Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Selling Wholesale - Information Management

As my Etsy sales continued to grow and as I began to participate in craft shows, I knew I needed a better method to track my inventory. Particularly before and after craft shows, it seems I was always writing my inventory on a note pad then transferring the information to an Excel spreadsheet, let alone it seemed I had no way to track my product in consignment. As before my wholesale accounts began to place orders, I realized my inventory conundrum was going to be even bigger as my sales grew.

I began looking for an inventory management system, not quite knowing what I was looking for. In my "day" job, I manage a database for a non-profit organization, so I had some idea of the interaction and capability I needed. At that time, there was only one inventory management system that was fully integrated with Etsy, and it just so happened to be offering free access to its basic usage.

The system I chose is Stitchlabs. Please know, this post is not a paid endorsement, and since I began using Stitchlabs, other inventory management systems are now available to sync with Etsy. The thoughts I share with you here are based upon my experience, and items you need to consider before committing yourself to any system.


  • Contacts - Before adding my contacts to a database, I was managing my contacts through rogue spreadsheets: one for wholesale account, one for local customers, one for Etsy customers which I downloaded.
  • Inventory Management - Stitchlabs has the capability to track how many units are complete, how many are in production, and how many have been sold. As orders began to increase in quantity, I had no way to manage how many units of 12 oz candles were needed or how many different products of one fragrance were needed.
  • Order tracking - Etsy is good for simple counting of number of sales. But I had nothing to integrate my local customers let alone my wholesale sales into one information system.
  • Expenses - Sigh. My business is still operating on a cash accounting basis (sometimes simple cash flow basis) and aside from basic checkbook accounting, I had no method to track profit and loss or cost of goods sold (an important factor which is extremely important as your business grows).
  • Reporting - I had none. No way to track my best customer, no way to track my best sales. I knew from my general observation that tea lights are my best selling product, but it caught me by complete surprise that Lavender was my best selling fragrance.
  • Integration - Direct import of Etsy sales is a huge benefit! Additionally, I want a system to which my sales reps can log in to place an order, eliminating the need for them to scan an order, especially one that may include credit card payment information (a huge compliance issue in my book!).
My intent is to explore each topic on my weekly Wednesday blog posts. If you have a question or problem that you are trying to solve in your backend office that you feel can be answered in this series, please write it in your comments. Your questions really make it so much easier to look at each topic through another person's lens.

Until next week,

Happy sales!

Dorene




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