Stock..love it..hate it …gotta ‘av it !

Most commercial operations need stock, whether manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers and even many service providers. It is a simple equation. If you don’t have it , you got nothing to sell. You got nothing to sell , you can’t make any money .

There are some principles relating to stock…What? How many? How much? & When? Dead straightforward, except for the answers, which are rather more complex.

I am the last person to make any suggestions as to how anyone should approach this problem. Forecasting has to be part of the equation, but the days are long gone when you could look at this month last year and see that you sold umpteen thousand ‘whatmewidget’ and make an informed estimate as to what you will sell this month. It no longer works like that. Yet you still have to plan . Trust me when I say that even the most sophisticated retailers with the most complex of logistical programs often get it wrong. In today’s market thereare now more and more imponderables.

But that is not what I want to talk about, it is the absolute need to get the right stock. Having declared my ignorance on inventory control mechanisms, I have to base my experience on being a consumer and having daily conversations with clients about the dark arts of stock .

I, firmly, believe if you walk into a store selling the type of item you are looking to buy and they do not have it in stock , it is a lost sale. This may seem blindingly obvious, but has not always been the the case. Prior to the days of online selling. You may have purchased an alternative or waited for it to be back in stock. That is no longer the case , you whizz off home, or even whip your phone out and order it immediately. Web shop 1, High Street retailer 0.

You may (very loyal consumer) amble down to your specialist high street stockist of the latest cutting edge brand of beach sandals for help and advice, plus the intention of making a purchase. On arrival after hours of discourse with the well informed, highly trained sandal expert, to find that they only stock twenty variations of this cutting edge brand, out of the one hundred and thirty offered by the manufacturer and available through cuttingedgesandals.com or Amazon. Web shop 2, High Street retailer 0.

Old or even dead stock is like a virus. It slowly eats into a business and can often lead to its own death . Online operators, potentially, have the ability to purge themselves a lot quicker because of their vast reach. Not only that it does visually clog up their store . It is a lot more difficult for the high street. But get rid of it you must . Old stock make shops look ill. Web shop 3, High Street retailer 0.

The rational behind the scoring analogy is to illustrate that the problem shops have with web sites is not all about price. Stock is, if not more , as important as price. Yet it is not all ‘happy days’ for online traders. Their issues can be bigger. Whilst they have greater opportunities to clear stock, invariably their stock levels are a lot higher and their cost to clear are a lot higher .

From a ‘professional’ view point, I deal with a lot of wholesalers , who, in turn, generally deal with a lot of small independents. They will, frequently, say that their customers will not carry stock and are not interested in anything new !! Unfortunately, I have a similar experience with some independents. There is an attitude of staying with what they know and being safe. I contend there is no ‘safe’. I would contend that ‘safe’ stock = ‘dangerous’ stock.

I cannot begin to recount the number of meetings with customers, where they have looked at the products being offered , and said something like

That’s great. Super product, yes I really like that. There are some really good products in this range

Only for them not to select anything because they stick with what they have got… if it happens to me it sure as will happen to other suppliers, no matter what the industry.

There are many challengers facing all types of retailer. However, without ‘good’ stock the rest are pretty well irrelevant.

if you ain’t got it, you can’t sell it ….

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