Inventory Management

IMG_1323One of the things I struggled with as my eBay business grew from a hobby to a full blown business is tracking inventory. Up until about four years ago I had 500-600 items listed and it was fairly easy for me to track them in my head. I knew I kept all my red Kitchen items in the garage cabinet, my toys in another garage cabinet, American Girl items in the former game closet, etc.

The Red Kitchen Items in the Garage Cabinet

The Red Kitchen Items in the Garage Cabinet

As my business and listings grew I began to panic when I sold something that I couldn’t immediately visualize where it was stored. This became a much bigger problem when eBay created their seller defect program in August 2014. Try as I might, I sold items that I could not locate and because this was one of the factors tied into the Seller Defect System, I lost my Top Rated Seller (TRS) status for an entire year. That had to have been the most painful year of selling in my 18+ years on the platform.

One of my frustrations was that eBay did not give us the tools to help manage our inventory and therefore reduce the number of ‘out of stock’ items we sold. It was announced at the “We Are 20 – eBay Sellers Conference” in September 2015 that the defect program would be changed in February 2016 and the only two items that would get you a defect was “Out of Stock” and tracking information not uploaded.

The Storage Unit - Two rows deep on both sides

The Storage Unit – Two rows deep on both sides

I decided to set out and start a physical inventory of every active item listed in my eBay store….no easy task while working a full time job, continuing to list and shipping…never mind entering into the busiest quarter of the year, Q4.

Here it is four months later and I still have not completed my physical inventory, but I am about 2/3 of the way done. How to manage inventory is a question that comes up quite often in the Facebook groups I monitor. While I’m anxious and excited for an inventory management tool that eBay will roll out soon, I’m a bit nervous for the defects that I will receive if I sell an item I can’t locate, or as the buyer and eBay sees it as “Out of Stock”.

With the help of a work colleague I created an inventory database system for myself using FileMaker Pro. With it I can track my purchases when I bring them home, give them an inventory number, enter the title and any notes for the description, cost, date and place purchased, etc. When I pull the item to list, I simply enter the inventory number, transfer the pertinent information to the eBay listing, list the item and transfer the eBay Listing Number to my database.  This system is fabulous and works for me and I download sale and listing data from eBay monthly and reconcile.

I am passionate about inventory tracking and talked to anyone and EVERYONE at the Seller’s Conference to help them understand the importance of making something sellers can easily use. While in San Jose I did get to sit down with the Director of one of the teams and mapped out my ideas and how I was managing my inventory. I was VERY PASSIONATE about it. 🙂 One thing that he said they could easily do and do fairly quickly is to change it so that when we are using sell similar the CUSTOM FIELD is visible and allows for us to make changes there. But I’m getting ahead of myself…I told you I was passionate about this!

For tracking my items I use the Custom Field found on your My eBay or Seller Hub page…you may have to customize your settings to see it, but you can put it there. I add my inventory location after I list an item….BB is Bankers Box and I have my shirts sorted by size, style, etc.

Inventory Tracking Pic

When I sell an item I look at this information and can easily go to the box, bin, shelf, cabinet, etc. where the item is located and pull it to ship. And I’m soo happy to report that if you are lucky enough to be using the New Seller Hub, the Custom Field is now visible when listing under a ‘sell similar’…Thank you Scot and team!

During the conference I learned there is an inventory component to the new Seller Hub rolling out at some point this year and I’m super excited about it and can’t wait to start using it. What I have seen of the new Seller’s Hub has me almost giddy with excitement and anticipation of the possibilities!

Custom Field

No matter what size seller you are, do yourself a favor and start an inventory tracking system from the get go. It will make your life so much easier as your build your business and have thousand of items to track.

What kind of tracking system do you use? How do you find your items when they sell? What tips do you have that would help others with their eBay businesses?  Comment below!