be reduced through RFID tagging, it is still all too easy for mistakes to be made. However, with careful forward planning and efficient teamwork providing back up for the technology you use, you can ensure that your store’s inventory is as accurate as it possibly can be.