Your inventory levels directly affect the sales you can make; if someone wants something fast, they will buy it from a retailer that has it in stock. Keeping everything in stock all the time is pretty much impossible, and not a great way to spend your cash. So how do you make sure that you don’t miss out on sales? In many cases, customers will hang on till you can get something in for them as long as you go the extra mile. Here's a way to go that extra mile.

Last weekend I thought it was about time that I replaced my worn out, well loved mountain bike shoes. I headed down to the local bike shop to see what was on offer. Much as I love buying online, I also love supporting the local stores, and of course for something like shoes, it’s good to try them on.

I spotted the ones I wanted; a pair of Bontrager RL in Black - on offer, too! However as is normal, the ones on the rack weren’t my size. I asked an attendant if they had a Size 42, Black in stock. “Sure, let me just go and have a look in the stock room”.

First of all I was surprised that his point of sale system wasn’t the first place he went to look. Maybe it was a bit complex and he didn’t know how to use it. Maybe he didn’t trust his inventory information. Maybe they didn’t even do inventory management.

Anyway, about ten minutes later (yes, I had read pretty much all the magazines on the shelf by then) he returned to say sorry, that they didn’t have any. That sucked. So I asked him when they were getting more in, or if any of their other stores had any. Blank face. “Erm, let me find out for you sir”. A short while later he returned to let me know that they normally get an order from Bontrager each Friday, but he didn’t know if there were any of the RL shoes on it. Things weren’t looking great for this store. I decided to move on and look elsewhere. One lost sale.

Let’s re-run this scenario in a different store, a store running Brightpearl Retail and Point of Sale. I’m at the shoe rack looking interested. An attendant comes up to me to ask if I need any help. “Yes please - can you tell me whether you’ve got any of the RL in size 42, black?”. He whips out his iPad and bluetooth barcode scanner, loads up the Brightpearl Point of Sale screen and quickly scans the label on the shelf into the product-lookup box.

Up comes a screen that tells us immediately that no, there aren’t any in store. The chap can easily see stock levels of all other sizes and colours on the same screen in an easy to read size/colour matrix. “Sorry sir we don’t, but we DO have the grey ones in size 42, will those do?”. I’m pretty keen on the black ones however. “Can you get some in?”.

He glances back at his screen and because he can see purchase order information, he can tell me that “actually sir, we have some more of the black ones coming in tomorrow. Would you like me to reserve a pair for you? I’ll give you a ten percent discount.”

Definitely. I’m due to go for a ride with some buddies tomorrow night. Using the iPad, he takes my details, including email address and phone number, and creates a new sale. He adds the shoes, and applies a 10% discount. Lovely. And he called me “Sir” - you don’t normally get that in a bike shop. Service still matters too!

He parks the sale. “We’ll send you an SMS and email when the shoes arrive sir”.

Awesome. Sure enough, the next morning I get a text message. “Your Order#383456 is ready for collection in the Bristol store”.

I pop down to pick up the shoes, and remember that I also needed a spare inner tube. The chap loads up my sale, adds the tube and I pay by card. When I get home I find an email receipt waiting with a load of extra offers and a link to the online store. Hmmn, tempting...

Now THAT’s the way to do retail. I’ll be buying from these guys again.


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About the Author

Having grown and sold two businesses, Chris is vastly experienced in the nature of small businesses and ecommerce, and has a business owner’s insight into the needs of an SME business. Chris studied at the University of Sheffield and has a MSc in Electronic Engineering; he started his first company at the age of 21. Being frustrated by a patchwork of traditional systems such as Sage, ACT! and OS-Commerce, but lacking the budget for the options available, Chris went on to develop Brightpearl. Chris keeps one eye on the wind and is always ready to kite-surf, although he mostly loves to work.