If you are new to selling on Etsy or any other e-commerce platform you may not yet find it necessary to keep careful track of your inventory. When something sells, you easily find it and ship it out. Not so with me. I am well into my fourth year selling fabric and I have, literally, a whole room (and then some) of inventory. I'm talking shelves and shelves. Months ago, it became apparent that I needed to come up with a system for organizing and cataloguing my stash. It was either that or the insane asylum. Who wants to spend half an hour each time something sells looking for that fabric you just saw last week (or was it last month...grrrrr) so you can ship it to the buyer?
I had a friend who offered to help me set something up on Excel but at the time I wasn't organized enough to know how I wanted it set up. One day, I just decided to try to figure it out myself! So, armed with the internet and vague memories of what I'd learned once in a community ed class, I sleuthed out what I needed to know to get things set up. Thanks should be inserted here to youTube and a guy with a thick Asian accent who walked me step-by-step through the process of inserting photos into my Excel spreadsheet, which is the most exciting part of the whole thing (I ask you: who but me gets excited about inventory management?).
First of all, I should explain my system for labeling individual items. I call them stock numbers. In my Etsy shop, I have 9 different regular sections for fabrics as well as a clearance section. One section is called Cotton Fabric and Linen, another is called Wool Fabric and Silk, and yet another is Holiday Christmas Fabric. So if the particular fabric is destined (or is already listed in) the Cotton Fabric and Linen section, it gets the leading letters CFL followed by a number. Wool fabrics get labeled WFS, Christmas Fabrics start with HCF and so on (when items are moved to the clearance section, they retain their original alphanumeric designation).
[My Excel spreadsheet inventory tracking system]
Though I'm still in the process of setting up my spreadsheet, the above screenshot shows what I have so far. In the actual spreadsheet, you can hover over the little boxes with the red corners and up pops a photo of the item (as shown). How cool is that?
The numeric part of the stock numbers are unique 4-digit numerals starting with 0001 and simply depend on the order in which I enter them into the spreadsheet. This numbering system enables me to find an item easily and quickly on the spreadsheet no matter what type of fabric it is. Notice on lines 48 and 49 (above) are the stock numbers CFL0048 and HCF0049, respectively.
[A listing in my shop showing stock numbers in both the title and listing description]
In addition to this, I have stock numbers listed in both the title and in the listing description (shown above) for each item in my Etsy shop. Having the number in the title means I can do a search within my shop using just the stock number. From there I can quickly check my Excel spreadsheet to find lots of useful information including (eventually) the actual shelf where this item is located (insert confetti, champagne and celebratory high fives). Putting it also in the listing is just another means by which a customer can easily reference the item without having to cut and paste the URL or (as some do) type out the whole listing title.
[Some examples of folder names on my computer]
I am also in the process of adding stock numbers to the names of each individual folder on my computer which contains photos for a specific item (see above). It is amazing how much time I waste trying to find folders when I can't even remember what I called that particular fabric or what category I put it under. Maddening! So the folder which holds the photos for the item on line 41 (top photo) is called Green Chicken Wire CFL0041 (above photo). I can now do a file search on my computer using just the stock number for this item. This also makes it easy to delete folders for items that have already sold.
My hope is that once this labor-intensive set up is complete, it will make things much easier and save me LOTS of time. Additionally, at tax time I won't be scrambling to guess just how much inventory I have. I will just go to my handy dandy Excel spreadsheet and voila!
So...let me know if this was helpful to you or if you have insanely better ideas for tracking inventory.