Skip to main content
Inventory Counts FAQs

Frequently asked questions about annual inventory counts.

Chris avatar
Written by Chris
Updated over a week ago

Physical inventory counts are an integral part of running a successful business. Depending on your business, your inventory count strategy can change from year to year. They can also be time-consuming, so we want to ensure you're fully equipped with the right tools to complete the job as quickly, efficiently, and accurately as possible.

Whether this is your first count, or you're a seasoned pro, here are some frequently asked questions that we see year after year:

"How should I perform my physical inventory count?"

Be sure to take the 30-second quiz below. This will help us determine the best option to get you going in the right direction:

Otherwise, see all your options for conducting a count here.

"How often should I count my inventory?"

At the very least, you should perform a full inventory count once a year. Many businesses prefer to do smaller inventory counts yearly or in regular intervals. The reason for the products selected can vary. Some businesses will count products with high shrinkage or shrink rates to stay on top of those discrepancies. Counting more regularly ensures accurate counts throughout the year.

Scheduled Stocktakes or cycle counts can happen daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or anything in between!

A full inventory count of all your products in a specific time range is typically reserved for once or twice a year.

"When is the best time to count?"

In an ideal situation, an inventory or a cycle count would be done when you are not actively selling and your store is closed. That means no customers to work around and, most importantly, no inventory quantities changing.

For many stores, an inventory count will be before or after hours. With websites, though, it's a good idea to perform the counts during a slower time (if possible) and to make appropriate accommodations if an online or in-store sale is made.

If you need to start counting before the store is closed, we recommend closing off the backroom or a section and making a point that the product cannot physically cross this line. That way, you can start counting and know your items will not move around the store once counted.

Pro Tip

Before the store closes for the day, count anything on display or a mannequin since they are easy to forget!

"What is a discrepancy?"

A discrepancy is anything that doesn't match up. Typically, when you do an inventory count, you expect to have X amount of product, but when you actually have Y amount, you discover that you actually have Y amount.

A discrepancy can be caused by many different events, including theft, receiving issues, mislabeled items scanned at checkout, and so on.

"I want to use a barcode scanner. What's my best option?"

Stocktakes are the only option if you use an external barcode scanner or scan gun. Make sure it's compatible with our system and test its usability on a test Stocktake before the actual inventory count.

More information can be found here:

"What if I have products in multiple places around my store?"

You'll want to bring all your products to a central point in your store for accurate counting.

If that's not possible, though, you'll need to get a bit creative. That could mean printing out multiple hard copies of your inventory list, labeling them by the part of the store you're counting, and then manually consolidating them on a master sheet. A master list will be the final copy where counts are entered and make it easy to see where any discrepancies lie. This could also be your Stocktake on your computer or a physical printout, but having a hard copy is ideal.

Another option is to have one person actively scan an area while another performs manual counts in another section.

Those are just a couple of options people have used over the years. Remember that we do not advise using multiple scanners simultaneously for one Stocktake.

"What is a blind count, and how do I do one?"

A "blind count" occurs when the counter cannot see the "expected" count. This tool helps ensure that there is no bias when counting. By hiding the "expected" counts, discrepancies are easier to pinpoint and research.

To do a blind count on a Stocktake, you'll want to hide the "Expected Quantity" and "Discrepancy" columns on the Stocktake by enabling this toggle on your Stocktakes Settings page:

For the Reconciliation Worksheet, make sure the "include current counts" is toggled off, as shown here:

The current counts will be on the Bulk Upload option (either Edit or Reconcile Inventory Quantities OR Edit Variants) by default. Ensure that column is removed or hidden for any copies you print for the team to mark up and count.

"What if I have multiple people helping count my inventory (with one or multiple barcode scanners)?"

If you have multiple scanners, you'll want to use one scanner per Stocktake. We recommend separating your inventory into multiple Stocktakes. For each Stocktake, you can open it on your device (computer or laptop) and start scanning/counting with its connected barcode scanner.

