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Avoiding Excess Inventory in SMEs: A Comprehensive Guide

1.0. Introduction

1.1. Why Avoiding Excess Inventory Management Matters for Small Businesses

For Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), keeping the right amount of stock is crucial. Avoiding excess inventory helps them have the right products on hand. It is not about storage—it is about thoughtful business planning.

1.2. Finding the Right Balance: Stock Too Much or Too Little?

Think of a tightrope walker balancing on a rope. On one side, having too few products can mean missed sales. On the other, too many products can cost extra money. For SMEs, finding that balance is the secret to steady profits.

1.3. The Hidden Price of Overstocking

We all see the problems of not having enough—lost sales and unhappy customers. But having too much inventory can have hidden costs, too, from expensive storage to outdated products. For SMEs, managing inventory right can make or break their success.

2.0. Uncovering the Real Costs of Excess Inventory

2.1. The Price of Storing More

Storing more than needed quickly drains an SME’s wallet:

  •  Rent: More products need more space, raising monthly costs.
  •  Utilities & Upkeep: Bigger storage increases electricity and maintenance expenses.
  •  Security: More stock means spending more on safety measures.

2.2. Money Stuck in Unsold Items

When money is in products sitting around, businesses miss growth opportunities:

  • Missed Chances: Funds stuck in unused inventory are unavailable for promising ventures.
  •  Cash Flow Hiccups: SMEs may face financial trouble when they have too many unsold goods.

2.3. The Risk of Outdated or Spoiled Goods

Products do not last forever. Over time, they can either spoil or become old news:

  •  Wear and Tear: Items can degrade over time, making them harder to sell.
  •  Tech Getting Old: In a fast-paced world, tech products age quickly. Selling outdated items often means offering significant discounts.

2.4. Insurance and Theft Worries

An enormous stockpile is not just about space—it brings added risks:

  •  Theft Concerns: More inventory, precious ones, can be tempting for thieves.
  •  Insurance Costs: Insuring a more extensive inventory means pricier premiums.

2.5. Extra Labor and Handling Charges

Managing extra stock eats into both time and money:

  •  Moving Costs: Excess inventory often needs re-arranging, adding to managing expenses.
  •  Employee Time: Staff spend extra hours sorting out the surplus, keeping them from more profitable tasks.

By grasping these costs, SMEs can make smarter Inventory Management choices. This lets them put their money where it makes the most impact.

3.0. How Excess Inventory Affects Business

3.1. Overlooking Best Sellers

Too much stock makes it challenging for SMEs to spot their top-selling items, known as ‘cash cows’. These products fuel profit and should be central to Inventory Management. An overflowing stockroom means:

  •  A focus on selling slow items, overlooking top sellers.
  •  Struggles to maintain the correct number of best sellers, missing sales.
  •  Misread sales data, leading to wrong demand estimates.

3.2. Missing Out on Trends

Markets shift, and tastes change. A backlog of inventory holds SMEs back:

  •  Old stock ties up funds, missing fresh market trends.
  •  Stagnant inventory slows down the introduction of trendy products.
  •  Clearance sales of old items might overshadow the promotion of newer, more lucrative ones.

3.3. Slowing Down Business Agility

For SMEs, being nimble is critical, especially in unpredictable markets. Too much stock slows things down:

  •  Decision Delays: Big moves, like launching a new product, are on hold to clear old stock.
  •  Resource Drain: Too much time and money go into managing the backlog, neglecting growth opportunities.
  •  Operational Hitches: Juggling too much stock complicates everything from storage to delivery. This worsens the customer experience.

Inventory Management impacts more than just storage. When mismanaged, it can weaken an SME’s efficiency and adaptability. Proper stock control is not just about saving money—it is central to growing and maintaining a successful business.

4.0. Steps to Avoiding Excess Inventory for Business Wins

4.1. Why Regular Stock Checks Matter

Regular stock checks help SMEs stay on top of inventory, always ensuring the right amount of stock.

Stock Check Benefits:

  • – Accuracy: Regular audits synchronise recorded inventory with actual stock.
  • – Financial Clarity means more transparent financial statements for more intelligent decisions.
  • – Avoiding Losses: Spotting issues early prevents revenue slip-ups.

Tech for Better Tracking:

  • – Advanced Inventory Management tools automate tracking, cutting errors and offering rich insights.
  • – Tools like RFID tags and scanners speed up audits, giving stock updates.

4.2. Predicting Stock Needs Smartly

Forecasting demand right means SMEs can meet customer needs without slowing stockpiles down.

Learning from Past Sales:

  • – Old sales data reveals patterns. Seasonal sales, growth over time, and past promotions hint at future demand.

Staying Tuned to Market Shifts:

  • – External events, like industry news or economic swings, can affect demand. SMEs need to keep an ear out to adjust stock.
  • – Knowing the difficulties, whether from holidays or industry cycles, helps in stocking just enough.

4.3. Trying the Just-in-Time (JIT) Approach

The JIT system, a Japanese brainchild, reduces production and response times. It is gaining traction, especially for SMEs.

Why SMEs Love JIT:

  • – Less Storage Spend: Order only what they need, saving storage money.
  • – Better Cash Flow: No money stuck in extra stock, improving liquidity.
  • Less Waste: Fewer risks of stock going outdated or getting damaged.

Real-World JIT Wins:

SMEs across sectors, from tech to fashion, are celebrating JIT. For example, a chic clothing brand cut storage costs by 30% within a year of using JIT. They spotted a sales spike thanks to quick reactions to fashion shifts.

