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Mon July 9 2012 15:24:25

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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There's been discussion lately on various forums about how sellers keep track of their inventory, and what are the best ways to do it.

Many sellers just used spreadsheets, but found this a clunky solution. Others with very high-volume sales created their own programs, and still others used some third-party services but they didn't do all they needed them to do. 

There is actually a broad array of inventory management tools out there, but not every seller may be aware of them. You can find a list of these services and their accompanying user ratings on EcommerceBytes' Inventory Management and Listing Tools chart

In choosing the right inventory management solution for you, it's important to consider which channels you sell on (eBay, Amazon, Etsy, Buy.com, etc.), even if it's only one. Also think about your budget and your sales volume; some tools are free; and more complicated, multi-channel tools often have tiered pricing based on your sales volume.

The sellers who used spreadsheets said they did so because that is the format their sales information comes in when download it from eBay or PayPal. But this was an imperfect solution, because updating the spreadsheets, or creating new spreadsheets using that core information, was tedious. One seller who uses spreadsheets says she is still looking for the best way to handle her inventory with them. She keeps one spreadsheet with with total expenses and prices paid for auctions and yard sales, and another for flea markets/antique shows

One seller who says he carried over 2.4 million plus different parts says he thinks those with that kind of volume need a customized solution to accommodate the large number of items, prices and descriptions they manage. He says it helps that he himself is a programmer as well, and he has other programmers on staff.

But he also said Quickbooks Point of Sale is good, "with the barcode reader for our retail outlets," but he says it is limited to just so many items. He added that if you have below 1000 SKU's, Quickbooks Pro will be sufficient to do everything you need it to do.

A couple of sellers said they use Inkfrog -- "it has a place for inventory and what you paid for the item," said one -- but if you are selling on multiple venues, you need to use their "Highwire" multi-channel solution, with pricing starting at $19.95 for a sales volume of up to $1500.

Still another seller simply uses eBay's own "Save to inventory" option, which many sellers were not even aware of. 

None of these sellers seems to have found a perfect solution yet...or one that does not cost a lot, or is not customized just for them. But they may not be aware of all the tools that are out there. What method do you use to keep track of your inventory, or are you still looking for that perfect solution? Or do you just wing it, not keeping track at all?




Comments (15) | Permalink

Readers Comments

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

by: unusual1 This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Jul 9 21:40:04 2012

I have been using Microsoft Works for many years. I customized it to fit my needs since I sell only one of a kind items. There are several categories on the spread sheet. I also have a picture of each item with its inventory number. It does the bookkeeping at the end of the year and if there is a problem I have several pictures of the item before it was sent the the buyer.  

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Mon Jul 9 22:12:02 2012

I do NOT come from a business background. When I started my eBay store years ago I called the accountant who had done our taxes for ages. He told me what I needed to keep track of each month. Thankfully he added - Oh yeah, keep track of your inventory - you are taxed on what you have at the end of the year! Seriously? I thought he was joking! Thankfully at the end of the year I had the old inventory figure for him along with everything else he had told me to keep track of!

I am a small seller & Excel is my good friend!

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Tue Jul 10 09:44:45 2012

I use a home-brewed MS Access DB to keep track of inventory,sales,etc.

It took me a few months to write a few hours at a time. Of course I was a systems engineer, so it wasn't brain surgery.

Spreadsheets are OK, but as noted, there is a little more effort involved.

I'm sure there are many fine products out there for the proper amount of $$$. You just have to translate your time spent now vs with an inventory product & see how much you are paying for your savings in effort.

Does it translate to more selling opportunities, or just and earlier "happy hour", that is your option as a business owner. And that is the nice part - you have choices.

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 10 10:48:44 2012

I use Excel spreadsheets as I have a relatively small (<6000) working inventory. I close out each month and find the scale is good for me. I'd definitely be using inventory software if I were selling mass quantities.  

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
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Tue Jul 10 17:36:03 2012

It looks like most ebay sellers come up with their own solutions, rather than pay for off the shelf solutions.

Does it mean that most sellers are not selling enough to need or justify these systems ,or does it mean that these solutions are too dear ?

