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Best Inventory Software for Small Businesses

In this article, we look at three of the top inventory management software providers and compare them based on cost, features, ease-of-use, and customer support, recommending the one we feel provides the best overall value for your small business.

Best Inventory Software for Small Businesses: Lightspeed Retail

For the traditional brick-and-mortar small business owner that sells the majority of their products in-store, Lightspeed Retail is a great inventory management software. It is very well-priced, has well-rated 24/7 phone support, is easy to use, and has all the inventory management features most brick-and-mortar small businesses will ever need.

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Best Inventory Management Software Summary Table

  Quickbooks Enterprise (with Advanced Inventory)
Businesses that need an in-depth inventory management system primarily for their brick and mortar store inventory Manufacturing and wholesale businesses that want to manage lots of SKU’s from right within Quickbooks Businesses that need an inventory management system that simultaneously handles brick and mortar and online store inventory
$170/month (for first year, then $280/month)
24/7 phone support. Email and live chat during business hours Phone Support M-F 6-6 PST and 6-3 PST on Saturdays M-F 9-5 PST (Email for starter plan + phone and live chat for premium plans)
Windows Vista SP2 or higher Cloud-based (works on any OS)
Inventory Levels, Tracking, and Transfer Track inventory levels, set low inventory alerts, transfer inventory in-between stores, and much more Track inventory levels, set low inventory alerts, inventory transfers, track items to specific bins in a warehouse, track by serial or lot numbers Track inventory levels, low inventory alerts, product bundling, inventory transfers, sales forecasting, and more
Purchase Order Management Automatic re-order list creation, create and manage PO’s, over 3,000 pre-programmed vendor catalogues, and more. Automatic PO creation for low inventory, manage PO’s, batch invoicing, vendor dashboard, PO tracking, and more Create PO’s
automatically based on re-order points, manage PO’s and vendors, partially received/backorder feature, supplier scorecard, and more
30+ reports and customizable reports 30+ reports (customizable extra)
Appcard, Cayan, Mercury, Marketman, Nimble Schedule, Perkville, Thirdshelf, Tyro, and more Few inventory management integrations but often can sync financial data with third-party apps Square, Shipstation, Bigcommerce, Etsy, Ebay, Xero, Shopify, WooCommerce, Paypal, Stripe, and many more
Also a full- featured POS system that can handle all front-end and register needs Also has the features and functionality to handle in-depth and sophisticated accounting, payroll, and much more. Stitch Labs is probably the best solution out there for businesses that have equally robust brick-and-mortar and ecommerce pieces

Why We Recommend Lightspeed Retail as the Best Inventory Software

There are many great reasons why we recommend Lightspeed Retail as the best inventory solution for small business owners. For one, Lightspeed retail is affordable, costing less or equal to most low-end plans offered by inventory management software providers. Also, Lightspeed Retail is a top-notch point of sale system, making it a perfect solution for the brick-and-mortar small business owner. Instead of having one software for your checkout and one for your inventory, you get both in one system. When you sell a product at your register, it is automatically reflected in your inventory count and the whole system is updated accordingly. Talk about efficiency.

Another reason we recommend Lightspeed Retail, is because it has all the inventory management functionality you will need. You can manage every step of the inventory process, from initial purchase ordering to the final sale of the product. You can set low inventory alerts, create PO’s automatically based on low-stock counts, manage vendors, ship inventory between warehouses, and more. Also, Lightspeed Retail has over 3,000 pre-programmed vendor catalogues already in its system, meaning a much easier purchase ordering process. If your vendor is not included, simply send Lightspeed a vendor catalogue and they will import it into the system for future orders.

Lastly, Lightspeed Retail has a great reputation, both for innovation and for customer service. They have 24/7 customer support that is very well-rated. Also, they are known for responding to customer needs and rolling out new features based on customer feedback.

Lightspeed Cons

The main con with Lightspeed Retail, is that at this point it only integrates with its own ecommerce solution (which still needs some work). So, if you want to sell in-store and online and manage overall sales and inventory in one place, you will have to get another solution.

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When to Use Quickbooks Enterprise

If you are a wholesale or manufacturing company, Quickbooks Enterprise could be just what you need for your inventory tracking. For example, you can track product to their specific bins within one or more warehouse, track by serial number or lot number, transfer inventory in-between locations, and even have specific stage tracking within one location. Also, Quickbooks Enterprise has built-in payroll, the ability to create customized reports, and advanced tools to help you calculate pricing.

