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chapter two of six

Types of inventory


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Types of inventory

Inventory comes in many shapes, forms and stages. Understanding the types will help you identify it for valuation and management. Let’s look at them.

Merchandise you’re reselling

Most retailers have goods on the shelves, plus more out back. That’s all inventory.

Products you’re installing as part of a service

Many types of service businesses sell goods along with their labour. For example, a mechanic typically sells things like gaskets as part of a job. A gardener charges for the fertilisers they apply. A hairdresser may stock and sell hair products. Goods like these are inventory, too.

Goods you’re making (manufacturing)

Manufacturers deal with three types of stock. They are raw materials (which are waiting to be worked on), work-in-progress (which are being worked on), and finished goods (which are ready for shipping).

Types of inventory - raw materials vs work in progress vs finished goods.

You can have many types of inventory

You might sell some products exactly as you bought them, while modifying others. In this instance, you have merchandise and raw materials. It’s easier than you think to overlook inventory. Thinking about the three types can help you identify it all.

Location of inventory

Stock you own can be in one of four places:

  • On the shelf
    It may be on display and ready for sale.

  • In storage
    It may be out the back of a shop, in a warehouse, or in a work van.

  • In transit
    It may be in a vehicle between supplier and buyer.

  • On consignment
    In someone else’s shop, waiting to be sold (some retailers will only buy a product from a manufacturer or supplier after they’ve on-sold it).

Looking after inventory

Knowing what inventory you have, and where it is, will help make you a better business person. You’ll be more aware of where your money is tied up, and you’ll be able to make decisions that protect that investment. Your next step is to work on how you manage inventory.


Chapter 3: Inventory management

Help your business run smoothly and profitably by learning about inventory management.

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