Our Tips for Bridal Shops to Analyze Inventory & Manage
You've wrapped up market season, purchased your new collections, and now it's time to make plans on how to exit our existing inventory. Our inventory and numbers nerd Marissa has all the tips on inventory management and creating an exit strategy.
Whether you are someone who hosts in-store sample sales, has an online sales section on your website, has a specific off-the-rack section in your boutique, or maybe has a sister location that's off-the-rack only, the same inventory management thought process will still apply. Let's dive in.
Your rack space is fixed, so you have to move through your inventory. Nobody has unlimited space, and you will run out of space, so you have to analyze everything you have on hand and think about how you can be in alignment with your baseline. Let's talk about how to keep your largest bridal business expense productive & profitable.
Identify your Baseline Inventory
Ready to do a little bit of math? We promise it won't be too hard! Let's identify your Baseline Inventory. This is the inventory level needed to hit the yearly sales for your business, a fixed reference point that you can use for comparison to see if you're over or under during analysis.
A general rule of thumb is your inventory should be about 20% of your total sales. So here's the start of that math we promised: For example, if your sales are $100,000, your baseline inventory should be $20,000.
This baseline inventory level is not to say, go out and buy $20,000 every market season. This is a reference to the total level of inventory that you should have in your store throughout the year. This is a maintenance number. So, do some math, & write down this baseline inventory level. Once you've multiplied and mapped this out for your store, this is going to be your target level of inventory for the year.
Once you have your baseline, you can compare where you are currently with your inventory to see what adjustments may or may not be needed.
Take your baseline inventory and head into Bridal Live (or whatever POS system you use) to run your current sample inventory on hand. If you've just come from a big buy at market, that is still going to be added to this number because although you might not physically have that inventory in your store yet, you've already purchased it and it's coming. Take that current on-hand number, and add in what you've just bought. Are you over or are you under that baseline number?
Using our math example, say your current on-hand inventory is $25,000. You purchased $5,000 at market, so your total inventory is now $30,000. Your baseline was $20,000. From this, you are now $10,000 over what your baseline should be. That's okay because now you make a plan on how you're going to move through and exit $10,000 of inventory in your business.
If you are a bridal store or somebody who carries multiple departments within your business, break out your departments, sales to inventory, to note which are in alignment and which are not. Maybe in bridesmaids you are over inventory by a certain percentage, but your accessories are under. You can break out your departments to find your largest producing categories to see which are aligned, and start asking yourself, what can you manage? Where can you trim out the fat of this $10,000 overage? If you hypothetically move $2,000 from here, if you cut out $5,000 from here, maybe another $3,000 from over in this category, see how that can shift your business and if it can help you better align to get to your total baseline.
If dollars aren't your thing and you start to feel a little overwhelmed, feeling like you have no idea how I'm gonna get through $10,000, where do you begin? You can convert your inventory dollar into inventory units.
You do this by taking your total inventory overage and dividing it by the average cost of the items. Let's say again we're talking bridal gowns. Your average dress cost is $500, so you're going to take that $10,000 overage divided by 500 and that equals 20. What that's saying is you have a minimum of 20 units or 20 dresses that you need to sell or exit in order to get your baseline back in alignment, which can be a much easier and more manageable concept to process. It can be less work on your end because now instead of trying to map things out, you can just sit at a unit count and know you have 20 units to move through and create a running list of inventory items that you want to exit.
Let's talk a little bit about how you can find some of these items that you should be exiting. This is where we're gonna dig into the dresses that you carry and start to plan what you need to move through for the remainder of the year. Your baseline inventory is our target goal for the year, and you always, always, always want to be thinking proactively about your inventory regardless if it's sample sale season or not. Let's talk on how to build this exit plan list.
Now you may say, Marissa, can't you simply just run reporting? Say you have 20 items that haven't sold a single thing. Short answer, yes, you absolutely could do that, but you're not gaining visibility to how those 20 items relate to your overall total inventory profitability.
Say you have two designers that each have five bad sellers who have never sold a single piece. If you were to just to sell those 10 pieces, surface level is fine, but you're not helping your overall inventory alignment long-term because if one of those designers is 20% over inventory but the other is aligned, you are going to need to take more than just five pieces from that slow-selling designer to get that overage back in alignment for your optimal profitability.
You're also going to look at all of your designers at surface level, as there may be some whose sales are aligned with your inventory or even exceeding their current inventory, but that's not to say no action is required. Look at the items you have with every designer because you may have some best sellers that are selling 4, 5, or 6 times over and stuff that hasn't sold at all. You need to make sure that you are getting the bad buys gone as quickly as possible.
We typically talk about moving through bad sellers, but you can also start thinking about all of your inventory and how you can keep it moving. Is there a best seller that's been really loved, but the condition is pretty rough & its sales have started down-trending? Do you have a great style but the color and the size that you have it sampled in isn't actually what you're reordering? Maybe you have an okay-selling style, it's not the best but it's definitely not the worst, but it's been on the floor for a year. If you dig into these things, you would be surprised what you can find to move some of this. Just because you put it on an exit list or put it on a sale rack or in the sample sale, doesn't mean that it is gonna sell right away, so don't be afraid to let things go.
Analyze your Inventory
You're going to start by analyzing your sales to your inventory. Your goal is always to get your sales and inventory in alignment, so start by digging into your poor-performing designers. For the designers that are underselling their inventory, what are the worst styles? Why are these bad? Do you think it's the styling? Is it the price? Is it a lack of training for your team? Before you cut these items out, you need to identify why they aren't selling to determine if it's something you can correct or if you need to exit this item altogether.
This is where you should really dig into your selling and analyze everything you have on hand. Think about how you're gonna move through this inventory, how you're gonna stay productive so you can get back in alignment with your baseline because your baseline inventory is telling you where you are gonna be the most profitable with your sales goal.
In our math example, we said you had to get through about 20 dresses immediately to get back in inventory alignment, but during your analysis, you found 15 more items that aren't performing. So you can put these 15 items also on your inventory exit list. So now you've identified 35 items that you could cut to stay proactive with your inventory. Remember in our math example early on, we said your average dress cost was $500, and now you've just identified 35 dresses that are not performing. Let's take $500, your average cost, times 35 items, that is $17,500 in inventory that is not performing. So you just found more inventory that you could cut to help get you your $10,000 overage. Of that $17,500 let's cut $10,000 out of your overage that you knew you needed to get back in alignment. You still have $7,500 that could be reinvested into more profitable pieces. That is a market order right there for a designer that you could go be more productive with!
We obviously went a little crazy with the math in this, but we hope it was helpful to any store & business owners out there who needed it! The short is:
Identify your Baseline Inventory
Analyze your Inventory