Christian Retailing

VITAL SIGNS: inventory Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 08 February 2011 11:26 AM America/New_York

Taking stock of stocking: Changes in the market are impacting how stores handle inventory

We asked: Has your approach to product selection changed in the past two years? If so, what has changed?

“Eliminated items that we wish would sell, but simply don't.”

“Buying needs. Not buying what the vendor wants to sell.”

“Yes, buying way less.”

“ Depth—we only keep one of a title instead of six.”

“We have become very picky in our selections. Those things that do not meet spiritual requirements are not brought in, unless we can justify the draw of the product.”

“More gifts and less titles on the shelves.”

“No, we (think we) are very wide. We are a destination store.”

“Purchasing less expensive items.”

“Stocking fewer slow-turning items.”

“More gift items than before.”

“Yes, I am more aware of what customers can obtain at the big box stores.”

“Cut counter line cards by 25%, cut framed art by 90%.”

“Stocking deeper on less. Sell More Of What Sells.”

“Yes. Items must be expected to turn over in 90-120 days.”

“Less music, less books, more gifts, more church supplies.”

“We do not reorder an item if it has not sold in the last six months. We return anything that has not sold in the last six months. We only order one of each item instead of two and just reorder more often.”

“Yes, we are carrying many more ESV Bibles that previously.”

“More conservative buying; being asked to special order art work; will discontinue apparel and jewelry for a time.”

“Not really, broader selection with less depth.”

“I don't purchase everything new that comes out. I do more special order requests instead of having the merchandise sit on the shelf.”

“Try to keep the price of gifts under $20 ... look for higher discount on books and Bibles so that we can sell at a discount price.”

“Less focus on gifts and apparel.”

“Buying less high priced gift items and more lower priced items.”

“Significantly more giftware/novelties.”

“Yes. Not ordering backstock now.”

“Paying more attention to what has sold in the past, bringing in less new product. Our customers come looking for what has been recommended, not the newest title available.”

“There has been a huge change in what our customers have been buying in the last two to three years. As a result I have changed my inventory buying drastically. We are a small independent book store. I buy less product and only product that I have calls for. Many items I carried that now I have no calls for I have discontinued.”

“We probably take less risk. We experiment less. Customers are shopping with purpose more than just for fun.”

“I've cut back on most of the backlist book and music inventory and we use the distributors for customer special orders to get the items quickly. I have used those book dollars to increase the gift inventory where I get better margins and faster turns. My ultimate goal would be to have new release books and music, the Top 25 in each category for backlist, and any ‘deals’ that are available to offer customers.”

“We buy a lot less music. In gifts, we don't buy junk, only quality items.”

“We take fewer risks on unknown authors/publishers and do more special orders.”

We asked: How has the process of managing inventory changed in the past couple of years? How has your attitude changed toward Core Inventories, Just-in-Time (JIT), Open to Buy (OTB), Min/Max and other strategies? 

“You have to have a mix of items but not keep a lot of old stuff around.”

“We keep a much tighter reign on inventory than ever before. This year we will only keep items on the shelf for nine months or less. I plan to order smaller quantities or new release and use JIT more. I will adjust my ordering by the % our sales were down last year. We will incorporate more digital influence into sales areas this year.”

“We try to keep breadth over depth.”

“Items not there are a lost opportunity in a 'get it online' world. Still, with less customers the mix and amount carried must change. Print on demand is okay if two weeks or less but not if longer, and there should not be a penalty in discount. Texts must be returnable even if print on demand. A 10% penalty here might be a solution to remind us to be careful. Non-returnable POD text titles is biggest trend of this year and a bad one for campus stores already struggling with Internet competition.”

“We are very aware of the length of time product has been on the shelf. We look at sales history of core inventory and see if there is a need. We know that it is easy to order and get product in quickly through distributors when necessary. Many of our min/max numbers have been brought down so we do not have as much tied up in inventory. Using digital media in our music area through Integra, we have limited some of our music area to the burn bar.”

“Open to buy is more important than ever.”

“Having to special order for customers more ... just because I can't afford to keep a large inventory.”

“Moving toward just-in-time.”

“Just In Time is lose sales because customer expects product in stock. Just In Time attitude leaves gaps in your product availability. Over time the customer will become frustrated. Core inventory is very unique to each store. To follow a publisher's idea of core inventory will not necessarily give you the critical products you need.”

“I try to keep an eye on overstocks every month and return what I can and remainder the really old stuff.”

“Managing inventory more tightly and returning more frequently.”

