Is stingy inventory management costing sales?

There is some recent reporting (about Home Depot and other retailers) that stores are trying to keep their inventory levels very lean, and are willing to send customers to their websites if their shopping trips end with an out-of-stock. I addressed this problem recently on RetailWire:

I’ll use myself as an illustration of why the answer to the headline question is “yes”: Over the holiday weekend I had three separate transactions with Amazon (for K-cups, indoor spotlights and a new laptop battery) that saved me three different shopping trips. I had the assurance that the items were in stock, would show up quickly and would be priced competitively. It’s not just the price and the convenience of the transaction, but also the assurance that the items are in stock.

This is a powerful rebuttal to the brick-and-mortar model, especially as more stores try to keep up with Amazon by offering too much selection in a limited amount of space. Retailers have forgotten the maxim of “Narrow and deep,” and find it more and more difficult to stay in stock on such a broad array of SKU’s. (In fact, Target has had this problem for years.) This is one more way in which “omnichannel” has turned into a double-edged sword for many retailers — and not the growth driver it was imagined to be.

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