How Does Inventory Get Ordered and Stocked in a Modern Retail Store?
Computer programs are largely responsible for stocking and replenishing stores. Corporate administrators plug in certain store capacities for items, and the computer program fulfills that store or shelf capacity. Items that re-stock in this manner are called "self-replenishing" merchandise. Over the years, numerous innovations have improved the accuracy with which store managers can order and replace merchandise, and this improved accuracy ideally leads to less "dead" merchandise and higher store profits.
Have you ever wondered why the cashier at the register insists on scanning each different color of sports drink you buy instead of ringing one up and then multiplying it times the total? The answer is that cashiers are the end of the inventory chain; that is, each time they scan an item, it is deleted from the store's inventory. So, they are trained to scan the correct item, because different color drinks of the same brand often have different UPCs. If they habitually failed to scan all of the colors, the store would end up with a surplus of one color and a shortage of others when the inventory was replenished. This is the same reason why a cashier will be hesitant to take a price from a customer if an item is brought with no UPC on it. It isn't that the cashier doesn't trust the customer, but the fact that creating items to be sold without a UPC makes it impossible to delete and replenish inventory properly. If the process works ideally, however, goods are added in receiving, stocked by the sales associates, then removed by customers and deleted by cashiers. Technically, only theft and improper scanning can generate errors in the inventory.
Managers carefully check inventory to be sure that excess is not being ordered, and they often verify inventory numbers to be sure that they are correct. The store's stocking program has a given shelf capacity, that is, a certain number of an item that belongs on the shelf. If this number is exceeded, the item is normally put into an overstock category and brought back to the backroom to be added to the backroom inventory. Ideally, when the floor inventory gets low, the program triggers employees to replace it with the backroom inventory. All of this information appears on the store's stocking program. If you as a consumer cannot an item, the employee will look for the item's place on the sales floor and scan the UPC; this pulls up the inventory of the item. Thus, it allows the sales associate to quickly tell you whether or not the item exists. If it is hiding in the backroom somewhere, then the employee will be able to get you what you want in a few minutes.