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Inventory Management in Retail Case Study: SHIFT Stores

Posted by Emily Fanning on Nov 20, 2017
Emily Fanning

Every day is a week, every week is a month.

That’s the motto, motivation, and reality of SHIFT Stores, a seasonal chain of women’s apparel stores perched in three resort locations, where the population in single towns swells from 11,000 to 60,000 in the summer months. A short season, mixed with lofty sales plans, an immense amount of inventory, and a constant rotation of new vacationing customers, forces Shift to bring their A-game every single dayon the floor, but especially behind the scenes.

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Though open for nine months out of the year, Shift’s peak is a mere 12 weeks, meaning they have to be fully stocked and optimized by Memorial Day and depleted by Labor Day. They already knew that efficient inventory management in retail stores is important, but for the structure and seasonality of their business, it's a nonnegotiable.

The team uses POS inventory data and reporting daily to monitor inventory across all channels—stores, warehouse, and online. Transfers are initiated weekly to ensure inventory is balanced across all locations, and the buying team places reorders weekly. Every Monday, they determine what bestsellers need to be replenished and use an “Available to Sell” list from vendors to buy ready-to-ship merchandise. All reorders are to be received by Friday of the same week, just in time for the busy weekend.

Effective inventory management in retail is a nonnegotiable.

Likewise, the team uses their inventory management software to look into slow sellers and work with their vendors to coordinate returns and/or swaps to ensure that they are not sitting on stale inventory. Detailed inventory reports also help the Shift team plan effective flash sales that liquidate product and clear space for their most popular sellers.


The winter months are spent visiting trade shows and writing orders based off of POS data tracking the previous year’s performance and inventory levels. Shift’s buyers don’t leave home without their mobile POS system, so they are able to reference that data in real time. Having such at their fingertips gives them the power to negotiate better discounts and terms with vendors.

There’s more to a successful retail business than a great sales team; Shift's effective inventory employment and agile management has directly impacted the store’s growth and profitability.

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Topics: Inventory Management

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