Industry veterans weigh in on the lifeblood of C-tailing: managing inventory
By Nancy Klosek
Ah, the way things used to be.
In the salad days of brick-and-mortar consumer electronics retailing, inventory management was a matter as simple as stocking a kitchen cupboard with the fixings for a pound cake. Keeping track of the four or five major ingredients you knew you'd always need was a cinch, and the quantities didn't vary much.
Replenishing the shelves in 2005, however, is a bit more complicated. Even for Betty Crocker, whose ready-mix cakes have splintered into a dozen niche permutations, the larder has become a microcosm of customization.
So, too, it is for the custom retailer, whose "larder" now no longer has five but rather 500 basic ingredients.
We polled hybrid custom installers and A/V specialists and unearthed anecdotes, wish lists and all manner of advice on the subject of inventory management—a seminal business dynamic for all with whom we spoke.
Moving from INDEX Cards to Computers
Texarkana, Texas-based Sound Towne has been in business 36 1/2 years. The business began as an audio speciality shop. "In the olden days, as my son would say, inventorying was mostly seat of the pants: 'Well, we sell about three of those a month, so let's order three,'" says Sound Towne President Bruce Cullom. "We did it with index cards, manually; there were no business computers. But what was difficult was if there were three different prices on the same item—say, receivers—from the three different times you'd purchased them. It was hard to know which one in inventory was the one you got at what price, unless you went so far as to record serial numbers."
Still, the process wasn't all that complex back then. "It was simpler in that we didn't have surround sound in 1969, and no TV sales, and many fewer SKUs," explains Cullom. "And there were fewer model turns; the prices didn't change until the models changed. Things were relatively stable."