What is an Inventory Specialist and How to Hire One

Inventory specialist

Inventory management is powerful. Get it right and you’ll have positive cash flow, the right stock on hand, and happy customers.

Getting it wrong, however, is expensive. That’s when you end up either with stockouts and frustrated customers, or stock you can’t sell and a dip in your profit.

When you hire an inventory specialist, you bring in someone whose primary focus is to look after your stock—someone who knows how to store it, when to reorder it, and how to optimize every process around it.

What’s the impact of having an inventory specialist on your team? This article will take you through the skills, types, and responsibilities of inventory specialists, along with tips on how to hire them.

What is an inventory specialist?

An inventory specialist keeps track of the inventory you receive and sell. They ensure that the inventory is in great condition, the inventory records are accurate, the stockroom is organized, and that there’s always sufficient stock.

When an inventory specialist does their job well, the benefits of this retail skill trickle into every aspect of your store. Running out of stock is rare, as is overstocking, so your cash flow is positive. Your store assistants can find the right products quickly, so customers are happy. 

And best of all: you can stop worrying about inventory data, stockroom layouts, and demand forecasting. You have someone else working in their zone of genius so you can work in yours.

Benefits of hiring an inventory specialist

Inventory specialists are crucial to maintaining your inventory. Here are some of the benefits your retail store could enjoy by hiring an inventory specialist.

Improved inventory accuracy

Inventory accuracy plays a part in several parts of your business, including your store layout and product display, plans for your product lines and staffing, and forecasting demand for your products.

These activities suffer when the inventory levels in your system and the real stock levels don’t match. With an inventory specialist, you’ll easily catch and reconcile any discrepancies that crop up—and remove that worry from your plate in the long run.

Less time spent on inventory counts

Inventory counts are essential when it comes to inventory accuracy. But physical inventory counts are complex and can take a while, especially if your number of SKUs has increased or you’ve hired new staff since your last inventory audit (or both).

With an inventory specialist, you’ll have a pro who knows the inventory counting process inside out and is fully in charge of it. They’ll optimize the process for efficiency—like introducing cycle counts to replace full physical counts—so the store can run with minimal interruptions.

💡 PRO TIP: When you use different platforms to run your online and retail stores, inventory discrepancies are more likely to happen. This can lead to more frequent inventory counts to reconcile differences and ensure stock levels are accurate.

Avoid out-of-stock and overstocking issues

Overstocking can lead to holding dead stock—items that are expired or no longer relevant—and hurt your profitability. On the other end of that spectrum is not stocking enough inventory and having a stockout, which leads to poor customer service and lost revenue. 

Inventory specialists rely on sales data, inventory data, relationships with suppliers, and wider industry trends to forecast future demand for specific products. This enables them to minimize the risk of over or understocking, along with the resultant costs.

Take the guesswork out of restocks

Only Shopify helps you make smarter inventory purchasing decisions. See your most profitable and popular items, forecast demand, get low stock alerts, and create purchase orders without leaving your POS system.

Inventory specialist responsibilities

  • Receive and track inventory
  • Maintain storage
  • Order restocks
  • Process returned inventory

These are the typical responsibilities of an inventory specialist.

Receive and track inventory

When new inventory comes in, your inventory specialist keeps track of it. They:

  • Accept new deliveries and handle the accompanying paperwork
  • Take note of the exact inventory items and amounts received compared to purchase orders
  • Check that new stock is in good condition and undamaged, and return any that isn’t
  • Log new deliveries in your inventory management system
  • Identify and write off stock that has expired or is no longer sellable
  • Conduct inventory audits, compare them to sales records, and reconcile them regularly

In short, they make sure that every item that comes through your stockroom door is accounted for and accurately tracked.

💡 PRO TIP: Shopify POS comes with tools to help you control and manage your inventory across multiple store locations, your online store, and warehouse. Forecast demand, set low-stock alerts, create purchase orders, know which items are selling or sitting on shelves, count inventory, and more.

Maintain storage

Once the inventory is accepted and accounted for, your inventory specialist will make sure every item ends up in the right place so your staff can replenish shelves quickly. This includes:

  • Stockroom organization, including layout, product groupings, and shelving options
  • Storing each delivery in the right place and manner
  • Replenishing shelves on the sales floor
  • Training your retail staff to navigate the stockroom and keep it organized
  • Tweaking the stockroom layout based on seasonal changes in product demand

The goal is to streamline your storage room—it makes everyone’s job easier.

