Whether you’re running an auto body shop, a law firm, or a retail store, doing a year-end inventory count helps your business close the books on the past 12 months and organize yourself for the year ahead. In fact, the year-end inventory count is necessary for successful inventory management throughout the year. It allows you to clean up records and gives your business verified data to analyze.
Since retailers have a lot of inventory to manage, counting inventory correctly is crucial and allows you to make informed buying decisions later. Learn how to execute a year-end inventory count and how your annual count can help forecast demand for the year ahead in this article.
What is a year-end inventory count?
A year-end inventory count is a physical count of all the inventory on hand at the end of the year. The count is performed to verify that the physical inventory matches the numbers in your inventory management system.
A year-end inventory count is different from an inventory cycle count, which audits a smaller portion of inventory. While a cycle count allows you to monitor your inventory by sampling your inventory throughout the year, a year-end inventory is a physical count of everything you have on hand at one given point in time.
How do you conduct a year-end inventory count?
These are the steps that you need to follow for inventory counting:
- First and foremost, you need to plan the day for conducting inventory count. It’s crucial to pause your warehousing operations while you do perform the counting so that you get an accurate snapshot of your inventory. You should plan a day that causes minimal impact on pausing the operations.
- Once you finalize the date, you should form the team who will perform the stock counting. It is important to train them about your counting process and acquaint them with the warehouse’s premises. Dry runs can be organized a few days before the actual counting day.
- You should also prepare your warehouse for the stock counting process. It should be thoroughly cleaned, and steps should be taken to ensure that there’s no scattered inventory. If there are boxes lying around the warehouse, it will slow down the workers who are counting.
- The warehouse should be organized, and the areas (count zones) should be divided amongst the counting team so that everyone knows their responsibilities.
- It’s crucial to equip your team with the right tools for counting. For manual counting, you can use counting tags. If you are using tags, then it’s best to let your team work in pairs so that one person can count the inventory while the other can note the values in the counting tag and stick it near the inventory. It’s best to get the counting tags signed by the respective team as it gives you clarity about the person associated with counting for a specific section.
- To cross-check the accuracy of the counting, you can personally examine the areas to cross-verify the values mentioned in the counting tags. Otherwise, you can allocate members from other teams to cross-check the tag values. Cross-checking is crucial to get an accurate representation of your inventory. In case your inventory is also stored at other locations, you should coordinate to get the accurate values from those locations as well.
- Performing inventory counts using manual sheets and counting tags can be time-consuming and prone to human errors. Using an inventory management software like Cin7 can be of great help. Instead of using tags and sheets, you can use barcode scanners to scan the inventories on the shelves. The software reconciles the inventory values with the ones already present in the system. This way, you can easily gauge the discrepancies in the inventory that’s physically present with you.
Why do year-end inventory count?
The year-end inventory count is essential because it ensures the stock you have on your shelves matches your records. By getting an exact look at your inventory, you can comply with tax requirements, manage corporate audits, and offer accurate data to your accounting team.
Once you complete your inventory count, you’ll have the data you need to complete an annual financial analysis. You also get the data you need to detect inventory shrinkage and forecast how much inventory you’ll need in the year ahead. On top of that, you get the chance to get inventory organized for the new year.
Knowing your year-end inventory allows you to
- Get a better understanding of what products you have.
- Hold accurate inventory records for accounting purposes.
- Gain insight into products that don’t sell well that you shouldn’t order in the future.
- Understand which products require a new selling strategy.
- Know the demand and profitability for expansion consideration.
- Consider adjusting periodic automatic replenishment (PAR) levels for top-selling products.
- Determine the cost of goods sold and total net income.
- Make business decisions based on data instead of intuition.
- Analyze pricing strategy and identify room for improvement.
Does your business have inventory shrinkage?
Inventory shrinkage occurs when there’s less physical inventory than what’s listed in your inventory records. Shrinkage occurs due to human error, damaged stock, vendor shortages, lost inventory, or stolen inventory. It can drastically affect profits and is a problem that always needs to be investigated further. Businesses usually uncover inventory shrinkage as they do their year-end inventory counts.
How to handle inventory shrinkage
If you uncover inventory shrinkage during your year-end inventory count, your team should look for more information about what happened. If you are using inventory management software, you can examine past inventory records to determine if there are any trends that need investigation. Significant, widespread shrinkage can indicate theft or fraud, while one-off mistakes tend to reveal clerical errors. Damaged goods are self-explanatory.
Once you uncover and investigate the cause of inventory shrinkage, you can put guardrails on processes to prevent further loss. Some common preventive measures include:
- Tightening security where inventory is stored.
- Installing cameras or locking up high-value items.
- Training employees about proper inventory counting.
- Allowing only trained employees to accept and inspect new inventory.
- Reviewing daily transactions on inventory apps.
- Verifying purchase orders, invoices, and delivery slips when new inventory arrives.
- Checking inventory shrinkage via cycle counts.
Discovering inventory shrinkage isn’t fun — but it’s a wake-up call for many businesses.
What if you have too much inventory?
Once you complete your year-end inventory, you might realize that you have more physical inventory than expected. If you have a lot more inventory than you need or want, you may have to figure out how to deal with the surplus. The first step is to determine if the excess inventory is still good to sell. Then you can adjust plans, orders, and budgets accordingly.
Once you figure out what your business needs for the year ahead, it’s time to get creative. What kind of promotions or sales can you have? What items should be sold at a discount? There may also be items in your inventory that can be repurposed or donated. If you donate excess inventory, talk to your accountant about writing them off for tax purposes.
Finally, you should talk with a liquidator about buying excess inventory. It may not be very profitable, but you can cut losses, clear up space, and move on.
Using year-end inventory to predict next year’s demand
One of the best reasons for conducting year-end inventory counts is to understand how your business used (or didn’t use) items over the past 12 months. A detailed snapshot of available inventory helps your business forecast demand for the year ahead.
By reviewing what hasn’t sold, you can plan sales, promotions, and marketing campaigns. These strategies can help you move old inventory and lets you focus on restocking only what your customers want.
Cin7’s inventory management software simplifies inventory counts
Cin7 inventory management software allows your business to track inventory using modern technology and powerful automation features. Cin7 is the best choice for inventory management software because it helps save you time, money, and stress. When you switch to Cin7, you’ll be able to:
- Access your data at any time and place.
- Set it up quickly, easily, and to your liking.
- Use ready-to-scan barcodes with your phone’s camera.
- Customize and allow access to teams, vendors, and suppliers.
- Generate custom barcodes for unlabeled stock.
- Create data-rich, shareable reports to help you understand inventory.
- Get alerts when you’re running low on a product, if it’s expiring, or approaching warranty.
- Create product histories to answer who, what, and when details.
Ready to see how our inventory software makes your year-end inventory count easier? Book your Demo now.