For business victories, sharp Inventory Management is critical. Regular checks, intelligent demand predictions, and methods like JIT put SMEs on track.

5.0. Simplifying Excess Inventory Management

5.1. Equip Your Team for Inventory Success

Your workforce’s skills and knowledge are essential for smooth inventory operations.

  • – Training Equals Skill: Equip employees to manage stock, receive products, and audit with precision.
  • – Safety First: Ensure they adhere to safety measures, reducing chances of damage or losses.
  • – Quick and Effective: Teach them the latest inventory techniques and tools for faster, timely processes.

5.2. Embrace the Digital Edge in Inventory

Today, integrating tech into inventory is not a choice but necessary.

The Power of Live Data:

  • – Instant updates help quick, intelligent decisions, from ordering to promotions.
  • – Skip manual entry errors with real-time accuracy.

Automate and Stay Stock-Ready:

  • – Let systems reorder when stock gets low.
  • – Always have the correct stock levels, avoiding too much or too little.

5.3. Build Strong Bonds with Suppliers

Good inventory is not just tech and processes; it is about solid supplier relationships.

  • – Frequent chats ensure transparency, keeping you informed about supply chain happenings.
  • – Open talks can unlock rewards, like bulk discounts or speedy shipping.
  • – Set Terms for Fast Actions and Returns:
  • – Flexible return policies with suppliers help in uncertain demands.
  • – Quick actions help you adapt to swift market changes thanks to a good supplier bond.

Inventory management may seem complex, especially for new SMEs. Yet, challenges become chances with a well-trained team, clever tech, and close supplier ties. Use these tips for your SME’s growth and success.

6.0. Lessons from Real-Life Excess Inventory Management Stories

6.1. Stellar Crafts: A Small-Scale Excess Inventory Avoidance Success Story

Starting in a garage, Stellar Crafts became a regional craft supply giant.

– Early Days: They grappled with how much stock to keep. Too much would mean tied-up cash; too little told missed sales.

– Smart Move: They chose cloud-based inventory software, giving them instant data and sales predictions.

– Winning Results: By adjusting their stock based on sales trends, they cut storage costs by 40% and boosted sales by 25% within a year. This is a shining example for SMEs on the benefits of good inventory management.

6.2. Tec Globe Electronics: A Misstep in Excess Inventory

Tec Globe, a budding electronics store, wanted to offer it all but ended up paying a hefty price.

– The Misstep: They loaded up on electronics by betting on variety. They should have noticed how fast tech can become outdated.

– The Fallout: Tec Globe was stuck with a mountain of old models as newer tech arrived. Warehousing costs ballooned, and money locked in unsold items became a significant burden.

– Downfall: Struggling to sell old stock and regain their money, their cash flow dried up. Sadly, this led to their closure, emphasising the importance of intelligent inventory choices.

These tales highlight the high stakes of inventory decisions for SMEs. Stellar Crafts’ rise and Tec Globe’s fall are essential lessons in the business playbook.

7.0. The Final Word on Excess Inventory Management

7.1. The Power of Avoiding Excess Inventory

Inventory management is not a task; it is at the heart of a successful business, especially for SMEs. Their limited resources make every stock decision count. Having the right amount of inventory is like having the right rhythm in music. Too much stock ties up money, while too little disrupts sales and relationships.

7.2. Essential Steps for SMEs

  1. Embrace Cutting-Edge Tech: Modern tools grant immediate visibility. This paves the way for swift, well-informed decisions.
  2. Commit to Continuous Learning: Consistent training ensures your team remain at the forefront. It lets them adeptly handle fluid inventory scenarios.
  3. Cultivate Supplier Relationships: Building a robust bond with suppliers is a business safety cushion. They’ll be there during those unexpected demand surges.
  4. Anticipate, Don’t Just React: Armed with data analytics and market insights, SMEs can anticipate trends, optimize inventory, and outpace rivals.

Inventory is not about counting products; it reflects an SME’s strategy and adaptability. Mastering inventory management is a step toward a thriving business future.


What is the correct inventory amount for SMEs?

Answer: It varies by industry and demand. Regular checks and predicting demand can guide this.

How often should inventory checks happen?

Answer: Yearly audits are standard, but monthly or quarterly ones give SMEs deeper insights.

Which tools aid in managing inventory?

Answer: Basic spreadsheets to advanced inventory software.

Is the JIT system suitable for all businesses?

Answer: JIT has perks but is not for everyone. Consider supplier reliability and market trends.

Does excess inventory affect how customers see a brand?

Answer: Infrequent sales may make the brand seem less valuable or suggest low demand.

About the Author

Ajibola Jinadu is a distinguished Fellow of both the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. He earned his bachelor’s in applied accounting from Oxford Brookes University, UK.

With a rich career spanning 8 years at Deloitte and another 7 as a CFO, Ajibola has effectively partnered with leadership teams to craft financial strategies. These strategies enhanced the company’s adaptability in a fluctuating market.

An active contributor to his website, myCFOng, Ajibola pens insightful articles about small business management and financial tactics. His expertise has also made him a go-to speaker at industry events, where he delves into the importance of agility in financial planning for small businesses.


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This article offers general insights and shouldn’t be taken as financial advice. The perspectives shared are the author’s alone.

For tailored guidance, it’s essential to consult with a qualified expert or your financial advisor, especially when addressing your unique financial concerns.

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