What is inventory management?

Inventory management definition

As a part of your supply chain, inventory management includes aspects such as controlling and overseeing purchases — from suppliers as well as customers — maintaining the storage of stock, controlling the amount of product for sale, and order fulfilment.

Naturally, your company’s precise inventory management meaning will vary based on the types of products you sell and the channels you sell them through. But as long as those basic ingredients are present, you’ll have a solid foundation to build upon.

Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) often use Excel, Google Sheets, or other manual tools to keep track of inventory databases and make decisions about ordering.

With these systems, the procedures of inventory management extend beyond basic reordering and stock monitoring to encompass everything from end-to-end production and business management to lead time and demand forecasting to metrics, reports, and even accounting.

Retail inventory management

Retail is the broadest catch-all term to describe business-to-consumer (B2C) selling. There are essentially two types of retail separated by how and where a sale takes place.

  • First, online retail (eCommerce) where the purchase takes place digitally.
  • Second, offline retail where the purchase is physical through a brick-and-mortar storefront or a salesperson.

Wholesale, on the other hand, refers to business-to-business (B2B) selling. Knowing the differences and best practices of retail and wholesale is critical to success.

Most businesses maintain stock across multiple channels as well as in multiple locations. The diversity of retail inventory management adds to its complexity and drives home its importance to your brand.