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LS Retail | 08 February 2024

The high cost of poor inventory management: pitfalls and solutions

The high cost of poor inventory management: pitfalls and solutions

Inventory management stands at the core of a successful retail operation, exerting a profound influence on a company's profitability and customer satisfaction.

Take the cautionary tales of industry giants like Toys R Us, whose bankruptcy in 2017 was made worse by the consequences of overstocking. Similarly, Gap experienced significant profit losses and damages due to millions of dollars' worth of unsold clothing. Even renowned fast-fashion giant H&M and popular electronics retailer Best Buy have faced the challenges of both overstocking and stock-outs, especially during periods of high demand. In recent years, Barnes & Noble has also encountered struggles with stock-outs, resulting in frustrated customers and lost sales.

It is clear that inadequate inventory management can result in significant financial setbacks, including wasted resources, missed sales opportunities, and increased costs.

Navigating inventory management challenges: recognizing the pitfalls

Let's explore some of the most common effects and consequences of inventory management issues that directly impact a company's performance and profitability:

  1. Rising storage costs: Holding excessive inventory requires extra storage space, increasing costs for rent, utilities, and upkeep. This could become a significant drain on profit margins.
  2. Product obsolescence and inventory rotation challenges: Overstocking may lead to products becoming outdated or obsolete, resulting in extra expenses for disposing of or selling surplus inventory.
  3. Elevated risk of inventory shrinkage: As stock levels grow, the likelihood of theft, damage, or misplacement increases, leading to financial losses due to inventory shrinkage.
  4. Missed sales opportunities: Insufficient inventory, or understocking, can result in lost sales chances when customers are unable to find and purchase the products they seek.
  5. Diminished customer satisfaction: When customers can't acquire desired products due to stock-outs, it can result in dissatisfaction and potential harm to a business's reputation.
  6. Strained cash flow: Having too much money tied up in inventory can strain a company's cash flow, limiting its capacity to invest in growth initiatives. On the flip side, understocking can lead to lost sales and reduced cash flow, reducing investment opportunities in various areas of the business.

These challenges highlight that retailers need to tackle inventory management issues promptly, as these can affect the overall financial performance.

So what are the main causes of improper inventory management?

Mastering stock control: identifying common culprits and effective solutions

Relying on intuition and manual processes:

Business owners and managers who are using personal knowledge or experience to manage inventory may end up in trouble once their business grows in size and complexity. Retailers with multiple store locations, or stocking a high number of SKUs, need to use technology to keep track of what products are going in and out, and at what speed. Unfortunately, many of them still rely on outdated methods such as spreadsheets, local software which only manages warehousing but not sales, or separate solutions which doesn’t communicate to other stores or to HQ.

The solution: To overcome these challenges, retailers need inventory management software that covers not just the warehouse, but also the stores and back office. This kind of software enables you to organize your data and automatically analyze it, giving you both a big-picture view and the detailed information you need to make informed decisions, fast.

Changes in demand:

Product demand can change for various reasons, from seasonal shifts to holidays to special events. While some factors can be predicted, others may catch businesses off guard. As a result, it can be a challenge to accurately forecast stock needs, and the chance of wrong inventory purchases is high. This problem can be made worse if business don’t strategically price products, or don’t effectively promote their business during seasonal buying periods.

The solution: Businesses need to understand the impact of seasonality and holidays on demand, so they can strategically plan their assortment, manage procurement, and avoid the risks of overstocking or understocking. Technology that helps visualize and summarize how seasonal shifts affect customer preferences enables businesses to optimize inventory levels to meet customer demands.

Too many software systems and integration issues:

Juggling multiple systems – one for point of sale transactions, one for inventory management, one for financials – can lead to disconnected data and wasted hours in manual reconciliation. And the complexity only grows when retailers have a chain of stores, with many products. If you are running your business using disconnected software systems, you risk running into inaccurate data and delays in synchronization, which in turn can translate in stock-outs, overstock situations, and missed sales opportunities. If that's not enough, manually aligning data can consume valuable time and effort, hampering productivity and increasing the likelihood of errors.

Elevating retail efficiency with a unified software solution

Businesses that strive for operational excellence need to switch from outdated, overly complicated methods to modern retail management software. But not all retail software is the same! Companies that invest in unified retail software systems like LS Central for retail are better positioned to simplify their operations well beyond inventory and stock. LS Central, which extends Microsoft’s #1 ERP solution Business Central, enables retailers to run their POS, inventory management, store operations, financials, supply chain management, eCommerce, and customer loyalty within one comprehensive platform. Having a single, extensive software eliminates the challenges of integrating separate solutions. At the same time, retailers get clearer and reliable data.

LS Central is the ideal choice for retailers that need advanced replenishment functionalities with real-time visibility into sales and stock levels across multiple locations. The latest replenishment features and improvements include Bill Of Materials (BOM) and component replenishment for businesses with multiple legal entities, seamless integration of assembly orders into replenishment calculations, improved lead time functionality, and enhanced manual replenishment features.

With a comprehensive solution like LS Central retailers can address the significant costs resulting from inadequate inventory management, and at the same time simplify their overall retail operations, drive sales growth, and gain a clear understanding of the entire retail business. If you have any questions or need assistance in determining which technology would be most beneficial for your business, do not hesitate to reach out to our team of retail experts.

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