Amazon Warehouse Inventory Management Kiva Robots

Inventory Management – Mix and Match

Dollar Flipper Process 18 Comments

Inventory management becomes more and more important as you grow your eBay business. In the beginning, a book shelf will do. This is not scalable, though, so if your business grows, you’re soon going to be dealing with piles! I’m going to expand on my previous inventory post to with some extra tips on how I manage my process.

A few months ago, I went into detail on my eBay process up to listing. I talked about how I store items, but there were some important details that I think I glossed over.

Just as a quick overview, when I’m researching an item and have decided that an item is worth listing, an inventory # is automatically assigned in my mega-spreadsheet. I record some pertinent information (title, brand, size, and a link to my research), and do a quick once-over on any issues with the item.

Amazon Warehouse Inventory Management Kiva Robots

Maybe I should get robots for my garage? Cost might outweigh my profits though…

The next step is to take detailed pictures and measurements, and then the item goes into storage.
There’s two things to note about the process so far:

1. Assign a number randomly. The # doesn’t matter at all. It’s just an identifier. You don’t need to worry about items being numbered together either. Sometimes it helps to do a bunch of photographs of similar items, but if they’re different, it’s not a big deal.

2. I store my items in tubs/bins. I wasn’t clear on how I select the tub that a current batch is going into. It’s not random, but it’s not scientific. I go into my storage area and look for a tub which has room in it. That’s it!

In general, I don’t try to store like items with other like items. I do have one tub for shoes, but other than that, most items get mix and matched. The reason that this is so helpful is that you can quickly and easily pick out the item you need.

For anyone who doesn’t believe me, store 12 pair of jeans (all wrapped in nice little plastic bags) in one tub, and then have fun finding that one pair! Sure, it’s nice when you’re putting the items in, but if you broke that up into a few tubs, it will make it significantly easier to find your item when you need it.

It’s all about risk reduction – what’s the risk that you grab the wrong pair of jeans (same brand slightly different size, like my fashion bug plus jeans). If you mess that up, you’re going to be paying a lot of shipping costs just to get the wrong pants back and the right pants to the buyer!

So the big tip here is to try to mix and match your items. It takes a little bit more effort up front, but it helps on the back end!

And if you don’t believe that this is a good method, maybe you should re-think. The biggest of the big inventory company does exactly this method.

Amazon! They fill totes and store them as they go using a mix and match policy. Even if they get a pallet of the same item, it will be sorted into different totes that go into different spaces across their warehouse. This lets their software know that when an item sales, an associate can go to the closest one instead of trekking across a warehouse. Talk about inventory optimization…

The one exception I have for this is easily identifiable similar items. I have some wood markers that are all different colors. Knowing they are in one spot does help. I guess the biggest difference here is that I have lots of different shirts or jeans that I have listed, so mixing those up makes sense. These markers are tiny, and I don’t want to them to get lost, so they are in their own bag within a tub.

Hopefully this tip helps you store some of your similar but different items in a way which helps for efficient gathering when you’re shipping! It’s helped me a lot,and I haven’t shipped an item to the wrong buyer yet. *CROSSES FINGERS*

Are you organized with your inventory?

Image Credit: designboom

Comments 18

  1. Yep, that’s exactly what I do. It is so much easier to find items this way. And things fit together better too. If you have larger items, then plenty of little items will fit into that same container..this way it saves on space too. But I do have one bin for shoes (until it gets full then I will be mixing and matching too) and one for Ties (I have a lot of them – but am rethinking the mix and match here too. I have them in category bags – like sports-nature, etc., but it still takes some time to go through them all to find the right one.)

    1. Post

      Yeah, I think that if you spread those category bags out it would help. That way you know that this type of ties is in one bin.

  2. l had to laugh at your statement that we all start out with just a shelf full of eBay items and then it spills over to (many) areas. I am currently storing in a mix of tubs with like items and hanging rods. It’s not working great and I am really intrigued by your method. I think I am going to do an overhaul of my inventory and give it a try. I don’t know if I will do all the spreadsheet stuff, that seems a little overwhelming, but a new system sure sounds nice.

    1. Post

      Always do incremental improvements. Youโ€™re not going to ever have a perfect system, so take the best from others and improve yours!

  3. My storage system is different but works wonderfully for me. The difference is that I keep things together that are similar. In my garage, I have a very large cupboard with 2 doors and four shelves. On the shelves are blue IKEA shopping bags that are labeled–“sweaters, jeans, men’s shirts etc.” I used to do the covered bins in the garage and this is SO much faster and efficient for me. I hated going through those bins! It was the part of selling I liked least. I just take down the bag and quickly find what I need. As my inventory grows, I can sub-divide my bags even more by sweater size, for example–large, medium, small. I don’t use an inventory number of any kind. And as it grows even more, I will buy another cupboard. Ideally, I would love an eBay room, but my small townhouse does not qualify.

    1. Post

      Those blue bags are awesome. So sturdy. We have a decent size townhome (3 floors, but bottom is half garage), but I store all my listed inventory in the garage to keep it out of the way. We have some industrial shelving I got on the cheap.

  4. One of my biggest fears is that I will ship the wrong item to someone, and their item to someone else. So far it hasn’t happened but it would really be a pain if it did. Thanks for sharing your system. Makes me want to revamp mine.

    1. Post

      Always do incremental improvements. You’re not going to ever have a perfect system, so take the best from others and improve yours!

