What is perpetual stock management?

Perpetual stock management – also known as perpetual stock taking or perpetual inventory system – is a type of inventory valuation whereby a business uses electronic tracking systems to continually record inventory.

Small businesses can use several approaches to stock management. Check out our entry on periodic stock management to find out which option would work best for you.

The development of electronic POS systems, barcoding and radio frequency identification (RFID) made it possible for businesses to track changes to inventory in real-time, offering a highly detailed and up-to-date overview of current stock or cost of goods sold.

Before this technology was available, businesses relied on periodic stock taking, an inventory system whereby businesses carry out physical inventory counts at set times throughout the accounting year.

Why use perpetual stock management?

For large organisations with extensive inventories, it’s necessary to use perpetual stock management to track inventory as physical counts would be too time-consuming. 

For small businesses with a minimal amount of inventory, there are pros and cons to choosing perpetual stock management over periodic stock management.

Advantages of perpetual stock management

  • Using electronic systems to continually track inventory saves businesses from regularly carrying out the time-consuming task of physical stock counts and eliminates the risk of human error when counting

  • Perpetual stock taking gives a more accurate and up-to-date overview of inventory than periodic stock taking, helping to prevent stockouts

Disadvantages of periodic stock management

  • Mistakes can still be made – for example, overstatements or understatements which come as a result of scanning errors or untracked inventory movements

  • Electronic tracking systems can be expensive - whilst they may be necessary for larger businesses with extensive inventories, they’re not always required by small businesses that could feasibly carry out physical counts

Physical inventory counts in perpetual stock management

Whilst perpetual stock management saves businesses from undertaking physical inventory counts on a regular basis, physical counts are still necessary from time to time.

Inventory records can sometimes vary from actual inventory levels due to breakage, loss, recording errors, or theft so physical counts enable businesses to verify inventory records and to make adjustments if necessary.