Managing inventory in the fashion and apparel industry can be challenging, especially when selling seasonal products and trending items across sales channels. This challenge becomes more complex when you add sales channels, markets or warehouses.
Without effective apparel inventory management, you’ll lose out on valuable revenue opportunities and waste time and money.
Fortunately, there are many resources to help you take control of inventory processes, provide exceptional customer service and scale your apparel business. One of the most effective tools is an apparel inventory management system (IMS). This type of system streamlines your inventory management process and gives you more time for other parts of your business.
If you’re wondering what an apparel IMS is and how you can benefit, this article is for you. Find out the answers, and learn more about optimizing your inventory management process.
What is an apparel inventory management system?
An apparel IMS is a software solution designed to help clothing and fashion retailers manage their products, including tracking stock levels and orders, and managing inventory flow.
Traditional inventory management methods involve manual processes that are time-consuming, costly and prone to human error. A cloud IMS provides real-time inventory data, helping you see what’s available and what needs to be reordered. Such solutions help you prevent overselling, reduce overstocking and optimize the flow of goods through your business.
Apparel inventory software integrates with other systems and sales channels, guaranteeing full and accurate information at all times. For example, an apparel IMS can integrate with your online store to display current stock levels on your website. Customers won’t be able to order out-of-stock items, but they might be motivated to order when they see there’s a dwindling supply.
What are the benefits of using apparel inventory management software?
Tracking your apparel inventory in real time is the foundational benefit of using an apparel IMS. When you know what you have on hand at any moment, you’ll make better decisions about where your stock should go, when to reorder and how much to order.
Here are other key benefits of a fashion and clothing cloud IMS.
Inventory management systems help you automate your inventory processes. For example, some systems automatically generate purchase orders based on the data that they collect. Automating purchase orders saves time and prevents errors by automating the creation process.
Many other predictable processes can be streamlined in a similar way, such as stock counting, barcode scanning and product tracking.
Sales and trends insights
An IMS helps you track sales data and trends. This information can be extremely valuable for understanding which products are selling well and which ones should be ordered less often. Such data also informs decisions about pricing, promotions and product placement.
By having access to real-time sales data, you can identify seasonal patterns and trends. With this knowledge, your marketing and promotional campaigns become more targeted. Over time, the cumulative effects are increased efficiency, better forecasts and higher sales.
Improved inventory accuracy
An IMS improves inventory accuracy by providing real-time tracking of stock levels, eliminating manual data entry errors and highlighting discrepancies.
When inventory information is consistent and up to date, you’re less likely to have stock discrepancies that create errors in ordering, stock counts and fulfillment. You can easily identify problems with inventory control procedures, quickly resolve them and prevent recurring issues.
By automating inventory tracking and management, your apparel and fashion IMS increases efficiency and reduces time and labor. You have less need for manual processes like stock counting, inventory tracking and reporting. With more productive and efficient workflows, your team is free to focus elsewhere in the business.
By automating processes and streamlining inventory management, you reduce labor costs and storage costs. You won’t need as many people to handle manual processes or as much storage space to hold stock.
Improved customer service
By providing up-to-date and accurate information about inventory levels, an IMS improves customer service by ensuring that orders are filled promptly and correctly.
Customers are happy when they receive timely orders, and they’re spared the frustration of trying to order out-of-stock products.
Enhanced reporting capabilities
An IMS provides detailed reporting capabilities. You can track inventory levels and trends over time, gain insights into customer demand, and make informed decisions about inventory purchases.
IMS reporting capabilities go deep into inventory levels, sales trends and customer demand.
How to optimize your apparel inventory management process
To get the most out of your apparel IMS, you need a strategic approach, not just a software installation. You want to have the most accurate data and the systems in place to manage every aspect of your product life cycle.
Here are steps you can take to optimize your processes and save time and money.
Analyze your inventory data
Analyzing sales data is one of the most important ways you can improve inventory management. By looking at sales data, you can identify patterns and trends in your inventory levels and order patterns.
To effectively analyze your inventory data, start by tracking sales by item, location and time period. This provides a comprehensive view of top-selling products, when they’re selling and on what channels. In addition, track inventory levels and the cost of goods sold to identify any discrepancies.
Compare your sales and inventory data to previous forecasts and time periods to spot trends or any potential oddities. This process helps you understand the latest patterns and what adjustments you should make to ensure more accurate forecasts in the future.
Develop an inventory management strategy
Your plan for managing inventory should include things like how often inventory will be counted and what tracking methods you’ll use.
A successful inventory management strategy requires regular inventory counts, accurate tracking methods and clear processes for ordering and restocking products. It’s also important to consider lead times for restocking items, the carrying costs for excess inventory and the costs associated with overselling.
Finding a balance between these factors is crucial for minimizing overall inventory costs while maintaining sufficient stock levels.
Choose the right solution
You have many options for your IMS, depending on factors such as robustness, whether it’s user-friendly or what features and customization options come with it.
An effective apparel IMS will integrate with your other business systems and processes. These business areas include order and warehouse management, sales channels, product listings, carriers and order fulfillment. Look for a solution that provides robust reporting and data analytics capabilities, with real-time updates and insights.
Whatever solution you select will have ramifications for years to come.
Do your research and compare different solutions to make sure you’re getting the most value for your investment. Find a partner who provides training and support services for you and your team, both at onboarding and as time goes on
Integrate with other business processes
A powerful feature of inventory management solutions is their ability to integrate with other business processes, which optimizes your operations and saves you money.
For example, integrating with order management software helps you track inventory levels and fine-tune your budget for future purchases. When you add robust reporting features, you get a complete picture of your inventory, sales data and trends.
Integrating with other workflows can improve customer service. For instance, by using inventory data to track shipping times, you can provide customers with the most accurate delivery estimates. Additionally, if you can track product availability, you can let customers know when an item is out of stock and when you expect to have it available.
Grow your business with apparel inventory management
The fashion and apparel industry is fast-moving, with new channels, new products and the latest trends all competing for your attention and limited resources. Fortunately, an apparel IMS can help you streamline and optimize your inventory management processes.
Finding the right apparel IMS requires a full understanding of your business and the options available. As you develop your apparel inventory management strategy, look for a partner such as Linnworks who can help you automate your ecommerce tech stack and capture every revenue opportunity.
Even the largest, most experienced apparel companies experience overselling at times. See how you can optimize inventory management to make sure you never miss out on valuable sales again.