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4 easy ways to keep track of inventory this holiday season

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Feeling overwhelmed by your inventory this year? Use these three simple tips to keep your stock managed for the end of the year.

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Man scanning inventory with tablet in one hand and a scanner in the other.

2020’s retail holiday season is in full swing. With it comes waves of purchases and shipments, both in stores and online. Though the COVID-19 pandemic is sure to change the way stores interact with consumers, this season is still shaping up to be robust. Holiday inventory management is essential to get the best handle on the continuous rushes.

Organization, strategy, and automation are the 3 main steps to stay on top of inventory this year. Deliberate use of these will create a better setup for the coming months.

1. Organize

Organization takes many forms. In the stockroom, a messy workspace will slow down sales and shipments, making the entire store inefficient. However, with the right classifications, labeling, and management, the stockroom can become the leanest place in the store.

First, stores must have a point-of-sale system that can cleanly organize everything into actionable data. When a transaction occurs, the system logs it and, from there, employees can get a better understanding of what inventory is selling fastest.

In the back, employees can change the inventory layout to prioritize items that are selling well. Keeping that area fully staffed at all times may be the best move during the retail holiday season rush. For instance, employees can categorize clothing by material, size, and color.

The store will need to use a full-featured inventory management system. With it, employees can accurately track what goes in and out of the store through scanning barcodes and logging shipments. With a better handle on what consumers need, its location in the stockroom and better tracking, backorders, and sellouts can decrease.

2. Strategize

Retailers must have a clear strategy for holiday inventory. Otherwise, the rushes and high demands and orders can easily overwhelm employees and result in lost revenue. Combined with organization, a plan should involve prioritizing customers’ needs and interests and increasing item accessibility.

Just as employees can organize the stockroom based on what consumers will be buying the most, they can also rearrange the store to put those items toward the front. That way, people can get what they’re looking for right away. This strategy will work online as well — where the site advertises the popular items on the main page.

Then, based on what POS and inventory management systems report, managers can order more sought-after items ahead of time. At home or in person, consumers get what they want without frustration, while retailers know the exact numbers in their inventory.

Another crucial area to focus on is in-store pickup. Some consumers don’t want to pay for shipping. Instead, in-store pickup ships their order to the nearest retail location, where they can quickly claim it. Especially during the holiday rush, designating a separate section for these items will be essential for a strategic inventory.

3. Automate

Automation is a broad topic when it comes to holiday inventory. With this wide scope, though, retailers can integrate countless systems to conquer the rushes more effectively. Helpful gadgets and organization equipment include Internet of Things sensors and big data. They will go a long way in monitoring inventory at all times.

IoT sensors are small and practical. While they can attach to any items in the stockroom, they’ll be invaluable for everyone along the supply chain to use. The sensors show merchandise’s exact location and specifications, which an inventory management system will automatically present in actionable ways.

When retailers use the information from sales and inventory, it falls under the category of big data. With the right analytics and prediction software, employees can use this data to understand coming trends and better understand what they’ll need to order and when.

If businesses — retail and warehouses alike — are looking for an efficient way to find stock without wasting time, they can use robots to retrieve it. These autonomous robots cut down on search times when they know the exact location based on IoT sensors or barcode scanning.

4. Make Post-Holiday Changes

The work continues even after the retail holiday season ends. However, businesses can take steps to optimize their setups for months afterward to keep drawing people in through next year’s holiday season.

The first step is to declutter. Get rid of things that will no longer be a priority to most consumers. A sale or clearance section is an efficient way to profit from obsolete inventory.

Then, it’s time to step back and reevaluate the landscape. What has changed for consumers? What new trends are emerging? Social media will be invaluable to track how customers want to spend their money in the coming year. It’s also a critical place to build an e-commerce presence for the future.

A Lasting Central Inventory

Year-round, but especially during the holiday season, inventory must be a critical factor for any retailer or warehouse. With better organization, strategy and automation, the workplace can run more smoothly. These factors will also improve communication across the supply chain, making the holidays a profitable breeze for all retailers.

Megan Ray Nichols is an editorialist at The American Genius, and is a technical writer who's passionate about technology and the science. She also regularly writes at Smart Data Collective, IoT Times, and ReadWrite. Megan publishes easy to understand articles on her blog, Schooled By Science - subscribe today for weekly updates!

Business Entrepreneur

How can a small business beat a large competitor moving in next door?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) How do you stand out when a big competitor moves to your neighborhood? Reddit has a few suggestions – some obvious, some not so much.

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small restaurant competitor

Small businesses, especially restaurants have been hit hard by lockdowns. Many closed for good this year, and those that are still hanging on are in a precarious position as their local economies shift.

