Tricks of the Trade: managing stock control

Tricks of the Trade is a space for retailers to share knowledge and tips on facing everyday business challenges. This month, they give advice on keeping stock control under control.

Wolford London managing director Angela Blundell 

Clear broken lines in quick time
We’re introducing ‘speed tables’ into our factory outlet stores so we can clear broken lines and poor sellers by introducing a reduction in price. These speed tables are positioned at the front of these outlet stores.

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Monitor your stock
We monitor weekly stock levels with our merchandising team in Austria. We have a live reporting system, which denotes our stock levels and performance by style on a daily, weekly and even hourly basis, so we have very accurate information on stock levels.

Replenish merchandise
Automatic replenishment on our ‘essential’ styles is delivered three times per week. As we only carry six weeks cover on each style in our stores, our Austrian HQ assesses levels on a regular basis, as these styles represent 35% of our total business.

Transfer stock internally
We also manage internal transfer of stock within our Wolford stores, moving poor sellers to stores that have a better performance level of these styles.

Tallulah Lingerie owner Nicola Adams

Top up your orders
Although I place orders seasonally and in advance, I also place top up
orders once or twice a week. This allows me to keep an eye on stock levels, although it does make life harder and involve
more work.

Don’t rely solely on computers
I do my stock records every day to keep on top of what we have in our stock room. I’m not all fancy with a computer system; I find that recording stock levels myself means I really can keep on top of things.

Keep a record of orders
We place most orders over the phone and some by email. Either way, I keep a record of what has been ordered and when. Sometimes the wrong size or colour can appear, but as long as I can go back to what I actually ordered, it really helps smooth out any errors.

Tidy your stock room
We also continually tidy our stock room and do checks to make sure what should be in stock is actually in stock.

Ayla Rose owner Juliet McLeod

Have an organised system in place
This was one of the first things I did prior to opening. Currently, I use spreadsheets that I set up for each brand that I carry. This way, I can see at a glance exactly what I have and when. It also helps me to keep track of which styles and sizes are most in demand.

Keep it very simple
At the moment, I just need to track basic information about my stock, but the most import thing I need to monitor is what’s available, in which size and at what cost. My staff and I need to be able to gain this information quickly, so the easier this is to obtain, the better.

Check stock regularly
This is done frequently to help us keep track of what exactly is on the shop floor. This is checked against the spreadsheets, as sometimes technology (and humans!) can fail. Checking stock levels also encourages staff to re-familiarise themselves with the products available.

Know your customer base
There are certain sizes that I have highlighted as best sellers so I always ensure I have a range of styles at any one time.

Being new to all this [Ayla Rose has been open for six months] I have found that stock control is something I am getting better at, but will become easier with experience, time and further knowledge of my customers.

Bridalicious CEO Louise Melillo

Do your research
Before ordering in new stock, we find out if we think it can make us a profit, and listen to our customers’ needs. It is so easy to over spend, or to buy in what we think will be popular, but ultimately we look to buy in what the customer wants.

Reduce dead stock or get rid
If we have been carrying stock for a long time that is just not shifting, we sell it quickly by reducing the price to the bare minimum as it is best to just get rid.

Check best sellers
It is really important to know what your best sellers are and to ensure they are well stocked to keep customers happy. This is also a good way to spot trends when buying in new stock. We never buy in too much either, as our best sellers can change.

Sell on returns
To keep our sale looking fresh, we mark down our returns so we can quickly sell them on and customers can get a cheeky bargain. This helps free up space and keeps our exchange process simple and easy. Why keep hold of them for ages?

Be organised
We always know what’s in stock, or when it is due back in stock, so when a customers order online, their order is usually in stock and ready to dispatch. Everything has a unique code and every order is documented so orders and stock are easy to look up.

Fifi Chachnil London manager Dionne Taylor

Allocate one staff member per boutique
One person in each of our Fifi Chachnil boutiques is responsible for overseeing stock control. For our London boutique, it is the store manager who updates the stock system with deliveries, transfers, special orders, sales and exchanges at the end of each trading day. We find by allocating one person to this it avoids confusion, and mistakes.

Keep stock quantities in store to a minimum
Lingerie garments are delicate and precious. We find the best way to maintain their pristine condition is by having only one size of each available item on the shop floor, this minimizes the time the garment is spent on display and handled. These garments are quickly replenished from back stock when sold. We try to keep boutique stock levels as low as possible, which is ideal for keeping the inventory manageable.

Maintain great communication
When ranges begin to sell through we keep in regular communication with the other Fifi Chachnil boutiques so that we can transfer stock quickly and efficiently for preempting and upon customer requests. We are also in regular communication with the atelier to advise them on the styles and the sizes that are most suitable for the boutique’s clientele. We aim to stock styles and sizes that best represents the London customer, otherwise, where possible, we will place a special order with the atelier to fulfill customer requirements.

Get into a routine
We make it part of the daily routine to update our boutique stock files. We also complete a full stock-take bi-annually with each of the boutiques and the atelier works to the same schedule.

Coco Bay founder Belinda Robinson

Stock management for beachwear is particularly challenging as each bikini collection comes in numerous styles and size options, all of which are sold as separates. The last thing you want is to be left with lots of tops and no bottoms so getting the ordering and stock management process is crucial.

Compare sales patterns
Due to the mix and match nature of the bikini combos, predicting ordering patterns is particularly complicated as customers will be ordering one size top and another size bottom. The best way to forecast the combinations and volume is to use previous sales patterns (taking a similar product) and make necessary allowances based on colour and season. Instinct also plays a big part in forecast and you have to trust your gut feeling.

Conduct stock reports
Constantly monitoring stock levels is also key so you can see the patterns early. In order to keep on top of demand we do stock reports, analysis and replenishment orders on a weekly basis.

Accept defeat
If something is not moving or has very high return rates, there is no point clogging up storage space and money. It’s better to accept defeat and clear it.

Don’t panic
There are always unknowns in stock management. For example, a heat wave can provoke an increase in our sales with very little notice. My best advice is don’t panic; the rain will come and it will balance itself out.



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