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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Inventory? You Can Count On It!

Here’s a question for all of you who are currently in the profession of retail, or who have worked a position in the world of retail at some point.  Have you ever had to go through a store-wide inventory?

Well, I can tell you that I have.  As a matter of fact, today happens to be inventory at my store.  It’s basically a day in which we have to count every single piece of merchandise within the store, from animal crackers to stuffed zebras.  And, I’m sure that most of you will agree with me when I say that if you have ever been a part of a store inventory before, it can be a rather stressful experience.

I mean, just think about it for a second.  Imagine having to count every single item in the store, knowing that one mistake could have a huge impact on how the store is run for the following year.  That can put a lot of pressure on you, as well as all of your co-workers.  I’m not afraid to admit that the idea of a store inventory still makes me feel a bit uncomfortable and nervous, and this is my seventh one!  You can only imagine how nerve-wracking it can be for someone who is diving right into the craziness and the fast pace that inventory can bring.

Although I work at a store that brings in an outside team to do our store inventory for us, I can honestly say that the preparations for inventory are probably harder than the actual inventory itself.  You have to count every box in the back room, and label it, and then you have to fix up your department so that every possible item is where it is supposed to be, and that each item is under the appropriate price point.  I know I was practically a nervous wreck the first time I was a part of an inventory team.

I have since gotten better at handling it, and now I can face the challenges that a store inventory can bring forth.  Mind you, it can still be a chore to go through, but not if you have the right attitude for it.

Because, here is my confession that is related to inventory and inventory related preparations.

THURSDAY CONFESSION #28:  When I do preparations for inventory, I do it by having a lot of fun in the process!

Yes, I know what you’re saying.  Yes, it seemingly contradicts what I just said about inventory being a many stress-filled thing.  But, I tend to look at it as being a great opportunity to showcase my silliness, and to really have fun with it.  I’m not denying that getting a store inventory ready (particularly with a store as huge as the one that I work at for my day job) can be a tough job, but if you have the right attitude towards it, you might be surprised at how fast time can fly!

I didn’t always have that attitude though.  I can remember the first time that I ever did a store inventory.  If I remember correctly, it was in 2002, before I began working at my current job.  There was a discount store downtown that used to close the store early one Saturday night in the middle of the summer.  Rather than have their staff count everything in the store, they would post an ad for outside staff to come in and count everything in the store for a little extra cash.  It wasn’t a lot of money, but given that I was unemployed at the time, I needed whatever money that I could get.

I was thinking that it was going to be a quick way to get my hands on some dough.  All I needed to do was know how to count.  With there being so many large objects within the store, I figured that I could be finished in no time.

What I didn’t count on was that I would be assigned the most frustrating department in the whole store.

Greeting cards.

That is one section that I hope to NEVER work in again.  Just imagine having to count 10,000 cards for birthdays, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, and condolences over the death of a goldfish.  It was made even worse by trying to keep all the price points together.  Some cards were as low as ninety-nine cents, while others were over ten dollars.

(And, just going off on a tangent here, ten dollars for a card?!?  Do people actually pay that much for a card these days?)

Naturally, all the cards were mixed up, so it took hours to get everything straightened out.  By the time we managed to get all the cards counted, we had been there for three hours!  I was very cranky by the end of the day, and although I did get paid for the day, I thought that I should have gotten triple the amount for going through everything that I had gone through.

Boy, did I have the wrong attitude about it all.  Of course, it was my first experience with a store inventory.  I went into it with higher than normal expectations, and I was disappointed as a result.  It was an experience, and I learned from it.

Perhaps if I had treated the experience differently, it wouldn’t have been nearly the chore that it ended up being.  Sure, I would have done the same amount of work, but time would have gone by so much faster if my aura were more positive.

Over the years, I’ve come up with some ways to deal with the stress that can come from inventory, and I’ll share some of my coping mechanisms with all of you here.  They might not work for everyone, and I imagine that some of you will likely think that I have lost my ever-loving mind.  But, I’m going to share them anyway.

The first thing I do when I am getting ready for inventory is by singing silly songs as I work.  I usually do this anyway when I work.  After all, I do have a walk-in cooler that is mostly soundproof.  But during inventory, I tend to have fun with it by using appropriate songs.  Songs that have to do with this one.

...or this one.

My favourite has to be this one, a classic from Sesame Street.

I guess it is my good fortune that the majority of the cases in my department come in 12-packs, huh?

So, yeah...the day before inventory, you might hear some crazy 30-something warbling the lyrics to the Sesame Street pinball machine skit.  Trust me, as strange as it sounds, it helps preserve my sanity.

Another thing that I do to help cope with the pressures of inventory is through teamwork.  I find that if one has a great resource of co-workers who all have the same goal in mind, then it makes the job so much easier.

In fact, I think the main reason why this year’s inventory preparation went as smoothly as it did was because of the fact that everyone worked together to get the job done.  We all worked together, and we all did whatever was possible from organizing the cooler, to printing off labels, to having to borrow a store inventory pricing gun from another department because the one that we normally use was sent away for repairs.  There could have been a number of things that could have gone wrong, but yet nothing major happened.  And the reason why this was the case was because of the fact that everyone had the right frame of mind.  We all worked together to ensure that the job was not only finished, but finished the correct way.  I know that my job was made that much easier because of the teamwork, and because of them, inventory preparations were less of a chore than they had been in previous years.

I guess that’s a wonderful life lesson that we can take out of this blog posting.  And it doesn’t just involve preparing a store for can be applied to almost any situation.  All you need to do is...

A)   Maintain a positive attitude whenever possible

B)   Don’t be afraid to let your silly side out to combat stressful situations

C)   Appreciate the value of teamwork, and be gracious of any help that one provides

As long as I keep these three things in check whenever I am asked to do something that may appear to be an exercise in frustration, it somehow becomes less frustrating, and at the end of the day, I can leave with a smile on my face, proud of a job well done.

With that, I’m off to work to witness another inventory day pass by...ever so slowly...time goes by so slowly...

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