  • PRO TIP: Use only one scanner per Stocktake/device. Multiple scanners working on the same device or Stocktake can throw off your numbers.

For our Barcode Scanner Mobile App, we recommend that only one person is making updates to a product at a time. Multiple people can be using the Barcode Scanner app simultaneously, which can cause confusion since any number entered will update the total count for the location. This is not an ideal option if you have inventory in different areas of the store since it will be hard to get an accurate count.

If you have multiple people using the Barcode Scanner app, we recommend each person use their device and sign in with their Thrive credentials.

"What if multiple people are helping count my inventory (no barcode scanner)?"

Stocktakes are a fantastic option, even without a barcode scanner. Whether you put all your products onto one or multiple Stocktakes, this option is still recommended.

You can print out multiple copies and give employees pages to count. This also makes it easier if you have a backstock of your products. That way, one person isn't running back and forth trying to count both. You can have a set of people counting the back and another set counting the front and then consolidate them onto your master list.

Multiple people can count products for the Reconciliation Worksheet, but you'll only want one person entering counts on the master sheet.

For the Bulk Upload option (either Edit or Reconcile Inventory Quantities OR Edit Variants), you'll only want one person to enter counts on the master sheet. This ensures one "point person" who is familiar with the spreadsheet's columns, and you don't accidentally enter counts in the wrong area.

"Can we have multiple people scanning barcodes on the same Stocktake?"

No. This is not recommended since the incoming counts can override each other.

If you'd like to use multiple external barcode scanners, you should split up your inventory into multiple Stocktakes. Otherwise, we recommend manually counting product line by line if you want multiple people to work on one Stocktake.

"How can I use my phone as a barcode scanner?"

Our Barcode Scanner Mobile App allows you to use your mobile device. This method is generally not recommended for users with large accounts since you'll be updating live quantities now, and there is a buffer between you and your live inventory.

With the other steps, you have to input a count for a product, but then you submit it all at once. With the Barcode Scanner Mobile App, you'll submit a live count with each product adjustment.

More information can be found here:

"Can I use the Barcode Scanner App for a Stocktake?"

No. Stocktakes are not accessible from the Barcode Scanner App.

The Barcode Scanner app will edit your live counts when you press 'Save.' Stocktakes have an actual paper trail and checkpoints along the way, which is why they are the recommended tool for large inventory counts.

"Can I add new items from the Barcode Scanner App?"

New quantities for existing products can be received and edited via the Barcode Scanner app.

If you are receiving a brand new product, though, it must be created on Thrive before its quantities can be changed using the Barcode Scanner app.

"How do I "zero out" any items that weren't counted?"

Two options! If you're performing a Stocktake, you'll have the option to "zero out" products that weren't counted when saving, as shown here:

If you've already submitted your Stocktake, you can run a Due for Stocktake report and see all the items where a quantity was not counted. Typically, these will be the items that you did not count and are a good indicator that they can be zeroed out on a new Stocktake.

For all other methods, just input a zero for that product!

"How do I capture waste/shrinkage?"

These are the three options we recommend for tracking waste/spoilage/shrink and how to get the dollar amount lost:

"Where do I see the changed items once my counts are submitted?"

If you're using Stocktakes, we will automatically calculate the total cost associated with the discrepancies and add it to the Stocktake Discrepancy Report when you submit your final numbers. The report makes it easier to focus on only the changes made to the inventory count.

  • NOTE: The quantity changes made on a Stocktake will also appear on the Inventory Change Report under the "Added" and "Removed" columns.

The other option (if the discrepancies are entered via Spreadsheet Bulk Upload or Barcode Scanner Mobile App) is the Inventory Change Report. In this report, you'll see the discrepancies in the "Added" and "Removed" columns of the report. Be mindful of the time range in which you run the report so as not to include sales deductions.

Did this answer your question?