Order restocks

Inventory specialists are in charge of placing orders for new inventory. This is a layered process, because the specialist needs to know:

  • Which products to restock and how often
  • Supply chain specifics, like how long it takes to produce and deliver a specific item or how material shortages affect the supply chain
  • How to keep order fulfillment costs at their minimum
  • How big is the risk of overstocking or stockouts based on the inventory they order

Sales and inventory data from your POS system is crucial for timely and accurate restocking. Great inventory specialists will rely on it heavily.

Process returned inventory

If your store offers returns, your inventory specialist will facilitate the return process. This includes:

  • Logging the item in your inventory management system
  • Issuing a refund to the customer
  • Investigating the reasons behind the return
  • Storing returned items appropriately
A survey by Doddle revealed that 84% of consumers form their opinion about a retailer based on their returns experience.

With a dedicated inventory specialist, you can prioritize both the customer experience and the inventory records that change as a result of a return.

Inventory control specialist skills

  • Record-keeping abilities
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Basic computer skills

Look for these critical skills when considering hiring an inventory control specialist.

Record-keeping abilities

Inventory management mistakes can result in phantom inventory, shipping delays, and customer disappointment—in other words, they can be quite expensive. That’s why attention to detail is critical.

Your inventory specialist should know your product range well, which then allows them to work quickly and avoid mistakes. For example, logging new deliveries correctly sets up the foundation for upcoming days and weeks of selling those products. This also lets the inventory specialist read recorded and real stock levels with ease, and make adjustments if needed.

A detail-oriented inventory specialist creates benefits for every facet of your store, from product merchandising and holiday promotions to customer support and satisfaction.

💡 PRO TIP: Want to control which staff can count, receive, and adjust inventory quantities? Set roles and permissions to set boundaries on what staff can and can’t do when logged in to your POS system, like accessing its inventory management tools.

Strong organizational skills

Inventory specialists introduce order into stockrooms and warehouses. That’s because they consider different needs of your store when planning your stockroom layout and shelving.

They focus on learning about product demand, shelf restocking practices, and stockout risks. This allows an inventory specialist to build operational guidelines and templates to maintain a high standard of inventory management.

I simplify inventory specialist scope into two top-level areas: sales forecasting and replenishment. Reordering processes vary by sales channel, so it's never one-size-fits-all; it's critical for me to see my inventory team staying on top of replenishments. I measure my team against: 1) our days of stock targets and 2) lost sales (due to out of stock inventory).

Good interpersonal skills

Relationships are a big part of inventory management. An inventory specialist needs to frequently collaborate with manufacturers, suppliers, couriers, sales associates, visual merchandisers, store managers, and customers.

That makes communication skills essential for this job. Inventory specialists need to be able to switch contexts based on the work environment they’re in and blend well with different roles on your team. This includes empathy, listening, problem solving, conflict handling, and negotiation.

Basic computer skills

Many parts of inventory management happen on a computer. Some stores use Excel spreadsheets to track inventory, while others have a centralized POS system that connects their inventory to their sales data.

Either way, inventory specialists must know their way around databases, inventory reports, and Microsoft Office tools.

Types of inventory management specialists

There are a few different types of inventory management specialists you could add to your team. Let's take a closer look at each of these types of employees.

Inventory control specialists

An inventory control specialist is another term for an inventory specialist, the role this article has focused on the most. The scope of this role will vary based on the size of the store—the needs of a huge chain store with multiple warehouses and thousands of SKUs are very different from those of a boutique store with 30 SKUs.

Inventory control specialists usually have several years’ experience. They think on their feet and can quickly adapt to new environments and needs of a store, like a growing product line or unpredictable demand.

Inventory managers

An inventory manager oversees all inventory management aspects of a store, including policies, team members, supply chain management, and inventory planning. They’re also called inventory management specialists.

Inventory managers consistently keep an eye on different inventory processes and look for opportunities to improve and streamline them. This includes training their team, spotting a change in customer demand for a product, and reacting to a supply chain bottleneck to find a temporary alternative solution.

