Stay on Top of Your Shop: 4 Inventory Management Tips From Etsy

By Cheyne Little handmade and vintage goods
Photo by Anna Joyce

Anna Joyce opened her eponymous Etsy shop in 2006 to sell the accessories she had been hand printing and sewing in her Portland, Oregon studio. She’s racked up nearly 2,500 sales on Etsy since then. In addition to managing orders for Etsy shop and Etsy Wholesale customers, Anna has spent the past year writing a do-it-yourself book slated to publish in fall 2015. That’s a lot to juggle, but, over the years, she’s learned to take advantage of her shop’s annual ebb and flow.

When you make your first sale on Etsy, worrying about having too many orders to fill might be the furthest thing from your mind. But for many sellers, keeping up with demand as sales ramp up is one of the trickiest parts of running a business. One way to make busy periods more manageable is by setting up inventory management systems and embracing advanced planning. Read on for tips from Etsy shop owners who have learned to do just that.

Stock Up on Popular Items

Anna Joyce opened her Etsy shop back in 2006. Over time, she came to realize that sales in her shop tend to slow down each July. So she started using that time productively. “The summer is a great time to stock up, since I know orders will start to increase for Back to School,” she says. “I’m focusing on creating items now so I’m not scrambling when the fall demand comes.”

Keeping pre-cut fabric pieces on-hand makes it easier for Anna Joyce to fulfill orders on popular products.

Anna keeps ready-cut pieces of her signature fabric, which is printed by a local artisan, on hand in her studio. By keeping popular patterns, pre-cut pieces and complete pockets and labels consistently well-stocked, she’s able to respond quickly when there’s greater demand for a specific item. She also avoids overstocking items that aren’t currently in demand.

Anna is careful to let shoppers know when items are out of stock and keeps them listed as backordered. By adjusting listings to let shoppers know a popular item is out of stock, she manages her customers’ expectations while creating excitement and urgency around sought-after pieces. She also adds extra padding to delivery times for popular items. “It’s better to surprise someone with a delivery that’s even earlier than they expected,” she says.

Create a Smart Storage System

Alice Garrett founded Alice Caroline, an Etsy shop based in Cheltenham, England that sells fabric supplies, in 2009. Since then, she has made more than 10,000 sales to customers all over the world. Given her shop’s high volume of orders, many of which contain multiple items, maintaining an organized inventory system is key. Alice alphabetizes her collection of fabric prints by name for quick reference and easier order packing (the names appear on the edge of each bolt). When she’s packing orders, she also checks off each item on a printed receipt to ensure accuracy. ” You can do a lot with a little organization,” says Alice, who prefers her low-tech approach to fancy inventory management software.

Alice Garrett organizes Liberty fabrics for her shop, Alice Caroline, alphabetically by name to make packing orders easier.

Alice Garrett organizes Liberty fabrics for her shop, Alice Caroline, alphabetically by name to make packing orders easier.

Optimize Your Workspace

Originally trained as an architect, Holly Luttrell of Etsy shop Edward Owl creates exclusive jewelry pieces with an “all-about-the-rock” approach in her New York City studio. Offering made-to-order jewelry in her shop while building stock for local holiday markets keeps her especially busy during the holiday season. To stay organized, Holly keeps paper receipts posted on a bulletin board alongside a calendar so she always knows exactly where she stands and what’s coming down the pipeline.

Holly also keeps a close watch on her most vital supplies, maintaining drawers full of gemstones and a binder of important information about each one. “It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect,” Holly says. She suggests studying how you work and optimizing your space and supplies for efficiency, so creating becomes more intuitive. “I lean over and the basket of items I need is always right there,” she says.

Keeping organized supplies at her fingertips is key to Alice Garret’s inventory management system.

Don’t Wait!

After having two babies in two years, wardrobe stylist Cat Shanahan decided to find a new home for many of the vintage items in her closet. She founded her Toronto-based Etsy shop, Aiseirigh Vintage, in 2010 and quickly amassed a massive inventory of vintage items, which she managed using spreadsheets. But the system eventually stopped working, partially due to a lack of discipline on Cat’s part. “It’s the most terrible feeling to not know where things are,” she recalls.

That’s when Cat’s husband, Craig, created a software program that functions much like a SKU system and helps her keep track of inventory. The system has proven key as Cat continues to expand her inventory, which is now located in two warehouses. Her advice to fellow sellers: Don’t wait until your inventory gets out of control to set up a system for managing it. “Don’t start the bad habit,” says Cat, who has made more than 1,700 sales in the past four years. “Make a system that works for you; use labels or number all your items. Get creative!”

A huge inventory of vintage clothing is the crux of Cat Shanahan’s business — and knowing exactly where and how to find individual pieces helps her keep up with orders.

How do you organize your inventory? Share your favorite techniques in the comments.

Seller Handbook Best-of Archives | Bin-Based Inventory Management System

Cheyne Little worked full-time on her accessory line and the leadership team of her local Etsy Team for two years. She left Texas and self-employment behind to work on the Seller Education team at Etsy in 2011.

Source: etsy blog

To purchase any of my art work please visit my shop on Etsy or contact me by e-mail at

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