On Monday, we performed inventory at Zoe for the first time. While the Point of Sale system that we use has physical inventory functionality, it was not a feature we had used so I arranged for our software consultant to help with the inventory.
As a plus, when the consultant arrived, I had him perform the update to the point of sale system (remember my delay in doing so a couple months ago). So far, so good. Glad I let someone else work out the bugs in the system!
He brought two types of handheld scanners to assist with the inventory. He tried both types on Zoe's tags and we determined that the older model scanners actually worked better. As he finalized the scanner testing, he asked me to draw a map of the store and label it appropriately.
Anyone who has EVER seen me draw ANYTHING knows that it is not high on my list of talents. In fact, the joke has been that I can't even draw a straight line with a ruler. But I made a go of it, drawing both the front of the store and the back storage area. Good enough sufficed in this case.
The reason for the drawing was to divide the store into segments for inventory. When I had been in other stores, I had seen pieces of paper indicating what areas had already been inventoried. But since Anna (the intern) and I were splitting the work, it made sense to just take an area and be done with it! After we had completed an area, we would bring the scanner back to the point of sale computer, link it up with the software and then clear the file of inventoried items.
We quickly learned how to best scan the tags, how close we needed to be, the kind of light they needed for the scanner to work most optimally, even tricks like turning them upside down to get them to scan! We did have problems with some tags, mostly for those that I had printed out when I first opened the store. When that happened, we would print a new tag and scan it instead.
The consultant also told us about some best practices for keeping track of where we were in the scanning process. If we got interrupted, we were to place the scanner just after the last item we had successfully scanned. We were also to work from top to bottom, left to right. Also, once he had transferred the scanner data to the point of sale computer, he placed the scanner upside down to indicate it was ready to accept new scans.
Every once in a while, a tag would indicate it had scanned but when connected with the Point of Sale system, would give back gibberish. In those cases, we were able to type the correct SKU into the text editor. As we continued to load inventory into the system, it kept a running count of how many items were still missing as well as showed the unidentified items (like those with the incorrect SKUs).
The toughest part was the jewelry. And this was my mistake for not understanding the requirements (or as I would call it, the limitations!) of the point of sale system. I do not print and attach tags to the jewelry but instead write the SKU and price on a small tag that can be easily attached to each piece. But the inventory can only be done through scanning - there was no option to manually enter the jewelry pieces. Our solution? We printed tags for all of the jewelry in the system (whether it was still on hand or not) and I went through and identified the quantities we had of each item. Once I did that, Anna scanned the tags for the items.
When EVERYTHING had been scanned, we ran a final report. Much to my chagrin, it showed a variance and some missing items! The consultant printed two reports - A Missing Items Report and a Count/Variance Report. Imagine my shock when he then started clicking buttons and "fixed" the items that had shown up on both reports! Can you imagine my "But...but...I don't understand...do we want the system to do that....wait!!!" Although he explained that our physical count was the most accurate representation of what the "truth" was, it unnerved me to just correct it without knowing exactly what had happened! I needed to work on that one for a while.
After the consultant left, Anna and I grabbed lunch. The total process had taken us 3-1/2 hours. Had I known about the jewelry tag issue, I would guess we may have been done in about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Over lunch, I was already in the mode of "what went wrong...what would I do differently next time." I appreciated Anna's perspective though - she felt it had gone really well! She has experienced inventory at a large chain women's clothing store and said that Zoe's was very smooth. We all need people to encourage us to look at the positive.
We came back to the store after lunch to straighten everything up (you aren't taking great care in how well things are folded when you are scanning the tags). Although the two reports bothered me, I decided to review them the next day.
Fortunately, the explanations were clear as to what had happened with each item. So, for the most part, the "fix" completed following the inventory was the correct thing to do. I had one item from the Missing Items Report that I just couldn't figure out where it was in the store. Had it been shoplifted? As I was typing this dilemma to my mother in an email that evening at home, it all of a sudden dawned on me where it was. It was layered on a mannequin and we just had neglected to count it. Problem resolved!
Overall, a good process and lots of great lessons learned for next year!
Next: The 3/50 Project.