As a retail store owner, you’ve likely put a lot of thought into designing your store layout, but what about your stockroom?
Even though your stockroom isn’t visible to customers, proper layout and organization is just as important as your sales floor.
Why? Because the way it’s organized can affect both the quality of your customer service and the efficiency of your inventory management system.
Here’s how you can get started.
Steps to organizing your stockroom:
How do you organize a stockroom?
1. Choose the right stockroom layout
The size of your stockroom will limit what you can and can’t do when it comes to arranging your products.
If you have a large, open warehouse-style backroom, the sky's the limit. If you have a smaller segmented stockroom, you may have to get creative with shelving and off-site storage units.
Regardless, Tip #1 is determine your operational workflow for optimal stockroom usage. Think about your answer to these questions:
- How often do I go into my stockroom?
- When I go to the stockroom, how long does it take me to find what I’m looking for?
- Do I use the stockroom for packing and shipping and other functions or simply for storage?
- What is my ideal stockroom layout? What’s keeping me from achieving it?
By taking time to answer these questions, you may find that the stockroom you currently have isn’t suiting your needs at all. A complete rearrangement may enable quicker and easier access to products you use all the time when assisting customers. Or maybe your stockroom is visited less frequently, only for product restocking and inventory audits.
Either way, the stockroom should be working with you, not against you. And by simply sketching out your ideal stockroom as a labeled floor plan, you may see ways you can rearrange things to improve its flow.
In the same way you have a dedicated store layout to encourage customers to walk certain ways and engage with your products, take time to create a stockroom layout. You potentially can enhance store performance simply by rearranging product shelving and storage.
Mirroring your store product groupings with your stockroom shelving may cut hours off of restocking time. Additionally, moving everything that is not inventory off of primary, free-standing shelf space and onto secondary, wall-mounted shelf space may improve your packing efficiency and reduce time spent looking for different items that previously were homeless.
We’ve created these layouts that work symbiotically. They demonstrate the way a stockroom and storeroom should work together to help improve your workflow.
Store Layout Example
Stockroom Layout Example
Things you should consider when determining your stockroom layout include:
- Frequency: how often you use it and need to access it
- Size: where to place large versus small products for accessibility without damage or disruption
- Groupings: what products fit in a natural category and should be placed nearby
- Naming: establishing a naming convention for labels for aisles, bins, boxes and parts
- Order: organize items alphabetically or with some other cataloging system
Finally, think about using vertical space. For smaller stockrooms, vertical shelving units and a rolling ladder can transform your space. Also, try to keep the stockroom as open as possible by using small aisles instead of large ones.
2. Set up stockroom guidelines
Once you’ve established the type of layout you’d like for your stockroom, it’s important to ensure you and your team can properly utilize the structure and maintain it. Tip #2 is investing the time to document your processes for all operations that take place in the stockroom.
There are many ways to go about process documentation, but as a rule, your documentation needs to be simple enough for a trainee to use and readily available for all users. Start by creating a prioritized list of every function you and your staff perform in the stockroom.
Some of the most common stockroom functions for stores include:
- Inventory audits and cycle counting
- Vendor merchandise management
- Store restocking and seasonal rearranging
- Stockroom shelving management
- Quality assurance and safety
- Product shipments and delivery management
- Packaging and supplies organization
Then begin capturing the steps required to complete each process or task, using process maps, checklists, tutorials, forms, images, and videos.
For store owners busy with a thousand other things required to run their business, taking the time to map out processes may seem like a low priority. But by doing so, you’re saving time when you go into the stockroom to access a material or product. Plus, with team-wide adoption, efficiency gains multiply and stockroom organization can be maintained on an ongoing basis.
Finally, think about ways signage and placards can assist with locating products and materials. Be strategic about where you use labels and what you put on them. Keep it intuitive, simple, and not too wordy.
3. Invest in storage units and shelving
Part of what makes a successful stockroom is the way storage supports your workflow. Depending on your space and your style, standard wire shelving may be ideal or bespoke solutions may work better.
For stores that want to store lots of small parts and pieces in a stylish way, check out the hashtag #haberdashery on Instagram for a collection of ideas on how to achieve a storage style originating from the British term for sewing notions like buttons, zippers, and thread. This is a storage style that has swept the interior design world with its quaint, naturalistic, and almost apothecary vibe.
London store The Old Haberdashery achieves this look with its crowded yet pristinely categorical store arrangement. Sharing pictures of its stockroom and store displays on its social media is a key part of its brand and proves that stockroom workflow is not one size fits all.
There are several ways to go about selecting the right solution for stores that need something less standardized. It can be a balancing act to determine what makes the most sense for your space and your workflow as well as your budget and your stockroom growth.
Tall shelving racks
This is the most common type of shelving that allows a narrow aisle between racks. By utilizing vertical space, you can stack shelving to maximize your upward square footage.
Once in place, decide what items need to be at ground level versus out of reach. This type of shelving is the simplest to acquire, the easiest to assemble, and the most affordable, and is great for small to medium retailers.
Keep in mind, the keys to efficient vertical racking are small aisle spaces and organization.
