3 steps to changing the way you look at inventory control

by Leslie Groves


Taking stock before you shop can save you thousands and keep you on track for successful seasons to come.  Shopping tradeshows brings out the kid in all of us, which means we can often shop for what we want rather than what we need for our stores.  

Don’t get me wrong, we’re all guilty of impulse buys. However, in the grand scheme of things, an impulse buy for some stores can mean several units and significantly larger dollars amounts being spent.  

So how do we stay on track and what are the keys to turning over current inventory that’s been packed away?

1. Know your inventory


When packed away, merchandise becomes a forgotten treasure only recognizable by a word or item number on an inventory list (which to most means very little).

The box it is packed in looks like all the others and over time gets shuffled around only to get lost or forgotten. This translates to money invested in merchandise that is depreciating on the shelf right before your eyes (if you could actually see it that is). 

Well today is the day to change that.  For every item or product line you pack away, take a picture and tape it to the outside of the box.  Every time you walk by that visual (which can be up to 6 times more powerful than words) you’ll be reminded of exactly what you have in your inventory.

2. Reinvent products

Now that you can see what you have in storage, it’s time to reinvent it when you go shopping at tradeshows. 

Create a small picture book or keep a file on your phone showing all the key items or large quantity product lines that need a little help. Having pictures will help you identify items that will best compliment your stock once you return to the store and introduce it with new combinations.

Reinventing products rather than reducing prices is the name of the game and when done right takes very little effort yet results in big gains.


3. Consider colour


Colour is a key element in merchandising and plays a significant role in how each customer responds to a product or display.

For this reason, it’s important to remember that reinventing an item can happen several times, while each time looking completely different for the individual receiving the visual message.

Each customer is living a different colour story in their own lives. Take a simple brown vessel, for example. When displayed in a collection with green accents, it looks fantastic yet only reaches a percentage of your clients.  When reintroduced with turquoise accents in next week’s or next month’s display, it takes on a new life and may connect to a completely different clientele.

I recommend carrying a few colour swatches of merchandise you’re trying to reinvent, as the pictures you have on your screen may not be large enough to give you the proper match.  This is something you can do for free and takes little space when using paint samples from your local hardware store.


Being prepared start to finish is how you win the race in retail.  We all make mistakes here and there and have made misguided decisions that led to overstock in inventory — whether you bought merchandise on impulse, bought too much or were simply ahead of the trends.

Whichever the case, implementing these three steps can result in the turning point in your stock rotation and give you the cash flow that you need to make better decisions moving forward.

Leslie Groves is a retail consultant and trainer  specializing in visual merchandising and marketing techniques.

With nearly 20 years in retail and having spent 10 years consulting thousands of retail and wholesale business owners, Leslie welcomes the day-to-day challenges facing today’s businesses. She has an enthusiasm and dedication for teaching practical ideas that translate into tangible results.

The Toronto Gift Fair welcomes Leslie back as a Retail Solutions Seminar speaker for its Spring 2016 program.