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Create a Flawless Inventory Plan for Your Reusable Bags

You already know reusable bags are an excellent method of boosting your business, flashing your logo to the world and doing something for the environment. The average bag, believe it or not, earns almost 6,000 impressions in its lifetime, a huge number considering what a simple item it is. That’s because unlike other promotional products (say, a tee shirt or a pen), your clients and customers are likely to use the bag several times a week – or even, in the case of a lunch box style bag, for instance – several times a day.

Also, bags give you a green veneer that impresses customers and draws them to you in ever-greater numbers. We’re all aware of the dangers of plastic, and increasingly research points to the fact that paper isn’t much better. Reusable bags, unlike the standard options, have months or even years of life in them, especially if they’re made of tough materials such as cotton and canvas.

However, while keeping reusable bags on hand is a great thing to do for your business and the environment, creating a system that works isn’t necessarily intuitive. Having a reliable inventory means, well, taking inventory, and that means putting a system in place. If you want to be able to give away or sell bags, replenish as needed and not overstock, you need a flawless inventory plan. Here it is.

Start with an Educated Guess

First and foremost, you need to guess how many bags you think you need. If you’ve been in the biz for a while, you already have a good idea, because you cant just take those numbers from the bags you were already using. This applies to grocery stores, wine shops and breweries, where you’re regularly sending customers out the door with merchandise. In such cases, the first step is to decide:

  • Will you be replacing all bags with reusable analogues or just some?
  • Will you be including reusable bags as part of specialty purchases only, or can customers buy the bags if they wish?
  • How will you encourage reusable bag use, and do you think you can replace a substantial number of the paper or plastic you currently use?
  • If you give reusable bags as gifts to clients (applicable to those who are in industries other than food and beverage, such as law or taxes), how many do you give away each month/year?

Don’t worry if you only have loose answers to these questions right now. It’s going to take some time to see how many bags you can afford based on your other overhead and the number of sales your business generates. Moreover, you’ll need to gather information on how many bags customers are willing to buy if you’re going that route. For now, make an educated guess and go choose your product.

Choose Your Products

Before you can create an inventory system that works, you have to choose your product. The style and material of your bag will depend a lot on your business, obviously. If you’re a small antique shop or little clothing store at the beach, for instance, you’ll probably do best with cotton bags for sale at the register. On the other hand, a grocery store will benefit from non woven or grocery bags, while a farmers market stand might want to sell insulated bags in which to carry home veggies.

Luckily, you have a huge range of options, including:

You can combine styles as well. If you routinely attend trade shows in addition to selling merchandise at your store, you’d probably want a style for each occasion. After you select the right bags for you, it’s time to choose colors, submit your artwork to the designer and wait for delivery. Easy peasy.

Track Numbers and Amounts

If you want to create a seamless inventory plan, you’ll need to track how many bags you’re actually using. That way, you won’t run out of bags and end up having to sub in some plain paper or plastic versions, which hurts your brand while you’re waiting for a new shipment to come in.

Similarly, you’re not stuck with a huge surplus of bags, which can become obsolete if you change your logo or slogan while you still have inventory left over. Also, a good inventory plan will ensure that when you order specialty bags – say, for a grand opening of a new branch or a race day to support a cause – you don’t end up with too many of that bag once the event has passed. Even if you can pass them off for a while, eventually you face the options of look extremely outdated or having to toss the rest (which really kills the whole environmental thing).

So just how do you track the number of bags you’re using? Unlike your products, bags probably won’t come with a barcode, which makes it hard to simply scan them and create automatic accounting. However, if you’re selling your bags, you’ll give them their own SKU, which will help with the tracking immeasurably. Every time you ring one up, it goes into the system.

If you’re giving them away for free, either with a minimum purchase or without strings attached, it once again becomes harder to track. In that case, you’ll just want to restock each checking station in the same quantities every time (20? 50?) and make a note when you put new stock in. When life gets busy, it’s easy to fall through the cracks on a little chore like this, but don’t. If you want to keep inventory at the right levels, it’s a crucial step.

Restock Before You’re Out

Restocking in advance is Inventory 101, but it’s surprising how many people forget the task. Running a business is pretty busy (come on, it’s right there in the name), but that’s no excuse for forgetting. If you do, you’re once again forced to use the less environmental options, which damages your brand as well as the ecosphere. Don’t let that happen.

Instead, you have to figure out the rate at which your bags are used. Take the numbers you gathered from above, then match them up to time periods. How often does a check stand need refilling? How frequently do customers buy bags? And so on. Once you can track how often you’re moving your product, you can set a minimum number at which to reorder your bags.

Here at ReuseThisBag, for instance, we ship in about a week, sometimes more depending on artwork. If you include an extra week’s buffer to account for more business than usual or a holdup with your bags, you’ll have plenty of time for them to arrive before inventory runs out. So all you have to do is figure out how many bags are used in a week, double that, and reorder when your inventory drops down to that number.

If you need a little help with the math or with ordering your bags, don’t hesitate to reach out! Our team is standing by and ready to assist at any time.

Douglas Lober

Author: Douglas Lober

Douglas Lober grew up in Southern California and is an environmentalist at heart. He donates his time and finances to helping children better understand how they can become fine stewards of the Earth. He is he co-Founder and Chief Sales Professional at Reusethisbag.com with over 15 years experience as an overseas importer and exporter of fine eco-friendly promotional items.

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