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Wed Jul 11 00:36:47 2012

I started out using spreadsheets, but then moved on to my own custom system with a web application interface and a Postgres database on the back end. I'm a software engineer in my day job (online sales don't yet pay all the bills) so I wrote something suited to my needs. I wanted to track a lot of different variables and have custom reports, as well as use it as the back end to a web site with a shopping cart.

I'm a geek and actually enjoy coding, so it's not a hardship for me to write something. As for the commercial systems out there, well, most are too expensive and don't have the flexibility I want, especially since I know I can create something tailored for my business. I also don't like depending on some other company to manage such things for me. It's super-easy to import downloads from various sites into a database and vice-versa. Most sites have a spreadsheet-based inventory upload format, so it's a quick way to load inventory without having to mess with an ever-changing and data-limited API and developer credentials.

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

by: springer This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 11 03:13:32 2012

I use Linnworks. It's a great piece of software, synchronising stock between a number of platforms (amazon, ebay, webstore, play.com etc etc), and very reliable in my experience. They have different plans starting from free (for a small number of items).

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Wed Jul 11 08:10:25 2012

Using a home-brewed system is that the glitches you make are of your own doing and you should be competent enough to resolve them.

If purchased software goes south, you are at the mercy of the tech support people (that's pronounced tex-a-port, inside joke outed!).

Also, presumably you have customized your system to your needs. You don't need extra bells & whistles such as dates which correspond to the Hebraic Lunar calendar.

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

by: racecarguy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 11 09:38:05 2012

I would like to know more about the eBay "Move to inventory" tool. Where is it located?
Thanks.

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

by: Red Ink Diary This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 11 09:44:42 2012

I sell mostly new items on three venues and use two linked Excel spreadsheets.

One for inventory with product identified by individual SKU, input on purchase and updated on arrival showing basis, quantity and sales venue. I also have columns for shipping weight and box size. I use a separate line for each venue but since Google implemented the no duplicate rule I no longer list an item on more than one site at the same time.

One spreadsheet for sales which shows the net and removes quantity sold from the inventory spreadsheet.

My sales sheet keeps running totals, both monthly and YTD plus flags transactions which incur state sales tax.

I have so few in state transactions (one or two per quarter) I choose to pay the sales tax myself. That will of course change if internet sales tax legislation is passed.

Glaring hole in my system,I have to flag low inventory manually.

I do not have a huge sales volume and simply cannot justify additional monthly overhead to use a commercial solution.

I like the security of having my data on my own computer but do use Carbonite for real time backup.

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 11 09:53:12 2012

My husband set us up with an Access DB that perfectly takes care of our needs. I have all the info I need for at this point over 15K items. I even keep track of things that aren't needed for actual sales, but for historical information. I sell sewing patterns and some of them come across your desk only once in a lifetime so I try to record all info and pictures possible in case I ever want to write articles about my niche or others need the info for research, etc. Better to have a bit too much info, than not enough!

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Wed Jul 11 10:29:42 2012

I use the spreadsheet from Oracle's Open Office. Totally free and easy to set up.

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

by: JackieBlue This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 11 13:22:29 2012

If you are selling any kind of volume and are in the US, you really need to keep proper books using some accounting software such as Quickbooks.

We use iMagic to track inventory incoming inventory, which we customized to synch with our shipping system and markets.    

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

by: Henry This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 11 15:09:11 2012

I designed and created an inventory management system for eBay sellers. It is called eBay Sellers Inventory Management. It is available on eBay. Runs on a windows based PC/Laptop but is not available for Windows 7 or a MAC.  Keeps track of purchases, listings, sales, shipping, customer data and free form comments.

How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?   How Do You Keep Track of Your Inventory?

by: rosachs This user has validated their user name.
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Sat Jul 28 22:27:48 2012

When I first started selling, I used simply paper ledger sheets.

When I started part-time consignment selling, I was using what is now Blackthorne, along with periodic physical inventories to ensure I stayed in sync.

Today I use SixBit eCommerce Solution, which allows me to track receipts and unit cost much better.  I still do periodic physical inventory, but now SB has a built-in adjustment function when quantities get out of sync.

Had I not closed my business in 2008, I would likely have integrated SB with the commercial accounting system my employer sold, with complete LIFO/FIFO inventory as well as cost accounting and G/L for my accountant.



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