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7 ways to organize purchase orders

Purchase orders, oh, purchase orders.

Do you have a command of your upcoming receipts? Or is it a struggle to keep it all straight?

This month, we’ve been talking about how to receive merchandise gracefully. Here are 7 ways to do just that.

1) Enter purchase orders into your POS.

as soon as you’re done with preseason buying season and as soon as you submit the ASAP or Fill In order to the vendor.

This is the most underrated task. EVER.

By entering orders into your POS prior to receiving them, you’re essentially entering them into a powerful database. And then you can run reports. And then you can dissect information by brand, category, and ship date. You have the ultimate visibility on the future of the store!

This info is also helpful for other departments. The web team will love you for enabling them to build their eCommerce skus. Marketing will love you for special initiatives and unique launches. Finance will love you for cash flow forecasting. Not to mention, the buying team is able to access their future product at a moment’s notice.

2) Pick a format for order confirmations and invoices--and stick to it.

Should you go digital with PDFs or be old school with paper printouts?

My answer is to do whatever is more motivating to take action and complete the task.

Go with PDFs if you:

  • Value minimalist, clean working space

  • Have an iron clad digital folder organization system

  • Need to share files via cloud

Go with paper printouts if you:

  • Like binders, label makers, hand-writing notes

  • Feel a sense of accomplishment with a physical organization method

  • Don’t mind a few extra physical things around if it helps clear out things in your head

3) Use a naming convention for purchase order numbers.

What’s that? It’s your own proprietary coding system to describe the purchase order.

My recommendation is to use alphanumeric characters that are natural for your business.

And for sorting purposes, order the codes in this sequence:

[shipping code] [brand code] [category code] [special note]


Translates to: Shipping Fall 2020, October (or shipment number). Brand XYZ. Category Men’s Outerwear. Special note Promotion.

4) Use a purchase order log.

A Purchase Order Log details the headers of all the purchase orders that you manage, all on one page. I recommend having 1 PO Log per season.

A simple example of column headers: Ship Date, Cancel Date, PO Number, Units, Total Cost, Total Retail, % Received, Order Status

A PO Log is the ever-evolving to-do list for every buyer. It is the basic framework for you to do the next 3 steps.

5) Maintain past orders, both ASAP and Preseason Orders.

Is an order past due? Partially shipped? Back ordered? 100% received?

It’s easy to tell if you’re tracking it on your PO Log!

By maintaining past orders, you’re taking the time to clean house in your POS. You’re also taking the time to clean house with vendors and brands. If you’re tired of waiting for that backorder, then ask the brand to cancel the unshipped items and close the PO. The last thing we need is a store ready for cold weather and we receive a backordered tank top. (insert forehead-slap emoji)

6) Track receiving progress.

Track the receiving progress of both ASAP and Preseason Orders. Are your brands adhering to their ship/cancel windows? Hold them accountable! If you haven’t seen receiving progress on a PO 10 days after the ship date, then engage your CSR (customer service representative) and politely ask for a shipping update. Stay on top of this because you scheduled the receipt of that product during this month for a reason. Time is money.

7) Review & confirm future orders.

Upcoming (preseason) orders should also be reviewed and confirmed with brands in a timely fashion. Even if you don’t need to make changes to the order, it’s still nice to stay front of mind by confirming details with the sales rep and CSR. They are there to make your life easier, and you have every right to judge them on their packing and shipping accuracy.

Stay tuned--next week we are releasing a free copy of a Purchase Order Log that will help you stay sane while organizing your purchases

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