We’re Off to Inventory!

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- June 29th, 2018

I’m afraid I ran out of time to write a very thoughtful blog this week. Between catching up from being at Children’s Institute and prepping for our annual overnight inventory on Sunday night, things got a little tight. So I thought this week I would just give you all a little window into some of the prep that goes into putting on an operation like inventory at a store like ours.

Store 2 books counted and marked “Do not scan.”

Now that we have a bookfair warehouse and a separate POS system, that inventory needed to be taken into account differently this year. We obviously return a lot from the season, but we do keep books that we absolutely know we’ll need again come September (why pay shipping on books we’re just going to re-order?). So earlier this week, Ellen Greene and Rachel McGinnis from our bookfair team worked to get those books counted and reconciled. Meanwhile, teams of inventory managers and buyers and receivers at the store have been working hard to make sure everything we have in the store is clearly sorted so that our scanning team knows what needs to be scanned and what does not. We technically have a separate “store” in our point of sale system just for large festivals and conferences, so those books need to be kept separate and not scanned with the rest. Of course, they do need to be counted, so I personally spent much of the week counting, sorting, and tracking down those discrepancies. Booksellers have been diligently alphabetizing, and our inventory managers for each section have amped up their regular cycle counts—scanning sections and running discrepancies in advance of inventory to make our job just a little easier. On Sunday, one of our longtime booksellers will also pull out and alphabetize into baskets some kids sections that can’t really be alphabetized normally, like early readers, coloring books, 8x8s, etc. (really books that are shelved in waterfalls and spinners). We also do a turn around the section and pull out any display copies that aren’t in inventory—books we put out to show off the insides of easily damaged books that normally live in shrink wrap. And then we’re as ready as we’ll ever be!

Some of our inventory managers’ section counts in progress.

Sunday night we will close down 5 hours early, at 6 PM, so that our scanning team of 42 staff members can arrive and get to work (with carefully marked scanning maps in hand). Sometime between 11 PM and 12 AM, I and the other members of our 17 person discrepancy team will get a call that the report is running, and we can head to the store. Then the fun of tracking down all those pesky errors starts. And it’s not just books. We have to dig into the greeting cards, socks, candy, finger hands, pocket charms, and all the rest of the tiny gift items we have scattered around the store. We are pretty much always able to wrap up before we open, with just a few straggling tasks generally still in process (did I mention we track down all the gift items?). Then we all stumble out into the daylight as our openers are taking over, and everything starts again—as close to perfect as we can realistically get things in the middle of the night.

The big secret? I actually like it. Not everyone I’ve talked to about this in my very informal survey necessarily agrees with me, but I find the process of putting everything in order, circling each number, and checking off each section kind of satisfying. See you on the other side …

Oh we’re off to inventory

With smiles upon our faces! 

We’re laughing o’er our scanners,

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

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