While Walmart is frequently maligned over many issues -- rapacious capitalism, ruthless bargaining that cuts margins for small manufacturers, and low pay to name a few -- it's hard to ignore the sheer sophistication of their operations. But the road to streamlining Walmart's operation wasn't smooth.
Here are three problems they encountered, and what you can learn from their journey:
1. Inventory Control + Mismanagement = Empty Shelves
In 2013, Walmart was losing money over the same issue every retailer has to deal with, inventory control. Their stock room was a disorganized mess, shelves with fast-moving goods were empty, and they had huge stocks of goods they couldn't move taking up space, collecting dust, and sucking up worker time. After $3 billion in lost sales -- one percent of their $300 billion annual revenue -- company executives knew they had to make changes.
Walmart needed a comprehensive, item-specific inventory control program, and if you're a retailer, you need one, too. An inFlow Inventory survey found that 41 percent of small businesses are using Excel or Access spreadsheets to track inventory, and 32 percent are using pen and paper. Some have no inventory system at all. Considering the options available today, those numbers are astounding.
How do you solve this problem on a small business budget? Even though your business may not have billions in profits to build enterprise software, or the same giant network of stores and suppliers, you can get the same quality of control over your inventory and realize significant savings with a third-party system.
With a solid inventory system, you'll know what's in stock, what's selling fast, and what's not moving. You can track trends and plan ahead by predicting when you're likely to run out of popular items. Savvy retailers turn to SaaS inventory management systems like InFlow to get all the features of a custom enterprise system with a much smaller price tag.