Supervisor taking inventory check. concept: inventory
Jordan Schneir
By: jordan_shneir
Read in 9 minutes

Being Flexible in a Crisis—Managing Inventory and Supplier Relations

With the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic front and center, you, as a business owner, know how important it is to be flexible and creative in managing your day to day operations.

Inventory management should be top of mind at this time. You want to make sure your business is running lean where it needs to, but that you’re also in a position to react to quickly evolving customer needs. 

Inventory Management Systems

Whether your company is large or small, a proper inventory management system will help ensure that you’re ready to go. Consider also the ease of remote access which these programs prioritize. There are many excellent apps to help you manage things, as well. 

We know that, as a business owner, you’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you’re in the best possible stock position and ensure your company emerges from this crisis more robust than ever. A questionable timetable of when exactly your employees can go back to work means that you’ll need to make sure they have the best possible visibility to inventory, especially as they work from home.

If you have an inventory system you’re pleased with, make sure that you are optimizing and making use of all the features necessary to keep things running as smoothly as possible. If you aren’t happy with it or don’t have one, take a look at one of the many systems or applications best tailored to your particular business. 

These systems range in price and are typically based on a monthly subscription. The introductory pricing will go up based on your company’s needs and features required. You need to find the right product for you. As cash flow continues to be a concern, at Camino Financial we’re thrilled to assist you during these tough times. 

Discounts and Partnership

Once you have a proper grasp of your inventory needs, it’s time to have conversations with your suppliers

First, take stock as to which items will be prioritized and which ones would ideally be dropped. This isn’t just the difference between stocking toilet paper versus a high-end vacuum cleaner. Consider also what may be out of stock weeks three and four, and which items may sit on the shelves or in your warehouse. 

Then, take account of your suppliers and which ones are going to be most dependable. This can be as simple as prioritizing local partners versus international. But you will have to do some fast research on your current partnerships. 

Be willing to be flexible as well; one solution may be as simple as rerouting your delivery trucks to pick up a last-minute order from a supplier. You could also negotiate discounts as well.

Good faith partnerships can go a long way, especially this side of a crisis, so make the most of the situation. 

Ask your supply chain partners what they suggest. A vendor may be able to recommend you place an order on merchandise that is turning more quickly for them that you may not have expected. A dependable inventory management system can tell you what you need to focus orders on, but you will need to work with the other side to ensure that the merchandise is available.  

Keeping Your Doors Open

Perhaps you’re not in the business of selling paper towels and hand sanitizer, and your inventory situation feels incredibly daunting. Selling off inventory at a discount may be a critical step, as painful as it may be to consider. 

Now may be a good time to do some spring cleaning and organize an online sale. Facebook marketplace is free and provides excellent visibility at the local level, especially if your brand doesn’t have a competitive online presence. It should go without saying, now may be an excellent time to build a better website. 

It’s time to get creative. Social media can be a godsend in times where your customers are stuck at home. Post often (even daily) to remind your customers you’re still operating. Don’t take for granted that many will simply assume you’ll be closed.

Restaurants, if creative, can be in a great position to make the most of excess supplier inventory. Despite the challenges of sitdown restaurants being the first to have to close their doors during a pandemic lockdown, many are offering curbside pickup or even delivery.  Even more high-end spots have a variety of options and are marketing themselves as an alternative to takeout.

Make the most of the overabundance from food packers even if you aren’t able to stay open for dinner. 

Stay Optimistic and Proactive

Making sure you have a good relationship with your supply chain partners means that they will be more understanding when you need to place a hold on a shipment.

Be reasonable and open and allow them to add on to orders as well. Give and take is inevitable. You’ll need to be in a position to both put holds on orders and negotiate bigger ones with them as well, especially if you provide essential products for your customers. 

Also, consider stockpiling items that are essential to you, even as sales are soft. While it may seem extreme to buy more, if you know they’re products you’re going to sell once things begin to return to normal, why not make the most of it?

If you can, position your stock levels in such a way that you can hit the ground running once the crisis is over.  

The fact is, as challenging as things seem, now may be a great time to acquire inventory at a discount. Indeed you’ll need to take care and adjust your business priorities to ensure that you have the capital you need. Remember, though, only you know whether your business is in a position to take on more stock for later.

Use our business loan calculator to help you decide whether inventory financing for your company makes sense. 

Creative Solutions Will Win

The fact is, everyone is challenged right now, and you’ll need to be proactive not just to stay competitive, but to stay ahead. There are many ways to make sure that your inventory remains productive. You’ll need to think of ways of adjusting your stock in ways you’ve never considered before. 

Your customers are still around, and while your services may or may not be on their mind, you can still reach them. This may be as simple as a post on social media to let them know you’re still there or even what you’re doing to help your community and/or your employees. 

As important as tools and strategy are, “taking stock” means more than just making sure you have the right app to see how much you need to sell off, it means looking at all of the challenges in front of you. Hopefully, you can see the opportunities coming as well. Now is the time to take steps to come out of this crisis stronger than ever before.

Remember, the funds from a business loan can help you build a cash cushion during a crisis and guarantee your stocking and inventory management go smoothly. Camino Financial fast funding, minimum requirements, and flexible terms will ensure you receive the funds you need when you need them most.

Apply online today to see instantly if you prequalify for financing.


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