Thursday, August 07, 2008
Welcome to the era of what I'd like to call 'Thinventory.' This is an era where retailers are so scared that the economy is going to leave them with unsold products on their hands that they would rather carry too little stock than too much. It is also the era where even hot products like the iPhone are deliberately understocked. It is of course the smart way to run a retail business - match inventory to demand. For the shopper it is frustrating when they are using traditional retail outlets but almost invisible when they are shopping online. The smart retail operations are the ones that can blend this online shopping with the traditional environment and have the product you want shipped to your home overnight. This problem is particularly troublesome for sellers of say shoes and clothes, where the same product comes in multiple sizes. Carrying enough of every size is expensive and risky but if they can provide a thin level of inventory in each store and then hold a further amount at a central store to either replenish store stocks or service customers online they will likely do better than having every store hold all the stock.