Stocktaking can cause pain for many businesses. If you’ve already covered off your sales process, your ordering process and your credit handling process, you’re now ready to deal with the issue of counting stock. The desired result is accuracy as opposed to just getting through the process.

In the past, I have participated in several stocktakes, and after one hour, you may suffer from brain fade, and you just want to get through it. We wish to avoid brain fade creeping in when we’re counting stock, because the whole point is to get an accurate count. Planning your stock take so that staff don’t get fatigued is just as important as the process.

Before we begin counting stock, it’s essential to understand how your point of sale (POS) system works, because this may create errors in the count you won’t be aware of. For example, how does your point of sale system handle time and concurrent events?

Consider being out in the store, when counting stock during a quiet period, and you’ve’ counted a hundred items that are fast moving. Assume during the count customers buy twenty of them. Will your POS stock taking process track and adjust for this ?

  • 9:02am counted 100.
  • 9:12am customers buy 20.
  • 9:30am update stock on hand in POS is it 80 or 100?

Some POS systems will update 100 others 80, the correct answer is 80. Does your point of sale (POS) system keep track of time? If you’re using a personal stock take unit (PSU) or a phone app or manual sheets? Is the POS tracking the count time, or is it linked to the system and managing concurrent events in real time so it’s instant (i.e. not batching till sales to a server)?

Unfortunately, if you don’t have a sophisticated system, you need to manage this issue. I’m not saying change POS systems, though it might be an idea to look at alternatives if you have other issues. One solution is to count high moving lines after hours or more importantly, once you’ve completed the count of a section (i.e. department, gondola, wall etc.). Run a sales report during that time period and see what stock has sold. Then you can recheck those items after hours. It’s not ideal, but the critical point is to work with what you’ve got and understand how your system works.

Break up the stocktaking count process into bursts. Don’t try to do it all in one marathon session, if you can avoid it. This way, the data will be more accurate, but more importantly, make sure that it’s done with a plan, counting sections, departments or shelves over a number of days. I’ve seen some staff work in teams, where one counts and the other updates the PSU, they say the process is faster and more accurate. Either way experiment and find out what works best for you and your team.


It’s good practice to run a negative stock report every day. The negative stock report shows errors such as bad or multiple incorrect barcode links, duplicate product entries, poor order processing and finally bad counting processes. When you run the negative stock report, think about why the products have appeared on the report as opposed to just fixing the issue.

The whole point of stocktaking and having control is getting it right to obtain future benefits, so when you’re running stock on hand and stock analysis reports the information is credible. Further automated ordering systems rely on an accurate stock take. An effective stock taking process should include the following as a minimum;

  • Understand how your POS updates stock take data.
  • Create procedures that work for your POS.
  • Create a plan with small bursts.
  • Run negative stock daily.
  • Find cause of the errors.
  • Use the information and build trust in the processes.

If you’re struggling with your POS and need help, you may benefit from our consulting services to get you back on track, contact us.