Multi-Store Inventory Management: 5 Tips to Improve Operations

  • By Matthew Davis
  • Jun 11, 2024
  • Inventory Secrets

Inventory management gets infinitely more complex as your business opens new stores.

How do you keep the appropriate stock levels at every location? What if an item sells quickly at Location A, but sits on the shelf at Location B? How do you manage replenishment?

Multi-store inventory management platforms solve these issues.

The best tools bring order to your operation and save you time. First, they tell you stock levels and locations for every product in your system. But also, multi-location tools automate processes like:

  • Internal stock transfers
  • Re-ordering
  • Cycle counts
  • Inventory reporting

Are you juggling spreadsheets and frantic calls to suppliers as your business expands? There’s a better way.

Keep reading to learn tips and best practices for streamlined multi-location inventory management.

Multi-Location Inventory Systems: An Overview

Multi-store inventory management refers to stock management across more than one location. This becomes necessary as your business adds new brick-and-mortar stores, starts selling online, and/or opens a warehouse for storing and distributing inventory.

Commonly, an inventory management system with multi-store features is needed for retail chains, omnichannel retailers (ecommerce + brick-and-mortar), or franchises.

How Does Multi-Store Inventory Work?

The most important function of a multi-store inventory system is real-time visibility across locations.

Let’s look at two scenarios:

1. Smaller Operation

You may not use a warehouse. In this case, internal stock transfers are super important.

Let’s say you have excess stock of a popular item at Location A, but at Location B, you are running low. With a multi-store system, you can move this extra stock to where it’s needed.

In FTx POS, for example, we take this one step further, with Suggested Transfers. This feature analyzes current inventory levels for selected products at selected locations. It then provides suggestions for stock transfers based on historical demand.

2. Larger Operation

If your warehouse is your primary source for replenishment and fulfillment, you need a unified inventory database.

In this case, you would set a reorder point by store (e.g., a point at which re-ordering is triggered). If triggered, the system would automatically create an “order” from the warehouse.

Then, once received at the store, stock levels would update for the store and warehouse. In other words, you would know exactly where items are within your organization in real-time.

Multi-Store Inventory with FTx POS. Our POS platform was built for multi-store retail chains. You’ll find all the tools you need to centralize your inventory. Automated replenishment, stock transfers, cycle count automation, pricebook software, and more.

Do I Really Need Multi-Store Inventory Software?

Scaling a retail business can be overwhelming. That’s why many business owners try to make do with their existing inventory software or hack together a mix of spreadsheets and third-party tools.

These Frankenstein systems work… until they don’t. All it takes is a manual error for inventory to get “lost,” resulting in lengthy reconciliations and audits.

A unified multi-store system offers compelling benefits:

  • Faster Delivery: Knowing exactly what’s in stock at nearby locations speeds up product transfers between stores.
  • Fewer Mistakes: Automation eliminates the need for time-wasting manual orders, a huge source of manual errors.
  • Reduced Shipping Costs: Optimizing inventory across stores minimizes the need for long-distance shipments.
  • Reduce Wholesale Costs: Unified inventory increases your purchasing power, as you can buy in bulk and store it at your warehouse.
  • Increased Product Availability: Identify and address potential stockouts before they happen.
  • Loss Prevention: Improved processes minimize shrinkage (inventory loss due to theft, damage, or other factors).
  • Reduced Labor Costs: Automated processes save time and free up staff for other tasks.

Best Practices for Multi-Store Inventory Management

Juggling inventory across multiple stores can feel like a constant balancing act. These best practices will help you conquer this challenge:

1. Find Your Ordering Balance

Will all distribution come from the warehouse? Or will you also allow stores to place individual orders with suppliers? The choice often depends on your retail chain’s size, product range, and sales patterns.

However, here are some factors to consider:

  • Product Size and Value: Bulky or expensive items are better suited for centralized warehousing for cost-efficiency.
  • Demand Fluctuations: High-demand or fast-selling items might benefit from direct supplier ordering to avoid stockouts. Vendor-managed inventory may also be helpful for these products.
  • Store Location: Stores in remote areas might need more autonomy to account for local preferences.

2. Automation vs Manual Replenishment

Next, you’ll want to think about how orders get placed. This process can be done manually (e.g. each store creates its own purchase orders) or with automation.

  • Manual – This method gives stores more control over their inventory and allows them to factor in local sales trends or upcoming promotions.
  • Automated Replenishment – Reorder points (based on stock levels or sales history) are set. The system then automatically generates purchase orders to be fulfilled. This approach is generally best, and it helps reduce stockouts and saves time.

You might also vary this by product or category. Manual ordering is useful for high-value items with unpredictable demand patterns. Automated replenishment is best for fast-moving items with consistent demand.

3. Setting Reorder Points

Reorder points drive efficiency. Set them with care. FTx POS offers standard and customizable reorder points. Here are some of our favorites:

4. Location-Based Demand

Not all stores are created equal. Your best-sellers will change from location to location.

Therefore, your multi-location inventory platform needs accurate demand forecasting that you can segment by location. In FTx POS, for example, demand forecasting is used in our reorder-point algorithms.

But you can also see the Inventory Projection report. This report helps you make data-driven inventory decisions by location.

5. Regularly Verify Your Data

Inventory counts ensure the accuracy of your inventory data. However, a multi-store inventory system simplifies this task by automating the cycle count process.

