Inventory management is an often underappreciated part of running a business. Without good inventory management, you can lose thousands of dollars in sales over the course of a year when customers are looking for items that aren’t on the shelf. You may even lose the customers altogether. Here are 6 tips to help you manage your inventory more efficiently.

Identify Sales Trends

The goal of inventory management is to have exactly what you need on the shelves: no more and no less. Under-producing items will scare off customers, while over-producing them is a waste of resources. The best way to avoid these problems is to keep track of what you sell over the course of a year and assume it will be similar from year to year. Identify when certain items sell more quickly. Many stores see a spike in sales around the holidays. Most will also have other times when sales are higher: for instance, stores that sell pool or gardening equipment will be busiest in the spring and summer.

How to Track Your Inventory

Keeping track of where your items are at all times is another important aspect of inventory management. Use electronic tracking systems such as bar codes and SKU numbers whenever possible, since these items can simply be scanned into the computer whenever they move from place to place. Entering data manually–even into a computer–leaves too much room for human error or oversight.

Audit Your Inventory

One way to double-check your inventory is to perform regular audits. This lets you make sure that all your items are where they’re supposed to be. A common method of auditing is to choose a few products each day to check manually. Then on a monthly basis, do a more thorough audit of your entire store.

Focus on Top Sellers

Stores make most of their money with a relatively small percentage of items. It’s easy to find out what your hot sellers are by checking your sales records. Focus your attention on these items and you won’t have to worry about being out of stock of your most popular products. Perform audits more regularly on these items and keep them well-stocked so you won’t run out unexpectedly.

Work with an Inventory Management Company

If you don’t want to worry about inventory management yourself, you can turn to an inventory management company. These companies help you with all aspects of ordering and tracking merchandise to keep the right products on your shelves at the right times. This eliminates the headache of managing your inventory yourself, and it also allows you and your staff to focus on other aspects of your company.

Have a Backup Plan

Finally, no matter what type of inventory management system you use, make sure you have a backup plan in case it fails. There’s nothing worse than your computer crashing and taking all your inventory information with it. There are many websites and apps that can help you track your inventory and give you a chance to back it up so your information is stored securely in multiple locations.