When you're selling new products in quantities the inventory aspect of it is pretty straight-forward, normally those items have barcodes and SKU's and can be easily sorted, found and replenished based on that.
However, how to keep your inventory organized when almost every item is unique and only sold once? Rather than 100's or maybe 1000's of items with stock levels, you'll have 1000's up to 100.000's of items with a quantity of 1. This begs for a very tight, organized inventory management.
Based on our experience wokring with many of the largest sellers of used vinyl records, here are some of the best practices we learned:
First of all, partition your warehouse in sections. A section can be a shelf, a row, or even a warehouse room if you have multiple. Find a logical order to walk through the paths from beginning to end, and indicate each shelf / row with a letter (alphabetically from A to Z is most commonly used). Now each shelf or row has its own letter and when doing a picking route it's easy to flow through the inventory from one side to another.
Next, for fastest and most reliable order picking it's important that each individual item has its own unique location code. It's easiest to have all items within a secion (say, row B) ordered by number, so from say B-00001 on one side to B-99999 on the other side. By buying or producing numbered stickers or tags for each item it's fast to number the items when listing, and easy to locate them when picking the orders.
Keep it going
Of course, this system has an obvious flaw: Items get sold, numbers disappear and shelves get empty. In common inventory management those spaces and numbers would easily be filled up again with more quantity of the same products, or even replaced with other SKU's. but in this case that would be very complicated and easy to let mistakes slip in. So the best practice here to, once a while, move all your stock closer together to create space at the end of each section, and then just continue to number more items at the end. Basically, the numbers within a section will always keep counting up.
Although this is the most commonly used, and in our experience the best, inventory management system for records and other collectibles and unique items, it's certainly not the only way. We also see sellers having good results with having crate / bin locations that keep getting refilled. Although this is faster and easier to list new items, it puts more pressure on the picking process and is prone to human errors. It is also tricky to find the right item when sleeves look alike, and even worse in the case of generic / white label sleeves. We also see some sellers just placing all items in alphabetical order by artist or label. This can definitely work well for small inventories, but larger sellers will eventually have to switch to a more scalable system and that can be very tricky when already operating at scale.
With Cratebase we aim to help sellers optimize the operations to work for them. Not all inventories and warehouses are alike, and therefore there will always be different ways that work best depending on the business. We're building Cratebase so that it works in all scenarios and sellers keep the flexibility to find what works best for them. With our experience we are always happy to think along, advice and share best practices. If you are due for a more structured approach to your invemtory management please feel free to reach out for some help without commitments.