With a cycle count, your employees count a subset of your inventory on a rolling basis. This could happen weekly, or even daily. Here are a few ways automation helps:

  • Generates cycle count sheets by store or for the warehouse
  • Allows a handheld scanner to be used to sync the count data
  • Collects and centralizes cycle count data for review

In other words, automation says “count this on this day.” And once the count is complete, the data is centralized, verified, and until inventory can be updated remotely for the entire operation.

Multi-Store Inventory Challenges: Why Most Software Falls Short

Why can’t I continue to use my inventory software? You can. But only if the platform includes multi-store support.

Unfortunately, many basic inventory tools are designed for single-store or single-channel operations. This causes a variety of problems when trying to scale up inventory for multiple branches. They include:

1. Limited Visibility: Single-store software provides a siloed view of inventory levels at just one location. This makes it impossible to track stock across all stores, leading to potential stockouts at one location while another has excess inventory.

2. Manual Processes: Basic POS inventory software can’t handle tasks like inter-store transfers or centralized purchasing.

3. Multi-Channel Inefficiency: Basic inventory software isn’t designed for omnichannel retail, where customers might buy online and pick up in-store. Without proper integration, fulfilling these orders becomes complex and prone to errors.

4. Demand Forecasting: Without a unified real-time inventory database, you can’t efficiently analyze data and forecast demand for multiple stores with diverse customer bases.

5. Limited Reporting Capabilities: The ability to pull reports by location, zone, or region makes purchasing and inventory allocation decisions more difficult.

Ultimately, these challenges can negatively impact customer experience. Out-of-stock products, inaccurate inventory levels online, and delays with in-store pickup can all lead to frustrated customers and lost sales.

Final Takeaways

Opening new stores and entering new markets is an exciting time for a retail business. But it’s also stressful. Commonly, inventory is one of the biggest sources of stress for multi-store retailers.

But with the right software, the process gets easier. A multi-location inventory platform puts a big umbrella over all your data, syncs it, and makes it easy to digest. You gain a birds-eye view of your stock and can then use this unified data to automate your process.

Not only does this save you valuable time. But it’s also a powerful tool for driving efficiency and revenue.

FTx POS offers POS-integrated warehouse and inventory management tools for multi-store retailers. Schedule a demo today to learn more about our inventory tools.


Juggling inventory across multiple locations? Here's your key to success:

  • Ditch spreadsheets for a multi-location inventory system.
  • Centralize data in the cloud for a unified view.
  • Communicate clearly between locations to avoid stockout surprises.
  • Set buffer stock levels to handle demand shifts.
  • Design warehouses for efficiency and easy product access.
  • Analyze sales data to predict demand and allocate inventory strategically.

These steps will streamline your operations and keep your customers happy.

The benefits of multi-store inventory include fewer stockouts, happier customers who get what they need faster, and reduced storage costs by keeping inventory levels optimized. These systems also empower smarter decision-making for strategically allocating inventory across your locations. With everything in one place, communication is streamlined, and you can avoid the chaos of spreadsheets and conflicting information.

Real-time tracking provides constant visibility into stock levels at every location. This helps you:

  • Avoid stockouts: Reorder before it's too late, keeping customers happy.
  • Fulfill orders faster: Locate the closest available stock to get products to customers quicker.
  • Optimize stock levels: Say goodbye to excess inventory in one location while another faces shortages. Real-time data helps you transfer stock across locations.
  • Make informed decisions: With constant data on inventory movement, you can make better purchasing choices and avoid unnecessary spending.

  • Multi-location tracking: The core function, allowing real-time stock level monitoring at every location.
  • Inventory transfers: Efficiently manage stock movement between locations to address shortages or optimize storage.
  • Order picking optimization: Software that helps design warehouse layouts for better picking efficiency.
  • Barcode scanning: Use barcode scanners for faster and more accurate stock updates.
  • Reporting and analytics: Generate reports to analyze inventory trends, identify high-demand items, and optimize stock allocation across locations.

Maintaining consistent inventory across multiple locations requires a centralized approach. Invest in a real-time inventory management system for complete stock visibility. Analyze sales data to predict demand at each store and allocate stock strategically. Set buffer levels of key items to handle surprises. Finally, clear communication between locations ensures everyone's on the same page about stock transfers and potential stockouts, allowing for proactive adjustments.

Location management software can be your compliance hero. It creates audit trails for stock movement, simplifying checks. Generate reports on inventory and compliance metrics automatically, saving time and boosting accuracy. Plus, real-time data lets you spot potential issues before they become problems.

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Business Experts & Contributors

A New Solution Coming To FasTrax

Danielle is a content writer at FTx POS. She specializes in writing about all-in-one, cutting-edge POS and business solutions that can help companies stand out. In addition to her passions for reading and writing, she also enjoys crafts and watching documentaries.

Danielle Dixon

Content Writer
A New Solution Coming To FasTrax

Matthew Davis is a content marketing specialist for FTx POS. With experience in marketing, brick-and-mortar retail, and ecommerce, Matthew enjoys writing about strategies and technology retailers can use to grow. Previously, he managed retail operations for a sports/entertainment facility and worked in marketing consulting.

Matthew Davis

SEO Specialist/Content Writer

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