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When to Use Stitch Labs

Stitch Labs is all about managing inventory that is sold via multiple channels. In other words, if you sell a lot of inventory both in-store and online, Stitch Labs is what you need. Instead of having to constantly try to reconcile your inventory manually for each channel, Stitch Labs can handle all your inventory in one place, updating counts, creating purchase orders, managing contacts, etc. Of course, it will cost you, but it can be worth taking the hit for the efficiency and organization you gain.

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Pricing

When it comes to pricing, Lightspeed Retail is the best deal, followed by Quickbooks Enterprise (with advanced inventory) and then Stitch Labs. Prices vary depending on a variety of factors, such as number of registers for Lightspeed Retail and number of sales channels for Stitch Labs. All providers have a free trial period, 30 days for Quickbooks Enterprise and 14 days for Lightspeed Retail and Stitch Labs.

Lightspeed Retail is primarily designed for brick-and-mortar small business owners who sell products, like a traditional retail store. For $89/month, you get 1 register and can manage 5 employees. If you want to upgrade to 2 registers and 10 employees, you will pay $149/month. If you are willing to shell out $259/month, you can have 4 registers and manage 20 employees. All plans are fully featured and include 24/7 customer support. If you are willing to pay in 14 month increments, you can get a pricing discount, ie $76/month instead of $89 for smallest plan.

Quickbooks Enterprise (With Advanced Inventory Management) There is a reason I added the “with advanced inventory management” above. Quickbooks Enterprise does not come with the inventory management piece unless you purchase their platinum plan, which currently costs $170.40/month with the deal they are running. You can also add the advanced inventory to a lesser plan, but the customer service representatives I talked to were not very clear on how much extra it would cost, and since it is only a $30 difference between their silver and platinum plans, you will probably be close to the $170 range either way.

S titch Labs starts at $99/month for 2 sales channels and 250 orders. You will have to pay an additional $100 for 500 additional orders, should you exceed the 250 mark. Stitch Labs starter plan has some other limitations as well. Support is only by email and you cannot drop ship, do multi-warehouse tasks, or set user permissions.

If you want to upgrade to $449/month for the business plan, then you have a lot more features. You can have multiple warehouses, handle 2000 orders/month, set user permissions, use tools to help you with pricing, drop ship, and get phone and live chat support. But most importantly, you have unlimited sales channels, meaning you can integrate with as many sale locations and online sites as you want.

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Ease-of-Use

After doing some basic tasks using different inventory software options, Lightspeed Retail is the most intuitive for me, followed by Stitch Labs and then Quickbooks Enterprise. Let’s take a more in-depth look at each.

Lightspeed Retail is pretty simple. Although there is a bit of a learning curve, simply because there are some sophisticated features, after the free onboarding tutorial and some messing around with the system for a bit yourself you should have no problem figuring things out. Managing inventory is easy. You can add inventory individually or in-bulk via CSV upload which Lightspeed helps you out with.

One awesome feature which makes everything easier, is that you can send in your vendor catalogue to Lightspeed and they will put it into their system for you. From then on, ordering from that vendor is very straightforward. You just find their catalogue in your account, click what you need to order, adjust quantities, submit it, and an email is sent straight to the vendor requesting a purchase order. It is really pretty slick. The whole system is like that, including the checkout screen, which is even easier to use.

If you are a Quickbooks veteran, using Enterprise will be a breeze, because it has a very similar interface to the rest of the Quickbooks software. But, if you are not a Quickbooks user from way back, the system will take some getting used to. It can be a little complicated to figure out where things are and how they work together, mostly because the screen just has a lot going on and can get a little confusing. But, with some practice, you will get the hang of it. The format is similar to Microsoft Word, with the tabs along the top for major categories and actions. Performing the actual tasks themselves, like adding a customer, is really pretty intuitive, it is just a matter of familiarizing yourself with the system.

Stitch Labs, at least for me, kind of falls in the middle of Lightspeed Retail and Quickbooks. The screen is a lot less cluttered than Quickbooks, making it easier to navigate and figure out what is going on. The tab layout at the top of the screen is similar in style to Quickbooks, with important categories featured. One problem I had with Stitch Labs, is that they do not seem to allow you to add discounts and tax brackets for specific customers when you input them as contacts, as Lightspeed and Quickbooks Enterprise do, which can be a pain if you are working with lots of business customers.

Customer Support

For customer support, Lightspeed Retail is the clear winner. Stitch Labs is also very well rated with Quickbooks bringing up the rear.

