Under increasing pressure to make the most of physical stores, many retailers have understandably put the spotlight on the sales floor. However, when trying to deliver a seamless in-store experience, it’s just as important to ensure your stockroom is working as efficiently as possible.
In fact, consumers consistently rank greater convenience and a wider selection as two of their top reasons to shop online. Maximising your stockroom space can help combat these advantages by allowing more products to be stocked instore and by cutting down on waiting times through improved stockroom productivity.
What’s more, in our experience, most retailers can benefit from a surprisingly similar set of easy to implement changes. The following tips therefore describe some of the methods we’ve utilised time and again to maximise storage space and help stockrooms perform better
Use the right metrics
The first thing to consider when attempting to improve the storage facilities of any business is how you’ll quantify success. What success looks like will vary enormously depending on the nature of your business. Larger operations, with complex seasonal stock changes and a huge variety of products, may value flexibility and accessibility over capacity, while smaller operations may simply require maximum storage density.
As in almost every other area of business, finding the right metrics for your stockroom will help you make informed decisions. The key is to understand your inventory: Is it varied? How quickly does it move? Which are your most popular items? Which items hang around the longest? Answering such questions will help optimise stock management and dictate the layout of your stockroom, which can in turn result in massive space savings.
There are a wide range of metrics to choose from, so it’s worth experimenting to find those that work best for your stockroom. Two of our favourites are: inventory turnover and days of supply. Products with low turnover take up space but may be struggling to sell, ridding yourself of such goods will free up extra space if you need capacity for faster-moving items. Days of supply will enable timely reordering, which should prevent overstocking. Overstocked items reduce available space and can cause immense disruption in smaller storage areas.
Sales per square foot could be a good indicator of space available per items sold.
Fundamentally, a better understanding of your inventory should greatly improve your stockroom by supporting more effective inventory management, meaning stockrooms won’t be oversupplied, staff will spend less time looking for goods and overall supply chain practices will be leaner and less wasteful.
Consider your storage space
Armed with a thorough understanding of your inventory, the next step is to apply this knowledge in the organisation of your space. When considering storage space, it’s never a bad idea to turn to the wisdom of warehousing. Warehousing is essentially the art of storing items effectively, comprising a wealth of concepts and techniques that can be usefully applied to storage facilities of all kinds.
In stockrooms, the emphasis is usually on storage capacity, with businesses happy to pay out vast sums for equipment that delivers small capacity gains. In their hurry, retailers too often ignore one magnificently useful warehousing concept: space utilisation. Utilisation describes the proportion of your space that is actually being used, as opposed to the amount of space that’s theoretically available. By thinking about how space is allotted to various products, space utilisation can often be dramatically increased at little or no cost.
For example, imagine your stockroom contains a shelving unit with five shelves, each with a height of 40cm for a total height of 200cm. In other areas you are storing 20cm high boxes, which works perfectly, but in this case you are hoping to store 30cm high boxes. If you decide to keep the same shelving configuration, you will be losing 10cm for every shelf, resulting in only 80 per cent space utilisation. A simple reconfiguration to 30cm shelf heights would increase your utilisation to 90 per cent.
The above is an unsophisticated example, but imagine the loss of space you could be experiencing across an entire stockroom if you choose to ignore its simple lesson: adapt your space to your inventory. A continual focus on utilisation rather than capacity should raise a whole host of questions: Does your product require such wide aisles? Do your shelves need to be so thick? Would storage bins be more efficient?
Rethink your storage units
One of the most powerful methods to improve space utilisation is to ensure you’re using the right storage units for your goods. Today there’s an endless array of storage options, and it’s always worth investigating whether a specialised solution could help maximise your space.
As mentioned above, if you stock a number of smaller items or components, consider whether bin shelving might help you to keep these organised. Alternatively, if you’re relying on folded garment storage, take a look at garment hanging bays, which may improve accessibility as well as boost utilisation.
At the very least, make the most of fully adjustable shelving systems, which will allow you to reconfigure shelving levels to deliver maximum space utilisation. Many of these units are also modular, meaning that garment hanging rails, bin shelving and regular shelving can all be combined in a single adjustable unit.
The final option is to examine the possibility of installing a mobile shelving system. Mobile systems are usually significantly more expensive, so it’s important to ensure you’ve already achieved reasonable utilisation. If your stockroom still seems full beyond capacity, mobile systems can offer capacity increases up to an incredible 95 per cent compared with a static shelving alternative. Greater capacity will provide more room for staff to effectively organise goods, restoring order to your stockroom and improving the efficiency of stockroom tasks.
Make the most of vertical space
A lack of space is commonly the root cause of a disorderly and inefficient stockroom. It’s therefore vital to ensure that storage areas are maximised vertically. A huge number of businesses, especially smaller enterprises, fail to consider vertical space because there appears to be enough room for their current stock. However, a change in your inventory or even welcomed growth may fill a stockroom sooner than expected.
It can feel like an enormous waste of time and money to replace shelving with taller units later on. On top of this, in the hustle and bustle of daily activities, it’s very difficult to find the time for stockroom improvements, and this may lead to wasteful or even dangerous workarounds. Make sure you install the tallest possible storage units from the start to avoid this headache.