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Inventory is an essential part of any retail business, including salons and spas. When professional products are bought and sold, they generate added revenue that helps sustain your business. However, managing your salon or spa inventory is another story. You would think that buying and selling products is a simple process, but inventory management is more complicated than it may seem.

Traditional Inventory Control: Inventory management involves some sort of a tracking system used to show how much stock you have at any one time. It covers your inventory at every stage, from purchase and delivery to using and reordering stock. Efficient stock control permits you to have the right amount of inventory in the right place at the right time. It ensures that you don't tie up money unnecessarily but also that you have sufficient product to meet customer demand.

Keeping Count: For salons and spas, keeping track of the product as it comes and goes is no easy task. Many salons and spas revert to counting bottles on the shelf to determine what to restock before the distributor salon consultant (DSC) arrives to take orders. Others use a tally sheet to mark off as products are sold. The problem is that it's not uncommon to skip "marking out" the item from tallies when staff becomes busy. Because of this misstep, you don't always know how much product you have in stock, which can be an issue when clients want to buy merchandise but find that you are out of stock. Your salon or spa loses out on the sale as a result.

Having too much inventory can be equally as disastrous. An overabundance of product takes up shelf space, ties up your money, and requires extra effort to sell. Too much inventory or product that does not sell also runs the risk of being considered "dead stock" – a term that applies after product sits on the shelf for a year or more. Dead stock are items that are not able to be sold for several other reasons: they're overstocked, have gone out of style, have gone bad (expired), or the products become otherwise irrelevant.

The problem with the old-school tally or bottle counting approach is that you're reordering for the sake of refilling the shelves, which is not very effective for the big picture. It's more important to look at what is selling in your inventory and how often so that you can spot and predict trends. That way, you can make informed decisions and take steps only to order those products known to move while making efforts to discount or return those that don't.

Money Matters: Carrying inventory is also a significant investment for salons and spas. Most distributors or their brands have a minimum starting order, which usually includes at least a base amount of the entire line. The further you get into the retail game, you realize that the demand for products is not spread out equally amongst the range. Certain products continue to cycle through while others sit dormant, tying up your money and space on your shelves.

If a product is not moving, it's advised to make arrangements to send it back to your distributor for credit towards products that do sell. For the specialty items that do sell, just not often, consider offering them online only. That way, your client can order through your online store, and the product is shipped from the manufacturer or distributor without any direct costs to you.

 A Strategic Plan: If you're still counting bottles or running a tally, it's time to find a better way of keeping track of your offerings. To help manage your retail, look for software with a robust salon inventory management system. You want salon or spa management software that captures the right data at the right time to avoid ordering mistakes that can result in inaccurate inventory levels. The software should track your products, allow you to run reports, set reorder thresholds, and help recognize if an item is dead weight or is trending. This type of intelligence helps you plan ahead to ensure that you buy proper amounts of product without breaking the bank.