Sunday, September 29, 2013

Inventory vs. Stock

In my entrepreneurial quest to redefine how shelf stock levels are managed, I'm coming into a rather interesting dilemma in choice of words to use in the English language.  Generally, I am using "stock" to define items on a shelf for sale and "inventory" for items that will be for sale, but are not yet customer facing (ie... in the stockroom!?!, on a truck being delivered to a store, etc.).

As an example, if something is "out-of'stock" what does that mean to you?  According to its general definition, it means the store no longer has that item available for sale.  However, what is it called when the customer facing shelf is empty with the item you want to buy but the stock room is full of that item?  In the this article about Walmart's inability to keep its shelves full with goods, they refer to it as "out-of-stocks".  You see the confusion?  They have goods in the back stockroom, but the goods are not on the shelves for sale.  Do those of you in retail have different words for these two issues, because I'm not able to find a clear separation between them.  I've seen somebody refer to missing items on shelves as "stock gaps" but I don't see it being used anywhere else.

For the solution I'm working on, I'm only concerned with fixing the gap that the customer sees.  "Stock gaps" or "out of stocks" or whatever you want to call them, is what I'm trying to fix.  I am not (yet) trying to make my own inventory management system, as there are a plethora already out there (albeit most of them are horrid and have poor usability and data analytics).  So, in the meantime, I'm focusing on stock levels, not inventory levels, if that makes any sense at all.

In the VMI world, the two words stock and inventory are almost used interchangeably, making it even more confusing and even more difficult for me to articulate the problem I'm trying to solve.  Maybe the specific words or meanings exist and I just don't know them, if so, I'd like to hear them so I can use the proper words in describing what I'm trying to solve. Anybody?

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