Lightspeed Retail has 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support. In fact, they have just rolled out a new feature where you can chat with a representative, at any time of the day,

from within anywhere in the Lightspeed system, which is handy. I have talked with a variety of people in the company, from general customer service representatives to JP Chauvet, Lightspeed’s Cheif Revenue Officer, and all have been courteous, respectful, and helpful.

Quickbooks Enterprise has phone support from 6am-6pm PST Monday – Friday. On Saturday, their phone support hours are 6-3 PST. Quickbooks support is pretty hit or miss. They do not have email support, which is surprising. Their phone support is iffy and their forum help even more so. They also offer live chat, but the hours are unclear. Certain times I was on and they were available, other times they were not, all during regular business hours. But, the several conversations I did have on live chat, were helpful and to the point.

Stitch Labs has support M-F from 9-5 PST. For their starter plan, you only get email support. If you subscribe to a premium plan, then you also get phone and live chat support. Stitch Labs support is very well rated and has won several customer service awards in the last several years.

Key Features

When talking about features for inventory management software, it really comes down to which set of features are more helpful to your specific industry, not necessarily which provider offers more features. For the average brick and mortar small business owner, Lightspeed Retail is a great fit. But, if you need other specialized features for wholesale or if you do ecommerce, Quickbooks or Stitch Labs might be better choices.

Let’s look at some of the main feature considerations:

Inventory Levels, Tracking, and Transfer

All three inventory software providers offer a wide-variety of inventory management features and are solid options for managing your inventory. As mentioned above, they differ not so much in depth of features as they do specificity of features for specific industries.

Here are the inventory level, tracking, and transfer features each provider offers:

Lightspeed Retail does a good job with all the basics. You can track inventory levels from receiving product to selling it. Because Lightspeed Retail also has a top-level POS system, inventory counts are automatically updated whenever a product is sold at the register. You can set low inventory alerts for each item, so you can know to order more before you run out. You can also transfer inventory in-between stores. If you have multiple stores and one store is running low while another has plenty, you can transfer inventory from one store to another and inventory counts are automatically updated.

Also, Lightspeed Retail keeps track of your costs and margin for each inventory item, meaning you will always know which products are selling, which are not, and which are actually making your business money. For the average small business owner that is selling products in a brick-and-mortar environment, Lightspeed Retail has more than enough inventory level, tracking, and transfer needs for your business.

Quickbooks Enterprise is built for companies that have lots of inventory and customers, making it a great fit for wholesalers and manufacturing businesses. You can do basic inventory tracking, level alerts, etc like you can with Lightspeed Retail. But, Quickbooks Enterprise also has several additional features tailored to manufacturing and wholesaling businesses.

For example, you can track inventory to specific bins within a warehouse, track by serial or lot number if you have bigger or combined inventory bundles, transfer inventory between warehouses, and more. One other handy feature, is you can set up locations within locations. If you have a large warehouse, you can set up multiple tracking locations within one specific warehouse (receiving, shipping, etc), so you know exactly where in the process chain your inventory is at any given time.

Stitch Labs is all about being a central location to track inventory sold via multiple sales channels, specifically different ecommerce channels and in-store. Like Lightspeed Retail and Quickbooks Enterprise, it does all the basics like inventory level tracking, low inventory alerts, etc. But, it allows you to do this for all your sales channels at one time and from one interface. If you sell 15 belts on your Shopify Online Store and you only have 20 in your total inventory, you will automatically know you only have 5 to sell in-store and also that you need to order more before you run out. Of course, you can also transfer inventory in-between warehouses or stores, keep track of inventory status (ordered, shipped from vendor, received, etc), and more. If you have robust in-store and ecommerce components, or if you sell on multiple online stores, Stitch Labs is just what the doctor ordered to manage your inventory.

Purchase Order Management (PO)

Lightspeed Retail has one of the best PO systems available, especially because of its integrated vendor catalogue. Although not quite as impressive, Quickbooks Enterprise and Stitch Labs both have solid systems as well.

Lightspeed Retail has one of the most robust PO systems I have reviewed. It does all the basics, such as PO lists based on low inventory items, PO creation, and PO tracking. What sets it apart, is its vendor management system, which has over 3,000 (and counting) vendor catalogues pre-programmed into its system. In other words, if your vendor’s catalogue is in Lightspeed’s system, you can just browse their catalogue items, select your inventory order items and amounts, and submit the PO directly to your vendor’s purchase order system. If your vendor’s catalogue is not already pre-programmed in, just send the most recent catalogue (or give a link to it), and Lightspeed will input into their system for you, free of charge. Talk about service with a smile.

