7 steps to a successful stocktake


An accurate stocktake helps you make informed decisions about managing your business.

It allows your accountant to reconcile physical stock to the inventory records, highlight variances, and identify issues with stock management and control.

With accurate knowledge about stock movements and stock on hand, you can make informed decisions about theft, slow-moving items, damaged stock, technology obsolescence and warehouse processes.

Here are my top tips to have a smooth, successful and stress-free stocktake.

1. Clearly identify what stock is owned by the business and where it is

Separate stock that’s been invoiced to a customer, but is still in the warehouse. Likewise, stock received but not yet recorded in the books should be distinguished.

Make sure stock held at different locations or on consignment basis is accounted for.

2. Make sure the stock room is clean and tidy and inventory items are clearly laid out

Attach labels to shelves to clearly identify different stock; eg categorise inventory and label inventory not to be counted etc.

If relevant, give stock counters clear guidance on the way they should count, eg start at the top shelf and work your way down, while working from left to right.

3. Tools for the stocktake

  • Clipboards
  • Stock sheets – Don’t include the current number of inventory on hand. If inventory is barcoded, make sure barcodes are written down clearly
  • Write-off sheets – Make sure you check the condition of the inventory as you count
  • Pens – Use different colours. The audit trail can be easily followed if the first counter uses a blue pen, second counter uses a red pen, and the sheets are submitted to the stocktake coordinator who uses a purple pen
  • Calculators
  • Hand held scanners – For bar-coded inventory

4. Discourage radios, mobile phones, iPods and idle chit chat

While it might seem mean, distractions can easily lead to errors.

5. Count every item of your inventory. Don’t estimate!

It might seem tedious, especially if you think you have a good idea of quantities, but it’s much better to get a 100 percent accurate record the first time.

Don’t forget to open boxes – just because the carton says there are 24 items in the box doesn’t mean there actually are.

6. Check the physical count against accounting records. Recheck discrepancies

Make a note about variances and follow up where necessary.

 7. Update your records

Once the stock take has been finalised, update the inventory records in your accounting package.

A well-planned stocktake will result in minimal disruption, accurate inventory records and provides a basis for making informed business decisions.


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  • Great post.

    One of the best scanner to use for stocktake is here.


  • Very good and informative article. As stocktakers I think I’m qualified to mention the importance of carrying it out systematically. It’s far too easy to miss stock completely. Being thorough and careful is also the way forward, as you mention.

  • Linsay Patterson

    We perform stocktake while still selling to the public retail. I used to keep track of the days sales hour by hour but have found it easier to merely run a report of the sales when the stocktake is finished & recount those items, add the sales during the stocktake to the finish totals & adjust the written count quantity to this figure & this gives us the pre-stocktake quantity.

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  • Ben Clinton

    Hi I’ve been business for 4 yrs and key to money making is updates & keeping the show str8 forward

  • Mathys

    Hi. I am the stock take manager for a retail group in Gauteng. I need to find an outsourced group in the Nelspruit area. Your 7 tips are spot on. We follow the golden rules to prevent total disarray.