Periodic Inventory is Yesterday’s News

By : Bonnie Lawrence

May 01, 2015 12:30 PM

CNBC recently coined a new phrase to describe inventory discrepancies that occur due to multi-channel retailing – ghost inventory[1]. Luckily, this is not akin to the zombie apocalypse; but it does have the potential to be much more prevalent. Ghost inventory refers to products that appear to be in-stock when a customer checks online, but are in fact out-of-stock. Having a daily snapshot of your store’s inventory balance was adequate when bricks and mortar was the only shopping method, retail stores closed for the night, and system configurations required ‘end-of-day’ processes to calculate store performance reports. While the majority of retailers still operate in this fashion today, it is just not enough to keep up with customer expectations.


“What retailers need is technology that shows their available inventory in real time. Any delay means information is wrong[2],” according to Kevin Sterneckert, a former technology analyst for Gartner. Think about it. According to The Food Marketing Institute (FMI), a typical grocery store in America stocks approximately 43,800 items[3]. There is no efficient way to sift through a written report on the inventory position of all those items and make proper decisions. What retailers need is a system that maintains a perpetual inventory balance of all items, with an automated alert system to proactively assign resources to investigate anomalies. The minute a high-value item runs short on stock, or the minute a cashier scans an item showing zero balance, or the minute a high-demand item is arriving at the back door – managers and their associates are alerted and set into action.


Innovative perpetual inventory systems such as NCR Power Inventory give retailers visibility to inventory balance in real time, allowing operators to surpass the competition in delivering a superior customer experience. Power Inventory captures all inventory events – backdoor receiving, transfers, returns and sales adjustments – and gives users an immediate look at inventory balance on hand. The solution not only provides visibility within the store, but across the enterprise, including the warehouse items, shipments in-transit, and promised-to-sell items waiting for customer pickup. This also eliminates the risk of ghost inventory, which can significantly impact customer satisfaction and accounts for upwards of 25% of all inventories on retail websites[4].


To learn more about NCR Power Inventory visit:


[1] “Many Stores Don’t Know What’s In Stock,” Jayne O’Donnell, CNBC, December 2014.


[2] Ibid.


[3] “Supermarket Facts,”


[4] “Many Stores Don’t Know What’s In Stock,” CNBC, December 2014.

Bonnie Lawrence

Marketing Leader, Retail Solutions Division

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Bonnie helps to execute marketing strategy for the Global Enterprise Merchandising and Supply Chain Solutions business unit worldwide. She has also worked as Product Manager and was an integral member of the team that launched the new product, Power Mobile.