Last week, a user on r/smallbusiness asked a timeless question that is especially relevant right now. Reddit user longbottomjr writes: “We have a strong competitor moving in next door in a few months. Our restaurant is one that pays the bills but […] I feel that if this new competitor takes up enough market share we will lose our restaurant. Can anyone chime in with resources/ideas I can use to help put together our plan of action?”

Comments quickly pointed out what common sense would dictate.

First, ensure the basics are covered. Being clean, quick, friendly, and high quality will take you far, no matter what competition you’re up against. And as u/horsemullet said, “Customer service also happens before someone walks through the door!” So make sure that your online hours, contact info, menus and social media accounts are up to date and accurate.

Another point emerged that is less intuitive: Competing businesses will naturally gravitate towards similar locations. This is a well-established phenomenon known within game theory as Nash’s Equilibrium. In the restaurant industry, this is actually a good thing. It brings entirely new customers to the area and ultimately benefits all the other nearby businesses, too.

Take advantage of the attention by offering something other spots don’t, like loyalty rewards, specials, unique offerings, or meal deals.

Speaking of the area, a great way to stand out from larger competitors is to build relationships with the community you serve, as u/sugarface2134 emphasized. “In my city there are two Italian restaurants in the same location – just across the parking lot from each other. We always pick the smaller one because the owner truly makes you feel like a member of the family.”

That’s an advantage of being a small, local business that all the money in the world couldn’t buy. Get to know your customers personally and you will not only create loyal regulars, but friends as well.

One of the top rated responses, from u/seefooddiet2200, made an often overlooked but critically important point.

“Talk to your staff and see if they have any ideas. These are the people that are working every single day and may know one or two ‘annoying’ things that if they were switched would make things easier. Or maybe they see that there’s specific things people ask for that you don’t serve. Every single [one] of your employees is a gold mine of insight, you just need to be open to listening to them.”

That is applicable to any business owner who wants to improve their practices.

Ask employees what they think, especially the ones who have stuck around a long time. Not only do they know the ins-and-outs of their jobs, but this builds rapport and trust with your staff. A good boss realizes that employees are more than their job descriptions. They have valuable thoughts about what’s working and not working, and direct access to customer’s opinions.

Good luck, u/longbottomjr! We’ll be rooting for you.

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Business Entrepreneur

This app lets you swipe right on the co-founder of your dreams

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) It’s said that business can be a lot like dating – and Tertle is taking advantage of that to find you a vetted, high-quality co-founder with a few swipes.

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Two men standing in meeting room with others, shaking hands as they agree to be co-founder together.

Much like there is a dating app for every romantic match possible, there is now a way to match with your ideal co-founder. And the name will help you ease out of your shell when connecting with your new partner.

Tertle is a new online app that helps you find the co-founder that best suits your needs. According to developers, “Tertle sends you frequent, vetted, high-quality co-founder matches via email or WhatsApp based on things that matter to you – giving you precious time back and putting an end to endless profile crawling.”

So how does it work? Like any other matching app, you first start by creating your profile. Tell Tertle a little bit more about you and what you’re looking for in a co-founder.

Next comes the vetted matching. Tertle will match you up based on things you both care about – like your skill sets, location, values, and interests. Finally, you connect and chat. Receive weekly 1:1 video chat calendar invitations at a time that suits you.

When answering why Tertle was founded, developers wrote, “We, like you, are startup fanatics. Finding the right co-founders is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in pursuit of a successful venture. We think there’s nothing currently out there that really hits the mark in helping like-minded co-founders easily connect—and so, Tertle hatched.”

As a reviewer pointed out on Product Hunt, the safest (and most heard about) route when selecting a co-founder is to choose someone you went to college with or have a long-standing relationship with. However, this may not always be an option and so it’s nice to have a little help from profile-matching algorithms.

Tertle developer Ryan Connaughton appreciated the Product Hunt feedback and expressed the following, “In terms of the algorithm, I’ve been matching people manually to test the waters while also working on a simple algorithm as MVP (what skillsets they’re looking for and location IF thats also important to them).

Following an MVP, my thinking is I can vet harder with more in-depth data collection (personality types, values, problems spaces of interest, etc). Of-course this will require a much deeper user-research/spike piece first before I can get to the right solution.

In addition, there can only be so much ‘filtering/vetting’ you can do before you have to get some hard validation that this is the right person – that being, actually working together. So assuming that I can get the prerequisites above right and there’s interest, I think there’s then potential of guided mini-hackathon style projects or some kind of ‘trials’.

Worst case scenario: You meet someone new, learn some stuff, give each other feedback for you to grow and have fun building something. Best case scenario: All of the above, plus the problem/solution holds water and/or you form a continued lasting relationship.”

The site boasts being free to beta users forever; so, if you’re on the hunt for a co-founder, it may be worth it to join the waitlist and see what’s out there.

