20 Tips to Manage Inventory

A deep dive into how to manage inventory with top-shelf efficiency.

20 Tips to Manage Inventory

Retail businesses of all kinds are required to conduct accurate inventory management. This process helps track product as it moves into, through, and out of your business and balance sheets. This delicate art of balancing stock without holding too few or too many items is learned over time. It’s even more difficult when managing inventory in multiple places.

Of course, inventory and good inventory management are vital to short- and long-term business success. Understand the proper balance of good stocking practices but stopping short of overstocking and overextending. While precision inventory practices are important for brick-and-mortar archery retailers, it’s even more crucial for those with an e-commerce business.

Regardless of where you stand, here is how to manage your archery inventory, including discounting and moving old product near the end of the calendar year. Do this, and it will be easier to make shelf and wall space for new products soon to come.

1. Know the Inventory Terms

There are many different terms to know in the world of inventory management. Each of these help to understand the trade and streamline communications when working with colleagues. For example, categorization is the grouping of like items based on certain metrics. Landed cost is what it costs to get product into inventory (including shipping, taxes, etc.). Purchase ordering is the process of increasing stock in needed items. RFID (radio frequency identification) is a tagging method that helps keep track of inventory, wherever it might be located. SKUs help categorize and keep track of each stocked item. Stock taking is determining how much of each item is currently on hand.

2. Know Your Customer

Part of good inventory management is knowing what customers want. “Someone who uses a crossbow as the exclusive tool they take to the field should look to the higher end,” said Tim Kent, PR representative for Feradyne Outdoors, the parent company of Axe crossbows, among other hunting brands. “They want longevity and things that reduce wear and tear. They want the performance advantages.”

3. Assess Inventory Risks

Every retailer faces common and uncommon risks. Assessing these, working to avoid them, and making plans to prevent and address risks is an important step in inventory management. Develop contingency plans for undesirable, but possible, scenarios.

4. Label Products Appropriately

Some smaller operations might not need very advanced inventory management software. However, most businesses do need this, including the smaller ones. For example, a barcode system helps track and monitor items indefinitely.

5. Go It Old School

While digital device capabilities are far superior to our own brain power, it’s difficult to completely write off old-school practices. Therefore, consider doing an on-paper inventory count. Make sure everything matches up.

6. Use Inventory Management Software

If there is a shortage in software, it isn’t in the inventory management sector. Finding the right option will take time, as there are many different offerings to sift through. Find one that meets your specific needs, and that complements your current weaknesses. Furthermore, consider using a combined accounting and inventory program. Another option is a point-of-sale inventory management method.

7. Reflect on Past Trends

While the past can’t always predict the future, it can provide valuable insight. Studying past trends and purchasing cycles can indicate potential future customer behaviors. Unless major changes occurred, customers should follow patterns. Plan an initial stocking buy, and then potential re-stocking points throughout the year. Similarly, demand forecasting is important analysis on the big-picture level for each product category. The same is true on the micro-focused level for popular individual products.

8. Assess Current Inventory 

Archery shop owners and managers should routinely assess their current inventory. Implementing a certain system allows you to know where inventory levels are always. Routinely updating these can help businesses stay on top of their product, which impacts sales, re-ordering, and more. Stay very in tune with how much is on hand.

9. Stock Different Price Points

Most successful businesses routinely offer various price points to their customers. “It’s just like anything else — you have to put different options in your hands and see what feels right,” Kent said. “Feel the triggers on crossbows. Do they have creep? Are they crisp? Are they adjustable or not? What type of trigger feels best to you? Does it have a rail system or not? You must look at each individual aspect of the crossbow and see what works for you and your budget. A $2,000 crossbow fits a different budget than a $300 model. But they both can get the job done.”

10. Implement the 80/20

The 80/20 rule titles the idea that 80% of profits result from 20% of inventory. If that’s true for your archery business, make sure to prioritize the 20% over the remaining items. Learn these products’ sales cycles and trends. Maximize their opportunities.

11. But Don’t Forget the Extras

Never overlook the add-on sales, though. “You might see a greater need for crossbow string replacement, additional rail lube, bolts, etc.,” Kent said. “Those are some differences in budget restraints. But to me, it’s about the field-use application, how much I must spend, and that will categorically narrow down which direction to go.”

12. Analyze Bulk Order Options

While bulk ordering isn’t always an option for smaller businesses, those who move a lot of product might consider it. Generally, bulk orders are cheaper per unit. And so, doing this almost always makes room for either lower prices or greater margins. So, find a good balance between order quantities, order variety, and keeping capital on-hand.

13. Analyze Just-In-Time Order Options

The Just-in-Time stocking option is found on the opposite end of the spectrum as bulk ordering. With this method, businesses inventory just the bare minimum, depleting the inventory, and then re-ordering the bare minimum. Similarly, cross-docking ships out items just as they come in, which optimizes storage space and warehousing. Both options reduce costs, including storage, insurance, and more. That said, it can also result in missed revenue and a negative reputation if orders take too long to fulfill.

14. Consider Backordering

For those with a history of holding too much stock, consider stocking fewer items. Then, if necessary, and demand exceeds stock, offer backordering options. Just make your customers aware of wait times, shipping expectations, etc. And then deliver, or you’ll certainly lose a customer.

15. Understand Economic Order Quantity

Economic order quantity refers to a system that implements batch ordering. This system requires making several orders per year, but which are done so at strategic times. That said, this only works for products that have consistent demand. 

16. Dare to Drop Ship

Another alternative is drop shipping. By doing this, it isn’t necessary to stock the item to sell it. Instead, an agreement is made with the manufacturer or wholesaler to ship the item directly to the customer. This option cuts out the worry of overstock.

17. Think Safety Stock

Covid brought to light a very real supply chain issue. Businesses sold out of stock quickly and couldn’t replace these things with more. Those who did receive orders, likely were handed subpar or more expensive items to restock with. Try to maintain acceptable levels of inventory to get you through in a pinch.

18. Implement First-In, First-Out Mentality

This is generally implemented in the food industry, but it applies to the archery industry, too. By pushing older products to the front, it ensures that inventory continues to cycle through, rather than getting stuck on the back of the shelf. Getting older products out the door is part of a healthy inventory cycle.

19. Move End-of-Season Items

One of the surest ways to lose money is holding onto too much inventory. Instead, find creative ways to move end-of-season products. Mark down the prices. Make a big deal about it on social outlets. Post roadside signage. Host a store event to boost foot traffic. Have a collaboration with a local radio station, or other businesses. Just get that older archery product off shelves and out the door.

20. Managing Inventory Like a Pro

All things considered, there is much encompassed in inventory management. Analyzing product sourcing. Gauging storage methods. Tracking inventory data effectively. Monitoring inventory levels. Updating inventory levels. And much more. But never forget how important managing inventory is to the success of your archery business. In fact, it just might hinge on it.


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