Quickbooks Enterprise has the ability to turn into any estimate or quote into a PO with just several clicks, which is a nice feature. Like Lightspeed Retail, it tracks your purchase orders from initial order placement to receiving into your inventory and can create automatic PO order lists based on low inventory items. Quickbooks Enterprise also has a nicely organized vendor management screen, which tells you which vendors you have ordered from and how much you still owe each.

Stitch Labs has all the basics covered, including PO lists from low-inventory items, PO creation, and more. You can track historical costs and purchases for each vendor, as well as track inventory from purchase order creation to receiving items into your inventory. You can also do partial order fulfillments and backorders for missing inventory items that never arrived. One of Stitch Lab’s distinctives, is that they have a vendor scorecard, which tracks the lead time, delays, and accuracy of orders for each vendor, giving you a running idea of whether or not a vendor is really worth your ongoing business.

Reporting and Integrations

All three inventory software providers have pretty solid reporting capabilities, with Lightspeed Retail having the most standard reports included. When it comes to integrations, Stitch Labs definitely has the edge, considering integrations are kind of their whole deal. Lightspeed Retail also has some solid integrations while Quickbooks Enterprise pretty much keeps everything in-house for their inventory management, only really integrating when syncing financial information.

Lightspeed Retail has over 40 standard reports that are included with the software, including sales reports, employee productivity reports, individual inventory item reports, top sellers, and much more. As far as integrations are concerned, Lightspeed Retail directly integrates with Quickbooks, which is a biggie. They also integrate with a variety of other third-party applications, including Xero, Cayan, Mercury, Nimble Schedule, Perkville, Third-shelf, and more.
To see a full list of Lightspeed Retail’s integrations, check out their integrations page .

Quickbooks Enterprise has a solid reporting system and has the ability to run all the standard reports mentioned above under Lightspeed’s reporting capability. Quickbooks Enterprise is also able to create customized reports based on various metrics, which is a nice feature. When it comes to integration, Quickbooks Enterprise does not really integrate their inventory management with any other providers. In other words, you cannot track your Shopify inventory on Quickbooks. However, you can often import financial data into the accounting piece of Quickbooks Enterprise.

Stitch Labs, much like Lightspeed Retail and Quickbooks Enterprise, can run all the basic reports. You can also add a custom reporting piece to your account, but there is an additional charge. For integrations, Stitch Labs definitely has the most robust system of the three reviewed in this article. But, that is kind of their whole thing, that they integrate inventory management with a variety of brick and mortar POS systems and many online ecommerce systems. For example, you could manage your Square Register, Shopify, and Ebay store inventory all through Stitch Labs. You can also connect with a variety of payment providers, including PayPal.See their integrations page for a full list of the third-party applications they work with.

Other Distinctives

Each of the three inventory software systems we reviewed have specific things they do better than the others. Let’s look at what distinctives each provider brings to the table.

Lightspeed Retail’s killer inventory management system is paired with an equally impressive POS system. If you have a brick and mortar store, you can manage your inventory, employees, and sales operations all via one system. You can even generate work orders, backorder inventory for customers, and organize your customers and contacts into lists based on a variety of filters. If you are a brick and mortar small business owner that could also use a POS upgrade along with your inventory management software, Lightspeed Retail is the way to go.

Quickbooks, although having a decent inventory management system, is more known for their accounting and financial services than anything else. If you go with Quickbooks Enterprise, you will not only be able to manage your inventory, but you will also be able to take care of all your accounting needs, generate payroll for your employees, generate invoices, accept payments, and more. In other words, if it has to do with money, Quickbooks Enterprise has you covered.

I know I probably sound like a broken record, but Stitch Labs is all about providing a new kind of inventory management software for a new kind of business sales environment. With so many businesses beginning to sell online, Stitch Labs is one of the few inventory management software providers that integrates with nearly ALL the big ecommerce sites, such as Etsy, Bigcommerce, Shopify, Magento, Ebay, Amazon, WooCommerce, and more. If you are planning to make online sales a major part of your business model, than Stitch Labs should be your inventory management software of choice.

Summary: The Best Inventory Software for Small Business

As is always the case, specific situations may call for specific solutions. That’s why Quickbooks Enterprise or Stitch Labs may be a better fit for your manufacturing or ecommerce business than Lightspeed Retail. But, if you are a traditional brick and mortar business owner who is just trying to do a better job managing inventory and increasing sales, than Lightspeed Retail is your best bet.

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Category: Small business

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