Inventory clerks

An inventory clerk is an entry-level position in inventory management. Inventory clerks are also called inventory associates. Their role focuses on executing well-defined inventory management procedures like physical and cycle counts, logging new inventory, and reconciling discrepancies in stock levels.

Inventory clerks often have as little as one year of work experience, but computer skills (to manage data entry and inventory records) and physical agility (to manage heavy lifting and/or operate a forklift) are critical for an associate to start and progress within the role.

How to hire an inventory specialist

  • Write a job description
  • Post openings online
  • Leverage social media and professional networks
  • Interview qualified candidates
  • Hire the best candidate
  • Maintain candidate database

Let's walk through the process of hiring an inventory specialist for your business.

Write a job description

Use the job title and description for this role to attract the right applicants. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make the title clear, i.e. “inventory specialist” or “inventory control specialist” instead of “inventory rockstar”
  • Define the role by summarizing expectations and the overall company culture
  • List the specifics of the inventory specialist role, including the ballpark number of SKUs you have, your product depth and breadth, the type of stockroom you have, etc.
  • Have a must-have list (e.g. high school diploma, years of experience) and a nice-to-have list (e.g. experience with Shopify, experience in your industry)
  • State the salary for the position and benefits

This is also the time to decide whether you’re looking for a full-time or part-time employee for this role. Include this information in your job description.

Post openings online

Use job boards like Indeed, CareerBuilder, National Retail Federation, and AllRetailJobs to post your open inventory specialist role.

Each job board offers different features and pricing options, so explore them based on what you need and narrow your choices down to best matches.

Leverage social media and professional networks

Step outside of traditional job boards to reach a more diverse pool of candidates.

With 79% of job seekers using social media to look for jobs, give platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and even TikTok a shot when hiring. Target and Alo Yoga are among brands who’ve used “TikTok Resumes” to fill retail positions.

Don’t forget to tap into your existing networks of employees, family, friends, and retail associations for potential candidate referrals.

Interview qualified candidates

Once you narrow the list of candidates down to the most qualified ones, create a list of questions you’ll ask in job interviews. Use these categories to develop your questions:

  • Credential verification (“What can you tell me about your current position?”)
  • Experience verification (“Tell me about a successful project you’ve worked on before.”)
  • Competency-based questions (“How would you solve [an issue]?”)
  • Behavioral questions (“Do you work best alone or as part of the team?”)
  • Opinions (“What do you think your current company could do to improve their success?”)
  • Outside-of-the-box questions (“What book do you think everyone on our team should read?”)

The goal is to not just verify credentials and experience, but also understand how the candidate would fit into the team and your store’s specific needs.

Hire the best candidate

After you run background checks, make an offer to your best candidate. Use these tips to maximize the chances they’ll accept it:

  • Gather information about them so you can make the offer as relevant and attractive to them as possible
  • Make an informal verbal offer so they have a chance to ask questions and share potential concerns you can address
  • Send an offer letter via email, including job title, primary duties, salary, expected schedule, and conditions of employment

Check out our retail hiring guide for more tips and guidelines to hire the best candidate you can.

Maintain candidate database

Finally, be sure to keep all résumés that qualified for the role and, if they made it through the interview phase, did well on the interview.

Your inventory management needs could grow as you expand your product assortment or open new retail locations. The candidate database will give you a solid place to start looking for new potential hires.

Find an inventory specialist for your business

Hiring an inventory specialist will bring you relief when it comes to inventory management, having the right stock to sell, and keeping your business profitable.

Invest the time and energy to learn what you need from this role so you can find the ideal person for it. With the right tools and processes in place, your inventory management—and your business—will thrive.

Manage inventory from one back office

Shopify POS comes with tools to help you manage warehouse and store inventory in one place. Forecast demand, set low stock alerts, create purchase orders, know which items are selling or sitting on shelves, count inventory, and more.

Inventory Specialist FAQ

What are the skills of an inventory specialist?

The skills of an inventory specialist include but are not limited to: -Excellent organizational skills -The ability to conduct physical counts -The ability to use various inventory software programs -The ability to reconcile inventory records -The ability to investigate and resolve inventory discrepancies

What makes a great inventory specialist?

There are many qualities that make a great inventory specialist, but some of the most important are attention to detail, good organizational skills, and the ability to stay calm and focused under pressure.

What do you call a person who does inventory?

An inventory clerk.