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Business Entrepreneur

Not just for kids: 3 Rs to help your team cope with stress

(ENTREPRENEUR) The three Rs of child psychology, Reassurance, Routine, and Regulation, may also help your team and you cope with the added stress 2020 has wrought.

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Woman drawing next to body of water, a great technique to cope with stress

Yes, we all know 2020 was a massive dumpster fire. We are all still working to cope with processing the losses and fear this putrid year has brought with it. The three Rs can help you and your team better cope with stress, and our reactions to the hitherto unfathomable woes of 2020.

If you are a parent or work with kids, you may have heard of the new three Rs: Reassurance, Routine, and Regulation. If you don’t have or work with kids, why would you care? These three Rs can also help adults cope with the stress, grief, anger, and anxiety most of us are facing in 2020.

It makes sense that something that can work to alleviate children’s negative feelings during the pandemic may also work for adults. We may experience and process problems differently than children, as we run everything through the filter of life experience and what we know of the world and the way it works.

However, much of what we are seeing with the global pandemic is new to us, and we are stuck in the same boat as our children, restless, afraid, and wondering how we’ll pull through. Here are three Rs to help all of us cope with stress. If we take what Laura Santhanam of PBS NewsHour and Jessica Bartlett of Child Trends advised for children, and apply them to our own overwhelming concerns, we may begin to feel better. I’m all for anything that helps us feel better.

Here’s a rundown of the three Rs and how they can help you and your team cope:

  • Reassurance: We need to reassure ourselves—of our own safety, of all that we are doing to stay safe, and that others are out there diligently working to ensure and improve our safety. Reassure your team of what the company is doing to help keep workers safe, whatever those preventive measures may be.Reassure yourself and your team that you’re doing what you need to in order to stay safe. Reassure yourself that epidemiologists and infectious disease experts are working day and night to learn more about this virus and how to control it. Reassure yourself that two promising vaccines are already FDA approved and being administered around the world, and that this will help us, slowly but surely, return to a life we are familiar and comfortable with.

    Reassure and remind yourself and your team that people are still out there in the world being kind, helpful, and awesome. Maybe share something from the Good News Network or other chronicle.

  • Routine: If you are like me, routine went out the window in March, replaced by endless chores and cooking during the day and staying up late worrying about the state of the world. Routine matters. Just as it can help ease troubled young minds, it can also guide us to a better way to cope.Routines give us a needed sense of stability. It’s one area of our lives that we can take control of, even amidst the flaming chaos of 2020. I’m not suggesting you drink your morning coffee at the kitchen table surrounded by flames and proclaim “This is fine,” like KC Green’s famous memefied cartoon dog. We all have to draw the line in the sand as to what and how much we will accept and what we need to work to change. However, there is something to be said for regularity, a place for quotidian activities, a routine.

    Try to set up or return to a regular bedtime and meal times. Set boundaries for work life and home life—always a challenge when you work from home. Ask your team members how they are setting boundaries or share tips on how you are. Help your team incorporate or return to a routine at work. Perhaps in 2020, work calendars went haywire along with everything else, as nearly every company has had to change the way they do business this year.

    Find a way to bring back some routine where you can fit it in. It could help your team stay on track while dealing with the rest of what 2020 throws at them. Build pleasurable activities into your own routine. Make time to read, play, or otherwise unwind. Lean into the routine. Here’s hoping you and your team can find comfort in being able to control at least this much!

  • Regulate: This refers to self-regulating, coping mechanisms we can incorporate to check ourselves when we start to panic or spiral. Parents, teachers, and others in child care can teach children these techniques to help them manage “big feelings.” We grownups can also use these tools to deal with our big feelings.Regulating tools for adults include breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, talking to a therapist, NAMI hotline, or friend about your emotions. Other means of self-regulating include making a plan to socialize with friends (virtually works), exercising to clear a busy mind, and getting enough sleep. Try to use some or all of these tools the next time you feel overcome with negative emotions.

Of course, feelings aren’t something we discuss much at work, as a rule. However, sending out information on resources available within your company can help your team regulate what they are going through. If your company pays for therapy as part of a benefits package, let them know. If you have set up a hotline or other helpful resource, let them know. Put together a list of helpful websites or organizations that can help with them access these regulating tools, or ask your Human Resources department to do so. You could even share this article, if you found it helpful. You may reach a team member at precisely the perfect time to help them through some heavy stuff.

While adults often consider themselves experts at dealing with our own feelings, again, way too many catastrophic events have gone down in 2020. As they say on the interwebs, this wasn’t on my 2020 Bingo card. We likely can all benefit from the three Rs. Give it a shot, because we all need to cope with our stress somehow.

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