High-density mobile shelving
Another innovative solution to save storage space and create a more efficient stockroom is mobile shelving. One of the advantages of mobile shelving is the ability to create and condense aisles. This can be as simple as wire shelves on wheels.
Other commercial options are installed on tracks. This type of mobile shelving can be compacted into pods or groups by turning a handle or (if automated) by pushing a button. This reduces storage floor space by 50%.
Stockroom second level or mezzanine
For warehouse-scale storage solutions, consider adding a second level platform to your stockroom, known as a stockroom mezzanine. These are often freestanding and can be customized for your space, and they are a great option for stores considering a costly relocation or additional warehouse rental due to space constraints.
Modular options for shelving
Lastly, modular options for shelving fall under the organization category of stockroom storage. But there are lots of ways you can categorize and bin products to create a streamlined stockroom. Shelf bin organizers come in all shapes and sizes. These types of solutions work well with label systems and other categorical methods of storage.
When it comes to executing your stockroom design, choose shelving that’s going to be flexible and can grow with your business. Consider all parts of your business, from seasonality to shipping and delivery. What types of storage systems are going to work best for your store year-round and long term?
4. Hold a stockroom organization day with your staff
When the day arrives for you to overhaul your stockroom, have an organization day where you involve your team in the process of stockroom reorganization. Order food, pay overtime, and make it a fun environment.
Adoption and change management may seem like lofty corporate initiatives, but they need to be on the radar of every retailer when implementing significant stockroom changes.
If your stockroom redesign comes with additional business process changes—which it might, if you follow Tip #2—then adaptation will be necessary. And in many cases, this means resistance will follow.
So, involve the people that are going to be participating in carrying out the new processes daily. In fact, empower them to make workflow suggestions, optimizations, and improvements during the stockroom redesign phase.
Garner your team’s approval and endorsement before announcing a major stockroom overhaul. And brush up on important change model principles, like Jeffrey Hiatt’s ADKAR (Adoption, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement), a five-phased framework for successfully navigating business changes.
5. Set up warehouse KPIs
This edges more into inventory and warehouse management best practices, but stockroom and inventory are intrinsically connected. The way you manage your stockroom directly impacts the knowledge of your stock and product inventory.
Do you have inventory management systems in place? If not, setting up these systems is a step to take prior to setting up your stockroom. Your stockroom workflow should be influenced by how you intake merchandise, unpack and shelve, label and organize, input into your POS, and ultimately sell and restock products.
Stockroom key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics should layer in with your existing inventory management goals and metrics. Tracking where you stock items in your stockroom is one way to add stockroom visibility to your existing inventory data.
There are lots of options for developing a stock tracking procedure. Through techniques like SKU mapping, bar codes, color coding, or RFID technology, you can prevent overstock or forgotten or lost stock, and gain valuable insights into how your stockroom is performing for your business.
Evaluate a POS like Shopify POS that can integrate this type of inventory and stockroom management tracking into one system. Stores have a better chance of knowing what data is most valuable if it's easily accessible and stored all in one place.
6. Assign your team members stockroom responsibilities
For your stockroom to be maintained, it’s important to create and assign responsibilities to your store’s team. Involve staff and encourage team adoption. This is a critical component to the ongoing success of stockroom management.
Whether this means hiring a dedicated stockroom assistant or dividing tasks among your existing team, regular stockroom maintenance avoids massive overhauls and reorganizations at the end of a quarter or year. Plus, a well-maintained stockroom helps retailers avoid excess stock, increase storage space, and improve efficiency and accuracy when it comes to inventory management.
Some of the ongoing tasks we recommend assigning for stockroom maintenance include:
- Organizing bags and packing materials
- Taking stock of incoming supplies and materials
- Performing weekly inventory checks and counts
- Entering stockroom data into POS software
- Ensuring accurate placement of products and doing shelving checks
- Managing stockroom procedures and ensuring compliance among the team
- Receiving vendor goods and processing them into inventory
- Overseeing customer deliveries and shipments
- Running weekly KPI reports and presenting to team
These types of responsibilities will enable your store to run more smoothly and set you up for success when it comes to organizing and maintaining a stockroom. Without a person or group of people devoted to executing these daily tasks, your stockroom can quickly become a mess of materials, papers, products and boxes.
Think about setting up incentives for your team to meet stockroom goals. Whether it’s additional bonus opportunities or a simple paid-for company outing or lunch, reward your team for taking on additional responsibilities and achieving your goals.
7. Keep it clean
Easy, right? Once you have invested time, energy, resources, and money into achieving a more streamlined stockroom, the challenge is to keep it clean and organized. Involving your team in regular audits and process changes is a great way to keep your stockroom operations evolving and improving.
Reinforcement is key to sustaining change, as we learned with the ADKAR model, above, so continue to have training and stockroom management meetings to make sure your team is up to speed on what’s required.
Finally, consider this
Stockrooms are not static. They are highly dynamic places with lots of moving parts and pieces. Think about ways you can create empty spaces for inventory swells and business growth to avoid overcrowding and pile ups.
For inspiration on how to keep your stockroom in tip-top shape, check out this New York store that runs its multi-location business and complex inventory management program with Shopify POS.