  5. I sell mostly clothing. I have my boxes and bins going according to size ( that is my inventory control numbers). If a size 3x sold I go to the row of boxes that say 3X and look there. Now my T shirt are in boxes that say “T shirt”. Bra in a box that say “Bras”. We came up with this idea 7 yrs ago, when I was having a hard time trying to find stuff and how to organize it. I am able to find it quickly what I am looking for. Except, when I put it in the wrong size box. HA!

    1. Post

      LOL. I hate when I put an item in the wrong box. This is the reason that I write the Item # on the Thank You sticker.

  6. Unfortunately my items are in my living room. I live in a small one bedroom apartment. I plan on moving because I’m getting to the point where I need much more space.

    1. Post

      But think of all the money you’re saving having a 1 bedroom apartment! ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe you can try to find a small group of eBay sellers looking for space and rent somewhere?

  7. Hi Chris, as always, I am very interested in your system, and I have a few questions to ask. :^ ) Tell me if I am getting what you are putting down: you buy an item, you assign an item number (how do you organize that, how many digits? Where do you record this number? do you use chronological numbers/letters in sequence?) then you bag the item (what sort of bags do you use and where do you get them? Ziplocs? Dry cleaning, etc?) and later you record in your spreadsheet research links and measurements, correct? In my case, 90% of what I sell is GUC/EUC/New women’s clothing. I have my own spreadsheet with pages for items to be listed that I have acquired and haven’t been listed yet, a page for current listings, a page for sold items and one other page for items I have passed over to my eBay partner. I get overwhelmed with stuff sometimes, and we often shop together and anything she sells we split the profit 50/50 and no shipping annoyances for me!

    On my Items To Be Listed page, I record where I bought it, when, at what cost and item measurements. I recently had a bizarre glitch in my store with re-listing stuff and the entire description disappeared. Chris, you gave me the tip about recording those items in the spreadsheet and i am SO grateful!

    I do not assign item numbers, and I am confused about that. When items get listed, the info gets transferred from To List to Currently Listed in the spreadsheet. I have a series of tubs marked Sweaters/Jackets 1, 2, 3, etc. Shirts 1, 2, 3, etc, Pants and so on. I just record what bin I put them in. I also don’t put things in bags. It has been my experience that stuff stored in baggies can get seriously stinky as time passes. I haaaate having to open bags (a long time ago, I used to sell kids’ clothes and those I DID store in Ziplock baggies) to identify the item I am after – so I am using my system – I usually have around 400 items listed at a time (not right now because I am out of state taking care of my mom while she recovers from surgery). So i am wondering now whether I SHOULD be using some kind of number system. It is SO easy to send out the wrong item — my worst ever was selling 2 pairs of lime green little girl shoes to people in 2 different countries. The shoes were a half size different. You might have already guessed that I sent one of each size shoe to each customer! Yikes, disaster and SO expensive to correct!!

    Chris, you mentioned Goodwill outlet stores – I just recently found that we have one in town and MAN, it was something else!! Picture a warehouse filled with the biggest, deepest bins and table after table overflowing with random clothes, plus refrigerator sized cardboard boxes just jammed with assortments ranging from trash to treasure. When I was there, a group of people seemed to be camped out for the day, waiting for the next “dump” or bin to be set out – then they all dive in and start grabbing stuff at the same time. I only had two hours there, but I came home with 19 pairs of shoes โ€“ Keens, Merrells, Born, Jessica Simpson, Aasics, all top brands but you had to be willing to go through the mountains of ick to find matches. I didn’t spend as much time in the clothing, but some of the stuff bewildered me – why try to sell pants with the crotch ripped out? I did find some great brand bras – Chantelle, Wacoal. In the end, I paid 70 cents each for clothing items, and $40 total for 19 pairs of shoes. My hands WERE black when I got home, but gloves would have been a hindrance, IMO. I can’t wait to get home and go back. In the meantime, my To List page has jumped massively because Phoenix Goodwills have Dollar Days – where EVERYTHING with a particular color tag is just a buck! Amazing!!

    Take care, Dana ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Post

      I assign a number when I start doing research on an item. At that point, I just pull down a calculation cell which just adds 1 to the previous row’s cell. Right now, I’m in the 600’s but it’ll keep on growing. The letters correspond to tubs which I just choose based on how much room I need when I’m photographing/storing.

      I use plastic bags that I purchase from eBay, and ‘seal’ them with a Thank You sticker.

      The initial research and once over is the first pass of an item (item # assigned, info recorded, basic research done). This step is completely independent from when I’m photographing/storing. Those are the two touch points on the spreadsheet until I list an item. Splitting up these two tasks lets me move a big pile of things into a little bit more of an organized state, and then when I’m photographing/storing, I can do it at my own pace (usually 2-5 items at a time).

      Really glad that recording the info in a spreadsheet has helped. Next step for me would be to organize it in a flat file that I could import directly into eBay. I’m not there yet though!

      The bags just make me feel a little bit more professional, and since my items are stored in a garage (part of my townhome), I feel a little better having another barrier of protection. I haven’t gotten a complaint about stinky clothes, but I have had some of these stored for over a year. I try to be judicious about smells before I send though.

      Finally, the GWO. I need to do a trip. I’ll probably wear shoes, but if I do this, I might stay over in Baltimore and have a fun time of it. Do a couple of days, a big haul, and see what I can find at all the local thrift shops. Always fun to go somewhere different for a change of scenery!

      I love the long responses/questions/etc. They really help me try to figure out where I can improve my process, especially if I can’t justify something I’m doing. I don’t want to get stuck in a rut!

        1. Post

          I buy the bags on eBay. Link is in NY comment above and on my resources page. They are very great and I haven’t ever had issues with them! They don’t seal by themselves but they have that nice flap on the one side.

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