The benefits and drawbacks of inventorying your thrift items

Thrift stores are not normal retail stores!!

The kind of inventory you get at a thrift store is fundamentally different than what you'd get at a normal retail store. In normal retail, you have a small number of distinct items from a small number of suppliers, and you reorder identical items from the same suppliers over and over again. Thrift stores flip that on its head. Each item is unique - seen once and never seen again. And your donors are your suppliers - there may be thousands of them. So, normal retail store inventory procedures do not automatically apply at thrift stores. (Consult with your tax accountant for particulars, and this article is not tax advice, but in general because you did not pay for your inventory, its value on your books is $0 until it is sold, so you don't need to account for inventory in the same way that a retail store would.)

You can go either way with ThriftCart Point of Sale

Just to be clear, if you're using ThriftCart as your point of sale system, you can either barcode your items using ThriftCart, or you can put price tags on items from a price gun, or you can just have a generalized pricing policy that covers most items (e.g., a sign in the store that says all jeans are $4.99.) You can also mix-and-match any of those systems seamlessly in ThriftCart. For example, you can have a generalized pricing policy that says all jeans are $4.99. Then maybe all your housewares are individually priced with price tags from a price gun. And finally you decide to inventory all furniture and put barcodes on them. So, ThriftCart can be a bar code software for thrift stores, or it can just be a more-powerful thrift store cash register.

Speed and Accuracy

Most thrift stores just slap a price tag from a price gun on and item and move it out on to the store floor. Pricing an item takes mere moments. Barcoding an item would be too time-consuming with a normal retail point of sale system. (It might take a minute up to many minutes to enter a single item into inventory - this is fine if you have 1000 copies of the same item, but if it's one of a kind, like at a reuse store, that's a waste of time!) Slapping a price tag on an item certainly saves time at the back of the store where you process inventory, but it costs you a little bit of time at the front of the store, since it is the task of the cashier to select the item's department at the register, and key in the price. Those steps at the register could be saved by barcoding items in the back. Also, since cashiers are often rushed, the accuracy of department selection may decrease, and that may affect managerial decisions about allocating space for various kinds of items.

Potential upside of barcoding thrift store items: consistent pricing

One feature that ThriftCart's Point of Sale and Inventory System offers thrift stores is the ability to set up a price book to inventory. Look at the animation below to see an example where a pair of men's jeans is priced for $6.99. The store policy is that all men's jeans are typically priced at $6.99 or $9.99. The person in the back making pricing decisions does not need to put in thought about what jeans ought to cost. Rather, the pricer just selects what the item is, and the common price points are displayed to the person doing pricing.
ThriftCart inventory price book for barcoded items
ThriftCart's pricebooks have been used for everything from low-value common items, to high-value items like large pieces of furniture and appliances. Having a consistent set of prices is helpful for customers to be happy with your pricing policies. Many customers get frustrated when they sometimes find amazing bargains, and other times find items that are vastly overpriced.

Barcodes - less haggling?

One potential upside to barcoding items is a psychological one. In America, price gun price tags are associated with clearance sales, tag sales, and flea markets. At such events, prices are often negotiable. Barcodes are associated with big box stores, grocery stores, and general retail. At such stores, employees typically have no power to negotiate prices. The price is the price. Many thrift stores have a no-haggle policy, but customers in many thrift stores ignore that policy. Having barcodes on items could have the subconscious effect of reinforcing your no-haggle policy, because your pricing looks more similar to a traditional retailer than to a garage sale.

Reduce price tag switching theft

Some thrift stores suffer from price tag switching theft. If all the price tags are identical except for the price, it is quite easy for a ill-intentioned customer to peel a price tag off of a less expensive item, and place it onto the item that they want to purchase. However, a price tag generated by ThriftCart will display the item's name on the price tag, making it more difficult for the customer to find price tags that could be swapped. For example, if a customer brings up a leather couch that has a price tag that says cloth couch, the cashier will immediate recognize that something is wrong. Furthermore, with ThriftCart it is possible to even attach a photograph to an item in the system, so the cashier can see a picture associated with a price tag. If the picture does not match the item, then something is wrong.

Feature or sell items online

The world is moving online - customers expect to know what's in a store before they get there. Historically, this has been quite difficult for thrift stores. You might want to have a display of all the appliances and furniture currently stocked in your store on your website, but keeping that list up-to-date would be a nightmare. Not any more with ThriftCart. If you inventory items and attach photos, you can leverage that real-time data about what has been inventoried and what has sold to have a real-time feed of inventory items on your website. Customers can see what you just inventoried, and once it sells, it can disappear from your website. (Or you can even leave the item on for a day or two with a SOLD banner covering the item, to show customers what they just missed out on.)

Summary - Lots of upsides, with one (potentially major) downside

The potential downside of having a bar code software for thrift stores is that it could take up more time at the back of the store. Processing donations is time consuming as it is, and adding anything to the process might be too much. But the potential upside of using a barcode tagging for thrift stores, like ThriftCart, include:

  • · Save time at the cashier station. (Just scan a barcode rather than entering department and price.)
  • · Increase accuracy at the cashier station.
  • · Reduce price-tag switching theft.
  • · Increasing pricing consistency if using a price book.
  • · Display items on your website.
  • · Potentially even save time at the back of the store if pricers spend a lot of time contemplating the ideal price point.

If you're interested in seeing how ThriftCart can help you as your thrift store point of sale system, please contact us for a free demo!