What is a stock take? 10 stock counting tips for retailers

What is a stock take? Our 10 stock counting tips to help you manage your inventory more effectively.


Stock takes can be daunting but they play a critical part in running your retail business. Stock takes will help increase stock visibility and provide a better understanding of your profits and losses, and highlight problem areas that require your attention. To make your stock take a little less daunting we’ve provided an explanation on why stock takes are so important and 10 tips to help the stock take process run more smoothly.

What is a stock take?

A stock take is the process of counting stock levels for each product variant on the shop floor, stock room and/or warehouse. This process is performed in person, usually by more experienced staff that know the product inventory well. Stock levels of each product variant are collected to provide an accurate recording of stock levels and overall stock value. This data is then compared against expected stock levels to highlight stock discrepancies.

Why count your inventory?

It’s important to understand your stock to help you grow your business. Without in-depth knowledge of your stock levels, efficiently scaling your business can be much more challenging. By maintaining stock accuracy you’ll be able to spot dead stock, inventory shrinkages early and always ensure you have the right amount of stock when you need it. Selling a product when it’s actually out of stock can lead to frustrated customers if you can no longer stock the item or their delivery is delayed.

10 stock counting tips

Schedule ahead of time

Pick a date and time ahead of time, decide if this will be a full or partial stock take. Full annual stock takes are common but we recommend performing partial stock takes at least once a month so you are aware of any stock discrepancies sooner rather than later. Each month you may wish to focus on a certain category or area/zone within the store. If your system allows, create several stock takes, assign a staff member and add a due by date to each.

Stock locations within the store

Before beginning a stock take, walk through your store and stock room, check that all your items are clearly labelled and where they should be. Items can often get misplaced or moved to the wrong location either by staff or customers. By ensuring everything is in the correct place you are less likely to miss an item during the count.

Limit stock movements

Ensure there are limited stock movements when performing a stock take such as stock arrivals, returns and transfers if you have multiple stores. We recommend closing the store on your quietest day to perform a stock take or doing so out of regular opening hours to limit stock movements. However, if you sell online check for any new online orders before submitting your count so you can factor these into your count. If using a system such as Saledock, stock levels are automatically updated after each sale. When performing a stock take Saledock will also highlight any stock movements since the count began advising you to double check stock before submitting the stock take.

Choosing your staff

Pick seasoned staff who have in-depth knowledge of your stock, stock levels, stock location and store/stock room layout. This will help speed up the stock take process and lead to less mistakes. Less experienced staff can shadow so they can learn the process, plus a second pair of eyes always helps.

Communicate with staff

Sketch a floor plan of your store and stock room, map out zones/areas that each staff member will be responsible for if you are performing stock takes by zone. Mark off racks, shelves or areas counted on the floor plan to give a visual indicator of stock take progression.

By communicating with staff early on that a stock take has been scheduled staff can adjust stock delivery dates and ensure availability if conducting the stock take out of regular hours.

Motivating your staff

Stock takes can often be laborious and time consuming especially if you choose to conduct larger stock takes with fewer staff. Keep staff motivated and set expectations with estimated completion times. This will be easier to estimate if you use a system that shows stock take progression in real-time. Lack of motivation and tiredness can often lead to counting mistakes so take regular breaks and keep your staff well fed and hydrated.

Use the right tech - barcode scanning

Modernising your system can save you so much time and effort. Rather than relying on spreadsheets, use a stock take app with barcode scanning capabilities as this will really help speed up the process. Simply scan the barcode, input the quantity and move onto the next item.

Saledock offers a complete business management solution with stock take and inventory management tools. Create a stock take ahead of time, assign a staff member and include the products, suppliers, brands or categories you require from your inventory. The created stock take is sync straight to your stock take app ready for your staff to begin. Once complete and submitted your stock levels are automatically updated eliminating the need for manual input and reducing human error.

Order fulfilment

Ensure any open orders whether online orders or orders on layby have been picked and/or shipped. Alternatively set aside and clearly mark as “ to ship”, “ready for collection” or “allocated” so they are not included in the stock take, this will help reduce stock discrepancies.

Faulty or damaged stock

During a count may be the ideal time to identify faulty or damaged stock that you are not able to sell. If you can’t sell the stock, remove the items from your inventory or mark the items as wasted/faulty so it will be recorded as a loss on your system. Identify why the items are damaged or faulty, did they arrived faulty but the fault went unnoticed? Has stock been damaged on the shop floor? Is there a damp issue in the stock room that has caused the damage?

Dead stock

You may wish to identify dead stock during a stock take and either remove the stock from your inventory or set aside to discuss stock options later. Dead stock is detrimental to a business, it not only takes up valuable shelf space but hinders your profits.

To reduce dead stock, regularly check your performance report so you know what stock is underperforming. This may influence your future stock orders and help you decide which products to include in your next big sale/promotion. As your last attempt to sell the stock you can reduce the price, change stock location within the store or include the items as part of a bundle. If this doesn’t work include the item as a free gift with purchases, run a social media giveaway to drive engagement or consider donating to charity in exchange for tax relief.

Post count analysis

Check your stock report

Once the stock take is submitted, check the report. Your report should show a stock breakdown of each product variant including the stock expected, stock counted and any differences plus a profit and loss report. If your system shows stock take progression in real-time a manager could check the stock before submission and request stock to be recounted if numbers aren’t quite adding up as expected. Alternatively, product specific stock takes can be created after submission if you wish to re-count specific stock. Once complete check the report against your sales and low stock reports to help gain valuable insights into supplier, brand, category and product performance.

Compare previous reports

Once you’ve completed several stock takes you’ll be able to compare them for stock accuracy. If there are consistent stock discrepancies with products from certain brands, price ranges or areas within the store investigate the possible causes. By focusing on these areas you’ll be able to minimise losses associated with stock discrepancies.

Discovering discrepancies

Investigate discrepancies and take action as soon as possible, discrepancies are often caused by miscounting errors or inputting the incorrect number of stock received from suppliers. Reducing manual entry by using a barcode to scan in stock received will help reduce such discrepancies. Regularly analysing sales and low stock reports will help increase your awareness of stock performance and levels. Unfortunately stock discrepancies may occur due to staff and/or store visitor thefts. Take preventative measures to help combat such issues whether this is in the form of CCTV, security tags or more robust employee checks during your hiring process.

Improve speed and accuracy with a unified solution

Stock takes can be daunting but they play a critical part in running your retail business. Stock takes will help increase stock visibility and provide a better understanding of your profits and losses. Our advice is to use a unified solution that offers point of sale, ecommerce, stock take, reporting and inventory management such as Saledock so all your tools are connected and in sync. Eliminating the need for manual input and duplicating efforts across multiple systems. Planning ahead is key, where possible create partial stock takes focused on a particular category or area within your store. Set aside time to purely focus on your stock take assigning each stock take to a particular staff member. By submitting smaller stock takes within a shorter space of time, stock is less likely to be out of sync due to new online orders or new stock arrivals.

Get in touch for a demo and explore how Saledock’s point of sale, stock take and business management tools can streamline processes and increase stock visibility.