March '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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20 1 5 M A RC H PRINTWEAR | 97 2. CUT YOUR LOSSES Getting rid of inventory can feel like you're throwing away money, which you are in a way. However, you have to do it. If you haven't sold those pink-and-orange T-shirts in the past three years, you prob- ably won't this year. Take your old shirts, hats, samples, misprints, and odd colors and give them to charity. Dispose of anything that's ex- pired and put together everything that's questionable. If you aren't sure if some- thing is expired, do you want to risk put- ting it in your machine or giving it to a customer? Now is also the time to break some bad habits. While you determine which con- sumable goods are a loss, consider some bad habits you can get rid of, as well. Did you notice that a lot of your boxes had next-day shipping labels on them? Maybe it's time to start ordering supplies sooner or adjust the timeline you give customers. Do you consistently have too many hats when you fulfill an order? Maybe you should adjust your overage buying. No matter what trends, junk, and odd items you find, accept that this is a time when you are starting fresh again. Cut your losses, so you can be ready for the next step in optimizing your inventory. 3. ORGANIZE YOUR SPACE How many of us organize inventory in brown boxes? How many shirts are in boxes? Do you even know what styles, colors, or sizes are in there? How many items have been ruined because of mois- ture or improper storage? I recently reorganized my garage and spent at least three or four hours going through brown moving boxes with a sur- prise in each one. The problem was that they were in a pile of boxes. I couldn't see in them and eventually forgot what was inside. I've been in enough apparel shops to know that just about everyone has some mystery brown boxes stacked somewhere. To help solve this problem, invest in some good shelving and containers. You can often find these cheap online through forums, Craigslist, eBay, or large packaging companies. Drawers, clear containers, racks, and shelves are a well- kept inventory's best friend. Remember that this is supposed to make everyone's job easier; it will pay off in the long run. Consider the conditions of your space when picking your new inventory stor- age system. If you're storing inventory in a humid garage, it's probably best to work with air-tight containers and humidi- ty control. Is it OK if the item freezes? Could you move those temperature-sen- sitive items to another place? Generally, you should keep all of your consumables in one area, but that isn't always the best scenario when working with items of varying size and storage requirements. Finally, think about the scalability of your storage. If your business were to double over the next six months, how would you manage this area? What will you do to prevent your hard work from turning into another mess? Part of this is the next, and perhaps, most important step in managing your consumables. 4. IMPLEMENT A SYSTEM You have to keep track of your consum- able inventory in the apparel business. There are too many variables: colors, siz- es, styles, types, chemicals, inks, threads, rhinestones, and so much more. Even if you operate a single embroidery machine or direct-to-garment printer, inventory can quickly get out of hand when you don't have a management system. So what do you do? I would first start with what I wouldn't do. I wouldn't write it down or put it in an Excel spreadsheet. Both methods seem simple and are better than noth- ing, but you are starting anew here, so do it right. The problem with written inventory is that it isn't searchable and hard to back up. The more you use it, the more the paper wears. By the end of the year, you'll have a dog-eared yel- low pad with scratches, lines, and eraser marks everywhere. The next upgrade is spreadsheet soft- ware, but that can easily be compro- mised. Literally, a simple slip of the finger can alter an inventory count, and you might never notice. Spreadsheet software doesn't keep a running history of every change, nor is it designed for that purpose. Instead, start with software that has a built-in inventory management tool. If

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