“Abandoned core as it appeared to only be to the benefit of publishers. Continue to focus on Min/Max and less on OTB. Biggest area of concern is new releases. Have enrolled in Spring Arbor new release music program with marginal results.”

“We were doing Just In Time before the industry gave it a name. We determine our own core inventory. The publisher's list just doesn't fit us.”

“Core lists can't be adhered to if the overall inventory is too fat. Just-In-Time buying reduces the need for large upfront inventory levels. Open-to-buy systems can be too rigid; if something extra pops up and we think the customer will respond to it; we should have the freedom to respond also.  The 'landscape' of inventory is always changing. Intuitive systems work best.”

“Carry much leaner inventory and order more frequently.”

“Because of the economy and changes to our industry we have had to put a lot more time and effort in managing our inventory. We use reports from Bookstore Manager on a daily basis to help us determine how much to get in and how often. We definitely saw that work this past Christmas as we had significantly less inventory than 2008, but had almost similar sales volume. We were just a lot smarter about what to carry and placed smaller orders more often. This is the first Christmas we were actually able to pay all of our vendors on time after Christmas.”

“I no longer worry about running out of titles and realize that with Internet availability it is foolish to 'carry enough stock' in textbooks and end up with overstock. I go to distributor sites and if the title is available, I decrease my initial quantity I order.”

“We have reduced in some areas such as counter cards, jewelry and apparel. We have maintained selections of Bibles, Christian Living and fiction. We have increased in art work and special ordered several pieces.”

“Our strategy has moved to depend on Just In Time inventory management. We stock all of our books, even new releases at low levels, maybe 1-3 copies, with the idea that we can resupply quickly through the distributors.”

“Suppliers' core inventories don’t mean its part of my core inventory. Bookstore Manager has a program that I use to watch my top sellers, making sure I'm never out of sales every day from daily printout at end of day.”

“I am less forgiving on new titles since money is so tight. I expect a new book or CD to sell within its first 90 days or else it goes back to the publisher.”

“Primarily, I don't replace things that haven't sold in the last two months—I used to do three months. I am setting Min/Max quantities lower. Trying to return autoship product more efficiently. Having a Burn Bar for media is definitely a must.”

“I'm learning most of this analysis is a waste of time, and experienced intuition is the most efficient, at least for a small bookstore. I haven't blown open-to-buy or missed key books that customers demand since using this approach. Min/max is painful and useless.”

“Inventory programs are much more efficient and reliable.”

“More emphasis on efficiency, trusting special orders and quicker turnarounds with distributors, and more time analyzing what is taking place on our sales floor from a category level all the way down to a SKU level.”

“Core Inventory is essential, but I am the best judge of 'core' for my store, not the publisher. Just-In-Time is very important, but distributors can't ship because they are having the same trouble keeping adequate inventory. I find myself scrambling from distributor to distributor looking for the products my customers expect.”

“We are mostly a special-order and good bargains/high-margin product store.”

“With faster replenishment (misnamed 'Just In Time'), lowered inventory. Using 'core inventories' is a fast way to become overstocked.

“Owning a custom inventory system has kept me from being able to take advantage of these inventory helps.”

“This answer is totally dependent upon what our sales do. I made up my mind that I do not buy anything unless I have funds to pay for it up front. I used to keep an open account and when the bottom dropped out of sight, I had several accounts that I could not handle and it has taken me two to three years to pay off those accounts. I do not want that to happen again. “

“We are a small store so usually we order one copy at a time. I try to offer a variety and to have a relatively large selection, but I no longer order every new title. I am very grateful to STL for allowing open returns as it allows me to offer more of a selection. If I could not return, I would order very little new product.”

“We don't purchase as many copies of new releases as before (we wait and see how it sells and replenish as needed). If a new release doesn't sell in first four months, we consider returning. We don't keep as wide of a selection of backlist titles as before.”

“I like 'core inventory' lists from publishers. I use them to keep bestsellers in stock. I have ordered less of titles and do more "Just In Time" as I get next day orders from Spring Arbor and Anchor.”

“We buy new lists from publishers, then replenish using min/max through distributors. Returns are essential to our bottom line. Don't have time to study each publisher core list so use the Bookstore Manager 'Eye on Inventory' list. STL has worst return policy. Publishers & Ingram are pretty good.”

“I've always maintained a tight inventory mix. The primary change in the last two years has been that I am ordering smaller frontlist quantities and am not carrying quite as much backlist. This has been achieved primarily by more aggressively culling dead wood that might have not been returned in the past.”

“Most decisions are made intuitively, having used various methods for years, but we estimate fairly well.”