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How to do stock taking: a simple guide to taking inventory

3-minute read

Josh Hall

25 September 2017

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Stock taking might not be the most exciting part of running a retail or wholesale business, but it is a crucial element of the job.

But what exactly is a stock take, why is it important, and how do you do one?

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What is a stock take and why is it important?

The stock take is a fundamental part of any business that deals in goods. It’s the only way you can keep track of inventory, see if your ordering process is efficient, and reduce over-stocking.

However, in order to achieve these goals, you need a firm process for carrying out the stock take itself. Here, we’ve compiled a list of seven easy steps to help you do the perfect stock take.

How to do stock taking

1. Choose a good time

Choosing the right time to conduct your stock check is crucially important. It can be a time-consuming exercise, and you need to pick a day when you'll have all the resources you need. This might involve setting aside staff hours during a less busy period or, in some circumstances, might even require you to shut up shop for the day while you get your house in order. As a result, you need to plan ahead.

2. Print your stock sheets

You should have printable stock sheets built into your existing stock taking system. Many software solutions allow you to do this with a couple of clicks. These are the basis of your stock take – they’re the documents against which you’ll judge your new count. Make sure that you’re using the most up to date records you have.

3. Organise your stock carefully

It’s important that you set aside any stock that has already been sold but is yet to be delivered or picked up by a customer. After this, you should start categorizing your existing stock. It’s likely that your total stock will fall into a number of different categories, and it will be easier to properly account for everything you have if you begin with a system. This might well involve physically moving items around your premises and counting on that basis.

4. Organise staff

If you have staff helping out with your stock take, make sure that they are properly organised. Once you’ve categorized your stock, you might want to appoint a separate staff member to each category. Remember to appoint more staff to larger categories. You should also ensure that any distractions are minimised – reduce any extraneous noise wherever possible, and consider a ban on phones and radio while the exercise is being carried out.

5. Don’t guestimate!

It’s crucial that your stock take is accurate, and this requires methodical counting – and no guessing! Mark items as you go in order to avoid duplicate counting. Again, the process will be simplified significantly through the use of logical categories for stock, and by making sure that any sold items have already been removed from the areas being counted.

6. Validate your stock take

Once your count is finished, you need to validate your stock take. Compare the results of the count to the stock records you printed out earlier. Any inconsistencies should be noted and accounted for – for example, you need a procedure in place for dealing with damaged items. If you have multiple branches, make sure that you are properly tracking intra-store transfers, and that purchase orders are being effectively dealt with.

7. Update your stock records

Finally, you need to update your stock records with the results of your latest count. If you’re using a software solution to track stock, this should be a simple process. If you’re still using paper-based systems, you should think about moving to a digital alternative. Look out for a guide to stock-taking software coming on Simply Business soon.

Got any top tips for taking stock? Let us know in the comments

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