Every business holding stock needs to reconcile the online stock numbers with actual stock in the warehouse on a regular basis to ensure the stock levels are accuarate. Discrepancies can arise from a variety of everyday reasons such as breakage that wasn’t recorded online, mistakes made with editing or refunding of orders, mistakes with the stock count when stock arrived etc; or malicious reasons such as theft.

A key consideration is to make sure that numbers are correct. Let’s say you count Product A, but whilst you’re in the warehouse an order arrives online. If you now go in and update Product A with the stock counted it’s incorrect as the count didn’t include the recently arrived order which hasn’t yet been packaged. So how to make sure all the numbers are correct?

The most reliable method is the same as used by shops all over the world (and anyone who’s ever worked in retail has most likely taken part in): the Annual Stock Take. For an online business, this means taking the online shop offline into maintanence so that no stock movement can take place, then count all the stock in the warehouse, update all products with the counted stock and then put the shop back online. This is a safe and accurate method but it means you’re offline and requires fast and accurate counting. It’s usually done at a quite time of the year / day and often is “all hands on deck” with everyone in the warehous counting a section of the goods.

For a busy online shop a complication will be recently arrived orders. If you’ve received orders before the stock take which haven’t yet been shipped, make sure to prepare them for shipping prior to stock take.

The key to a successful stock take is the preparation. Before you start, export all product stock so you can easily verify counted stock vs online stock and record discrepancies. Large discrepancies I’d advise to double check to make sure it’s not a counting error.

For doing the stock take there’s usually two methods: Old fashioned pen & paper on clipboards; or elecronic stock take with bar code scanning included. Pen & Paper is cheap and easy to set up, whereas an electronic system with barcode scanning is a life saver if you have a very large number of products all clearly barcoded. Whichever method you choose, make sure you agree in advance how to handle damaged goods, for example by excluding from count & collecting in a designated area.

For accuracy stock is often counted twice by two different people, and then a third checks if both counts match and if not, resolves discrepancies by double checking the count. If you do this with pen & paper an easy way to provide an audit trail is to use different coloured pens.

Wishing you a successful and accurate stock take!

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