If so, you’re not alone. Many merchants still need to close their doors to conduct a full stock take, losing out on trade and often having to spend very long days (and evenings) tallying up the count.
But do you have to?
Why do merchants close for stocktakes?
There are two key elements making it necessary for some merchants to shut down to conduct a stocktake.
Firstly, merchants carry a lot of stock. In some cases, we’re talking tens or even hundreds of thousands of product lines, so the time taken is significant. Without all hands on deck, the job simply wouldn’t get done if there still had to be capacity to serve customers and get everything else done.
But perhaps the biggest reason is actually one of time – and how stock moves around and through the business even in relatively short periods. While a branch is closed, time (and stock) effectively stands still, enabling an accurate check of all stock held in each location at that point in time.
A stocktake, then, is a snapshot, an accurately captured account at a given moment in time of all the stock currently in the business. Therefore, if you are mid-stocktake and a customer buys a load of timber straight after you’ve counted it, your figures won’t account for it. If a delivery arrives straight afterwards, your figures won’t account for it. And if there’s a lorryful of materials in the yard waiting for a delayed collection? Well – there’s a chance your figures will account for it, when perhaps they shouldn’t!
So what’s the solution?
In an ideal world, every merchant would have such accurate control over your stock day-to-day that they wouldn’t need to close at all. The figures shown on the system would accurately reflect exactly what’s on the ground, taking into account what’s on order, in transit and reserved.
This level of perpetual inventory is not easily achieved, but you can get closer to it. And when you do, your business will benefit. Currently, closing your business causes disruption and could mean you’re missing out on valuable custom. It’s also very short-lived – no sooner are branches open again, the stock is on the move and the numbers start to become less accurate.
Merchanter, our cloud ERP software for merchants, is packed with features that help merchants to monitor and analyse both stock holding and stock movement more transparently and easily. Over time, you can build up the level of accuracy and trust in the system so that you can be totally confident in the figures it’s reporting, and the information across the whole business will be correct.
Here are just a few of the key highlights:
Comprehensive information throughout the business
Merchanter offers such great accessibility that all members of your workforce can use it, meaning that all information from delivery lorry to yard to sales office to boardroom can be recording accurately and currently, keeping all the information in the business up to date. As it’s a cloud system, users can log-in from the yard or warehouse, and products can be scanned or manually entered onto the system directly. (You can of course also import stock figures from a spreadsheet as well if you need to)
The system will also take into account online orders, if you’re using an eCommerce system, and logistics and processing will also be recorded.
Commonly, we hear merchants saying that if products or materials are being milled or converted, they can’t be counted as part of the stock control process. However, while it may take a little more effort than recording materials readily available in the yard, it is entirely possible to incorporate these products, thereby giving a far more accurate picture of your entirely stockholding at any given time.
Timing is everything
The crucial point about using Merchanter live for stock counting is that it records down to the second what is happening where, so it keeps a really good, accurate record of stock movement through the business – not just sales. When every part of the business is integrated, from milling and processing to logistics to sales, it’s much easier to keep track of everything.
Because it’s up-to-the-minute accurate, it allows you to keep trading even while stocktakes are happening, because the figures are “live” at all times.
Merchanter has a metric called Stock Confidence, which was developed specifically and uniquely for this system. Expressed as a percentage, it is used as a gauge to determine the accuracy of the stock figures your system holds, allowing you to build up your own trust in its accuracy over time. For example, straight after a stock check the figure would be 100% but over time, it takes into account natural erosion, error and other factors which lead to stock figure discrepancies.
The bottom line is, this figure helps flag up which items of stock need checking, so you’re not always having to manually check every line of stock – so it makes the job much more manageable as it signposts the areas where focus is needed.
A complete, integrated view of the business
When you have accurate, detailed information at your fingertips about the movement of products throughout your business (including length reporting, pack reporting, milling and processing and much more) it’s much easier to make smarter decisions around stock replenishment, stock profile and much more.
Alerting flags the gaps and issues fast, letting you take evasive measures sooner, or at least keep communicating well with customers and suppliers, and price tracking, margin protection and credit controls keep you trading profitably as well as accurately.
So on the one hand you have your Stock Confidence score prompting you on what needs checking, hand in hand with the direct information entry process which takes away the time delay, which was what made you need to close branches in the first place.
It won’t happen overnight. The more people you have using the system, the better the information in that system will be, and the more you will be able to trust what it tells you. The value is something you will see in action, in how it can intelligently optimise your stock and trading processes to help you streamline for ultimate efficiency while safeguarding margins and making your business more productive, and more profitable.