Happy Holidays and a Scary New Year

Well, it’s the holiday season packed with frantic shoppers, nog slogging, cookie hording, and visions of physical inventory dancing in retailers‘ heads.  Some people love the holidays, others hate them.  For many, it’s a love / hate relationship wrapped up in one big ball of star light, star bright chaos.

Many retailers feel the same way during the holidays.  They love the booming sales season, stores packed with customers, and the transition into “the black”.  They also hate what comes after the holidays – Physical Inventory.  Talk about a holiday hangover…there’s no ho ho ho there.  The holiday hangover is avoidable, you know.  You see, the people who love the holidays are usually the ones who have all their shopping done by December 1st, four dozen Christmas cookies in the freezer by Thanksgiving, the tree decorated by December 7th, and all their cards in the mail no later than December 11th.  That leaves them two whole weeks to sit back, relax, and breath in the festive air of the season.  These people love the holidays because they planned ahead!  They made a list, checked it twice, and executed their plan with military – like tactical precision.  No drifting, wandering, or wondering what to do next.

When it comes to the holiday selling season retailers are much the same way.  They start planning months in advance for those thirty magical days of selling.  The entire fiscal year results are wrapped up in those thirty days.  Merchandise is hung on the racks with care, waiting for the part-time St. Nick’s to visit their stores.  It’s what comes after those thirty lovely days – a physical inventory.    Scrooge – aka the accountants, insist on these wretched inventories, and there’s no getting around it.  It’s like that fruitcake you get every year - you just can’t seem to get it out of your house. It’s like the land of misfit toys – who wants it.  If only a retailer would invest as much planning toward their inventory as they do for their sales.

How do you make it better?  Planning.

  1. 1. Schedule your inventory dates well in advance with your inventory service.
  2. 2. Keep the back rooms as neat as possible during the season.
  3. 3. Straighten the racks every day.
  4. 4. Reticket the returns as soon as possible.
  5. 5. Process store transfers immediately.
  6. 6. Merchandise freight on a timely basis.
  7. 7. Record and ticket all markdowns as directed.
  8. 8. Have your inventory service schedule a walk through of the store 1 week prior to the count.

You would be surprised how many phone calls that an inventory service gets in the month of December from retailers wo just remembered they need an inventory in January.  Inventory services have a busy season too – January.  Plan ahead my friend.  Don’t be that Christmas Eve shopper scrounging for last-minute gifts.  That never ends well and everyone just ends up disappointed.  There are lots of inventory services out there, but not all of them are good.  The good ones book their clients’ January and quarter end dates very early.  The last thing you need is to be scrounging around for someone to count your inventory at year-end.  It won’t be pretty, and the hangover is brutal.  Some of the larger retailers have inventory schedules a year in advance.  Take the scary out of your new year inventory and plan ahead.  If you’re not sure about how to plan for a physical inventory, talk with a reputable inventory service who can guide you through the prep process.  They audit inventory for a living and they understand what it takes to have an organization properly prepared for an inventory audit.

If you’re considering making a switch in inventory services for the new year, take the time to shop around and plan ahead.  The big box solutions are always there, but the smaller firms offer that personalized approach that can be customized to fit your specific needs.  Also, consider scheduling your inventory at times other than the first week of January or any quarter end week throughout the rest of the year.  These are the most requested time frames for inventory audits for all inventory services.  If you can schedule your counts for “off-peak” times you will be amazed at the increased level of service.  If you need help with aligning your back office reconciliation to accommodate that type of schedule you may be able to work with your inventory service to help you with those issues.  Some of the smaller, regional firms employ resources that have the accounting experience and knowledge to help.  These “boutique” organizations will partner with you to resolve these type of issues.

Plan ahead, shop around, and take the misery out of the post holiday physical inventory.  Give yourself and your organization the gift of a pleasant inventory experience.

Have a great holiday season and a very prosperous new year!

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