February '16

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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22 || P R I N T W E A R F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 6 Jennifer Cox is the president and co-founder of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), a professional organization for apparel decoration busi- ness owners. NNEP supports the success of NNEP mem- bers with best practices, ideas, sources, solutions, vol- ume-buying benefits, and services. Cox was recognized as a Top 50 Small Business Influencer and Community Choice STITCH SOLUTIONS B Y J E N N I F E R C O X Leader by Small Biz Trends in 2013, is recognized as one of the industry's "Most Creative Thinkers," and repeatedly ranks in the top 40 on the industry's "Power List." Reach her at or go to M anaging your blank inventory is an ongoing process, no matter how small or large your embroidery or apparel decoration business is. You need to know what you have in order to sell it and avoid duplicates that tie up your cash flow. Home-based businesses have different inventory issues than retail businesses, but in either scenario, mismanaged inventory is frustrat- ing and expensive. To start 2016 off fresh, here are some things to consider to help you master the inventory process. JUST IN CASE One of the most common mistakes made by embroidery business owners is to order "one more, just in case," nearly every time inven- tory is purchased. As a new embroidery professional, it is easy to develop this mindset. You recognize the fact that you will make mis- takes and you are trying to be proactive and prepare for this possibil- ity. While this is good in theory, in real life, it turns into an expensive and challenging situation, particu- larly if you are working with sized apparel. Here are the decision points to measure before you order any more "just in case" inventory. Will you be able to get more inventory if necessary? At cer- tain times of the year, such as the fourth quarter, inventory does run low and it is a real possibility that you may not be able to get more if something happens to an item in the decoration process. Is it worth it? You will pay a pre- mium to order one more item, as you will have to eat the shipping and handling on that single piece, which reduces the profits you earn on that order. On the other hand, if no mishaps occur, you have not tied up any money in extra and unused inventory. If the order is for products that you know will sell at some point soon, bringing in ex- tra inventory is a low risk use of your money. For example, golf shirts in core colors from your most commonly sold brand can be turned over without much effort. Conversely, if the order is for jackets that you have never sold to any other customer, bringing in extra jackets could be an expensive move, as they may end up sitting around for quite a long time. Do you have the time? If you are running an order with a tight turnaround, what would happen if the machine ate the last prod- uct? If you would cause hardship for your customer, that is a fac- tor to consider. Finishing an order the day before a company golf outing gives you no cushion if something goes wrong. If the cus- tomer has given you no time, that is one thing. If the tight timing is a result of your scheduling, you may want to consider building a cushion into your scheduling to prevent a crisis of this nature going forward. We learned that scheduling orders to be complet- ed at least two days before their due dates made all the difference in the world. This gave us enough wiggle room that we never missed a deadline because of an inven- tory mishap. I KNOW I HAVE THAT HERE SOMEWHERE The next major issue with inven- tory is knowing exactly what you have and where it is. It's easy to misplace goods or spend time search- ing for a specific item only for it to turn up after the job is complete. Even with a somewhat organized system, you can spend time look- ing for products. To help combat this seemingly never-ending pro- cess, here are some ideas to consider so that you do not find yourself losing time or money on hidden inventory. Develop an inventory tracking tool of some sort. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet where you enter the supplier's name, the item How to Control Your Inventory

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