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Manage Your Sewing Business Inventory: 7 Best Practices

by | May 21, 2024

The quality of a retail business’ inventory is a key factor in its success, but so is the way that inventory is managed.

If you’re the owner of a sewing or quilt store, you know your inventory is the lifeblood of your business. Even with great items, a lack of inventory management strategy can lead to stalled sales and stagnant shelves. An intentional inventory management approach based on data, on the other hand, can boost sales and keep even stubborn inventory moving.

In this blog, we’ll explore seven best practices to manage your sewing business’ inventory.

1. Keep Detailed Records

You can’t effectively manage your inventory if you don’t have access to accurate numbers. Having up-to-date inventory records is an essential starting point, and the best way to maintain precise data is with a robust point of sale (POS) system.

A point of sale system allows you to:

  • Facilitate quick and easy transactions.
  • Accept a variety of payment methods from customers.
  • Access vendor catalogs.
  • Record transactions with automatically adjusted inventory levels.
  • Order new inventory with automatically adjusted inventory levels.
  • Access sales data.
  • Set an automatic reorder point when an item runs low.

An all-in-one industry-specific point of sale system is equipped with many features that are tailored for fabric and quilt stores. Some of these include:

  • Website design for desktop and mobile, so your fabrics look great on any screen
  • Scheduling classes and other in-store events, including online sign-ups and text reminders
  • Work orders, including service reminders and service history

Related Read: What Is The Best Fabric Store POS? 4 Top Providers

2. Conduct Regular Inventory Audits

Even with a sophisticated system that automatically updates your sewing business’ inventory, performing manual audits on a regular basis allows you to detect discrepancies and ensure complete accuracy. These audits help you determine which items are selling well and which ones are struggling, informing your future ordering strategy and preventing overstocked items and stockouts.

As you conduct these audits, involve your employees in the process. Teach them to use your inventory management software and how to recognize patterns that will inform your store’s ordering strategy.

Related Read: Helpful Tips on How To Conduct a Physical Inventory Count

3. Prioritize Fast-Moving Items

Have you heard of the Pareto principle? It’s also known as the 80/20 rule and states that, in many instances, 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs. 

This principle is true for retail stores, as business owners often find that the majority of their revenue comes from a small selection of popular items. Perhaps the most popular or trending fabric patterns and designs are generating the majority of revenue for your business.

When this phenomenon occurs, a store owner may be tempted to get rid of items in the 80% and only stock items in the 20%. This may seem ideal, but it’s important to strike a balance in your inventory. 

Offering a variety of threads, fabrics, and other supplies in your store can attract a variety of customers — and it’s a safer strategy than cutting your inventory down to a few items. That said, you should focus on your top-selling items and give them greater attention and care. 

If you find yourself selling out of an item, try ordering more to determine how much demand exists. If you have items that continually sit on the shelves, try to place them front and center and offer discounts to encourage sales. Over time, order less of this product to make room for products that sell better. As you determine customer demand levels for different products, you’ll find the right order quantities for your store to maximize your sales.

4. Implement Just-in-Time Inventory

Just-in-time (JIT) inventory is a practice in which a business orders inventory so that it arrives as close as possible to the time it’s needed. This reduces excess stock and increases inventory turnover.

As you collect data and discern customer demand levels for a variety of products, adjust your order quantities and try to place orders close to when the inventory is needed. This helps you find the optimal inventory levels for different products for your sewing store. 

As you gain more experience, you’ll be more confident with standard order quantities — you can even choose to set automatic reorder points and let your POS system order inventory for you.

5. Optimize Storage Space

In addition to using digital inventory management tools, how you physically arrange inventory in your store matters. Whether you have a large store or a small boutique, space can be strategically optimized to encourage sales and keep your inventory moving.

Within your store, organize the items you sell into logical categories. In a sewing business, you likely sell fabric, thread, tools, and perhaps some finished, sewn items. Organizing these items into groups makes it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for.

You can organize your products by:

  • Product type
  • Color
  • Material
  • Style
  • Price

As you organize your store, find ways to make the most of your space. For example, using wall shelves or a ladder to display products makes them more visible and saves space on the sales floor. The more product you have on the shelves, the more you can sell and the less storage space you need. This will make your store more efficient and make it easier for you to manage your inventory.

Related Read: How To Create the Perfect Retail Store Layout

6. Embrace Seasonal Planning

Sewers and quilters often enjoy creating seasonal projects related to holidays like Christmas or the Fourth of July — and sewing and quilting stores often stock seasonal products to accommodate this demand. Seasonal inventory management requires closer attention than more evergreen product offerings.

Be careful not to order an excessive amount of seasonal product — if the occasion passes and you’ve only sold half your seasonal stock, it will be difficult to sell the rest of it. Clearance sales may help you offload some of the stock, but some of it may prove unsellable. 

Instead, order a conservative supply of seasonal stock, and if you sell out, you’ll know to order more next time. The more experience you have, the better you can predict how much seasonal inventory you should order.

7. Cultivate Supplier Relationships

A critical part of managing your sewing business’ inventory is obtaining it in the first place. Find suppliers and vendors you can rely on for quality products and fair prices. Do your research before you commit to working with a vendor, and give them time to earn your trust.

When you’ve built trust with a supplier and demonstrated your ability to sell inventory, you can better negotiate favorable terms, like bulk pricing discounts and flexible payment options. Bulk discounts may apply when you order large quantities of products, which gives you greater bargaining power with suppliers. 

Large suppliers can often accept a lower profit margin on a guaranteed order of a large quantity. Placing a large order with a supplier simplifies their selling process, reducing administrative costs, which should also contribute to a lower price. These discounts will help you increase your profit margin.

Related Read: Collaborating With Local Artisans And Crafters for Unique Offerings in Your Sewing Store

Making the Most of Your Sewing Business’ Inventory

Responsibly managing your sewing business’ inventory is a must for running a successful (and profitable) business. To determine and maintain optimal inventory levels for your store, you need capable software, trustworthy suppliers, and sound policies.

Over time, you’ll determine which strategies work best for your store and your customer base, and your inventory management practices will find a consistent rhythm. However, it’s important to continuously improve and adapt to better serve your customers. 

Try stocking new and trending items to see if they sell. If a product becomes less popular, you may choose to decrease your stock or stop offering it altogether. Adapting your strategy based on your customers’ buying habits helps you to keep your store open far into the future.

LikeSew’s all-in-one point of sale system keeps detailed records of your inventory and allows you to automate processes you used to do by hand. With access to a variety of supplier catalogs, you can place orders right from the system. 

LikeSew has been specifically designed for sewing and quilt stores and has all the features you need to better manage your sewing business’ inventory. Contact us today to schedule a demo!