Spring 2008
What tips can you offer to maintain a clean and efficient back room?

Gail Markert of Markert Group Consulting

Gail Markert of Markert Group Consulting


Giving some thought to your retail storage area can pay off in big dividends later. When you think how often you and your staff use this area, it pays to have an organizational plan that maximizes available space.

Start with a floor plan. Sketch out the space noting electrical boxes, heating and air ducts, fire exits and any other areas that cannot be blocked.

Next, list your fastest-selling items and place them closest to the doorway. These are the items you will be replenishing most frequently, so having them closest to the shop door will save you many steps over time.

Organize the rest of the space by category. Keeping like items together is a logical arrangement for you and your staff. That means keeping all lighting together, cards in one place, seasonal items arranged by season, all jewelry together, etc.

Take into account any merchandise you may have that is sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Avoid placing items like candy next to heating vents, and liquids or lotions next to cold outside walls. Never place food or candy next to scented candles or lotions, as the fragrance can permeate the food.

Lastly, to keep the area at peak efficiency, it must be maintained daily. Make sure you and your staff are disciplined in unpacking new goods into each designated product area, and rotating the stock with “oldest” in front to keep fresh inventory rotating to the floor in the best condition.

Debbie Dusenberry of Curious Sofa

Debbie Dusenberry of Curious Sofa


Maintaining an organized back room needs to be everyone’s responsibility, but delegating the fine-tuning to one person for a few hours a week really helps my store stay on top of it the best we can. At any given time the back of the house can turn into pure chaos with one palette delivery, so just controlling boxes and walk room is crucial. We let one employee put things where she feels it is best, and then she teaches us how to work with it. We have large metal shelving in specific areas for back stock, tools, supplies and receiving. I also make large computer labels for plastic storage tubs, clearly marked with the season, as I buy antiques all year to save for certain holidays. We have sets of tubs with labels clearly marked CLAIM (broken items from vendor awaiting transaction and return processing), REPAIR (merchandise that needs small fixes), TOOLS, PRICE (items needing price tags) and DISPLAY (items not for sale but needed for a project). These little odds and ends can get scattered all around the store. This way they are concentrated in one area and easy to keep track of until time allows us to put them in their proper place.

Cheryl Karpen of Gently Spoken

Cheryl Karpen of Gently Spoken


One of the best solutions I had to organizing a back room was to find a person within your organization who loves to organize, and let them go at it with wild abandon. Give her or him an hour or two every two weeks to maintain it. Delegating this activity will give you more time to focus on revenue-producing activities and let an “organizer” live their passion for neatness and order. True story!

Ed Butler of The Butler Group

Ed Butler of The Butler Group


From my years of running department stores and our Atlanta showroom, I find that the problem is accumulating things that are not needed. The hardest part of cleaning out is knowing where to start. We are forced to clean out our storage rooms every six months, before each major show. If an item has not been used for the past six months (12 months for seasonal), then get rid of it. Many times things will sell if they are reasonably priced. If they don’t, throw them away or give them to charity.

Keep stock rooms clean, with merchandise close to the door for quick access. Next, store the damaged goods waiting for claims transaction, and then behind that you can store small display equipment (risers, plate stands, shelf brackets, etc.) that are needed each week as displays are rearranged. Everything else should be kept in a remote storage facility.

Before anything goes into the stock room, ask whether it will be needed again this month. If not, make the decision to take it away to another place, or get rid of it now.

Will Ambroson of Homespice Decor

Will Ambroson of Homespice Decor


To stay organized, keep similar items together, then label them and group them alphabetically. Install vertical shelving units to utilize the full space available in your back room, and store as much as you can on shelves, rather than the floor. The vertical shelving will also keep you from stacking too many boxes on top of one another. You’ll save time and energy by not having to take down and then restack each box when you need the one on the very bottom.

Stacey Bowers of Woodstock Chimes

Stacey Bowers of Woodstock Chimes


Start by clearly labeling everything to reduce the time spent searching for product. It’s also helpful to group items in the back room the same way you do on the floor. So, if you merchandise two types of products together, store them together too. As you receive seasonal items throughout the year, group those in a designated area as well. Keep bestsellers in an accessible area, so that you can quickly replenish merchandise that’s been purchased. And lastly, clean and dust often, because you never know what you might find.

The Gift and Home Trade Association is the gift and home industry’s professional trade association, formed to help vendors, sales agencies, industry affiliates and retailers work together to improve the industry. It hosts an annual conference for vendors and sales agencies, and its eight-member Retailer Advisory Board supports independent gift and home retailers through regular seminars at industry trade shows. For more information about the GHTA, call 877.600.4872, email info@ghta.net, or visit www.giftandhome.org.

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