Keeping an Inventory System

Have you ever wanted to take a vacation with the family but realized you had no way to have someone step in and ship or answer messages for you because only you know where the items are?

Have you ever had trouble trying to locate an item and spent an hour looking for it?

Do you have hundreds to thousands of items listed on eBay and have no quick way to check and make sure that everything is listed as you think?

Have you ever sent the wrong item to someone because you grabbed a similar item instead?


What is an inventory system?

An inventory system is assigning each and every item a specific inventory number and specific location to be stored.

What are the advantages of an inventory system?

Having an inventory system has several benefits.  A few are listed below (in no order):

  1.  Easily locate any item quickly.  There is no searching over and over again for a certain item because you know exactly where it is.
  2.  Helps eliminate errors when you ship items out.  If you have similar items you may think you have the correct one only to find out later that the wrong item was sent out.  Having a specific, assigned location you know you have the correct item.
  3.  You can have someone else ship or answer questions for you.  If a customer asks a question about the hip measurements on a pair of pants, you can have someone else find the item, measure the hips and respond to the customers question.  If you want to head out-of-town for a week, rather than put your store in ‘vacation mode’ and slow down sales, you can have someone step in and ship your items for you.
  4.  You can track your inventory and keep items from falling thru the cracks.  You eliminate the possibility of items you ‘think’ are listed on eBay but aren’t for various reasons.

How we keep our inventory:


Stored racks of clothing.

We have multiple mobile and hanging wall racks that are designed to hold certain numbers.  For example, one rack is assigned to hold inventory numbers #200-299, the next rack is assigned #300-#399 and so on.  For the most part, our racks are aligned in succession from #1-#1000 or whatever the ending or beginning number may be.



Each article of clothing is itemized, in order and easy to locate.


Each time we list a new item we give it a specific, inventory number and store it away on the rack that it is assigned.  We have a small tub that we collect all of the available, unused inventory numbers to select from.  There is no rhyme or reason to the number we select.  We could grab number 77 or number 810, it doesn’t matter, each number has a specific place it goes.




This is our collection tub of ‘unused’ and available inventory numbers.


In every listing, we have our own ‘inventory number’ which only means something to us and nothing to the buyer or eBay.  We pick a number out of the ‘tub’, place it on the hanger and insert the number into the listing.


200 Screen Shot #3

At the bottom of each of our listings, we place the inventory number.


 At shipping, when an item sells, we place the inventory number back in our small tub of ‘unused’ numbers to be used again.  Each number continues to re-cycle itself over again.  

What if I use tubs or shelving?

We do too!

Each tub should be assigned an inventory number – we do this for shoes & hats.  For example we have our tubs named with a letter and number such as ‘T15’.  We know that when we are looking for a specific pair of shoes and it has an inventory number assigned as ‘T15” we can easily locate the shoes in our tub labeled ‘T15’ on the outside.  


All of our tubs and shelving are labeled and easy to locate.

The reason we use a number and a letter is so we can search in our store to find items when doing our quarterly inventory.  (See Below)

We used to use shelving quite a bit and we labeled each shelf just like we do tubs.  A specific inventory number and location.

Doing an actual inventory of your items:

This is a big one.  We do a quarterly inventory of our items to make sure that everything is listed properly and nothing has slipped thru the cracks.  We list anywhere from 100-150 new items per week and unfortunately things that we think are listed on eBay sometimes aren’t for various reasons.  Those reasons can include:

  • Never listed in the first place – some type of listing error.
  • Not re-listed as expected.
  • Unpaid items somehow not re-listed properly.

There are a variety of reasons why something isn’t listed.  My wife and I are pretty organized and experienced but we find nearly 20 items EACH QUARTER that we think are listed but aren’t.  It’s crazy!

How do we do an inventory of our items?

I’m going to be honest, it takes us an entire day to do our inventory.  It’s boring and time-consuming.  But it’s worth the time spent because we always find stuff that is just sitting around ‘unlisted’.  Also, we don’t spend hours later looking for a $15 shirt that we can’t locate.

  1.  We grab a laptop and head over to inventory number #001 and move in succession all the way until the end.   We use the ‘search’ box in our eBay store as our tool to find our items.   We type the inventory number into the search and check the box below that searches ‘in titles & description’.  In this example, we are using the number #200.
200 Screen Shot #1

We use our store search box to search for our inventory.

2.   In most cases, after you ‘search’ it will pull up the item you are looking for.  Item #200 for us is an Austin Reed jacket and you can see what it pulls up after we search for it.  Remember it is pulling this data because it is searching IN the description as well.  We have an inventory number listed at the bottom of each listing that we showed earlier.

200 Screen Shot #2

The page after you search your inventory number.

3.  After your item pulls up, you go on to the next item and repeat it over again.  It literally takes seconds to do this over and over again.

4.  If you type in a number and you don’t see any results you have a problem.  In this example below we use the number #237.  Usually one of two things have happened.  First, the item you think is listed is not and it can be listed again.  Second, the number you assigned to this item is wrong and you have to dig a little deeper.


No results found for a number typically indicates a problem.

5.  After you have gone through each number you have cleaned house!  You know that your inventory is 100% accurate, everything is in its right place and up to date.


How do you track your items?  What works best for you?

I’d really like to learn from you.  What is one thing specifically that you have found to work well for you.  Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks again and have a great day!




4 thoughts on “Keeping an Inventory System

  1. For anyone who’s just getting started or who wants to get started, take this advice to heart. It’s easy to incorporate into your process an inventory system but very difficult to add one later on, when your business is bigger and you have more items listed.

    I hadn’t ever had an inventory system and am now in the process (it’s been 6 months so far) of going through our inventory and working through things. Starting the process when you have 3,000+ items listed is just a bad idea all the way around and although I haven’t lost an item or not been able to find something in ages, it does happen and this is a great safeguard against it.

    My question for you, Jesse, is regarding shipping and how this is tied to your inventory. I believe that you enter the item weight in the listing to provide calculated shipping costs, correct? If you use eBay’s multi-order shipping, does that data auto-fill for you, so that all you have to do is package the item and hit print? Or do you package, re-weigh and then print your labels?

    For us, the two (shipping & and inventory system) seem to be tied together integrally and what we need to do is automate something in order to make the whole scheme work better.

    Great info, as always!


  2. Thanks for your comments Matt! Yes, we do use calculated shipping and I tend to ‘overestimate’ at times and do not use multi-order shipping. We package, re-weigh and print each item individually, including combined orders.

    I know you are organized and can find things pretty easily. The only question I would have is how do you know for certain that everything you have is actually listed on eBay? For whatever reason we find things that slip thru the cracks way beyond what I would expect it to be.


    • Jesse, I know that not everything in my inventory stacks are listed — as I’ve been going through my inventory over the past few months, I’ve found a couple items here and there that weren’t listed. I’m also not sure how they fell through the cracks, but they obviously did.

      I think for us the best system will likely be tied to using our listing software for inventory management. I know for certain that some of the items that I’ve found, unlisted, were listed at one point because I can find them in the unsold folder on eBay. Why they are unsold and yet don’t show up in the unsold and not relisted screen, I don’t know.


  3. Pingback: Thrift Store Experiment #2 – Kansas City | The ebay edge

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