Inventory management is a central part of business for clothing companies of all sizes. Without an efficient tool, keeping track and maintaining stock levels is challenging and can lead to gaps in product lines or accumulations of surplus stock. A finely tuned inventory management system is necessary to ensure that stock is available to meet customer demand, while avoiding warehouses becoming swamped with product lines that can’t be shifted.
If your business needs to upgrade to an apparel inventory management solution but isn’t looking to spend heavily in this area, what options are available and, crucially, how effective would they be?
Spreadsheets, such as Microsoft Excel, have been the go-to option for many types of business for three decades, offering a low-cost, easy-to-use platform for the recording and storage of data. Spreadsheets also offer the flexibility to be set-up to reflect the needs of the business, which may suit smaller enterprises or those first setting up in the apparel market.
However, spreadsheets pose some significant disadvantages that should not be overlooked:
- Unreliable: Excel spreadsheets’ lack of validation means that valuable time is wasted checking data. Copy-and-paste errors are easily made, while minor data input errors can cause entire strings of formulae not to work, leading to staff having to trace errors when they could be more profitably engaged in completing other tasks.
- Repetitive: maintaining an inventory using a spreadsheet involves a high degree of repetition, with the same data requiring frequent entry. Repetitive tasks that could be completed by automated software represents a poor use of time and could lead to mistakes being made.
- Error-prone: spreadsheets are renowned for a high level of inaccuracy, as they rely on human input, which increases the chance of errors occurring. Even leading businesses have famously lost considerable amounts of money due to spreadsheet mistakes, while tracing errors is also time-consuming and unproductive.
- Difficult to scale: as your business grows, you’ll need to be able to expand your inventory, but an Excel spreadsheet is difficult to scale without experiencing problems. As the data grows, the performance of the software will slow (as will your PC, owing to the drain on RAM), and calculations will take longer to complete.
Free apparel inventory software
A variety of free inventory platforms are available that won’t consume a chunk of your budget, providing basic functions to manage your business’s inventory, including order management, stock monitoring, and inventory management.
However, if you’re considering opting for one of these solutions to save your business the cost of purchasing a more comprehensive software package, bear in mind that low-cost inevitably means corner-cutting, which could prevent your enterprise from growing at the rate it deserves:
- Lack of integrated functions: a free platform may offer the most basic features you require but will always be limited in its scope for integrating smoothly with other parts of the business or managing the complexities that your inventory management may sometimes pose.
- Poor ease of use: a platform that is cumbersome to use and lacks the shortcuts that are necessary for swift operation can be time-consuming to maintain and is heavy on working hours, affecting the productivity of your employees.
- Reduced support: a high-quality inventory management solution will always offer ongoing support so that difficulties can be addressed quickly and effectively. Free or low-cost platforms may not offer this necessary benefit.
Not free, but better value
Instead, a logical and cost-effective option is to invest in a comprehensive apparel inventory management solution such as STYLEman, which offers the full range of functions that your business needs to operate efficiently in a competitive market, as well as integrating seamlessly with other parts of the organisation. For your free demo to see how STYLEman could manage your inventory, please get in touch.
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