Taking Inventory for the New Year

For many in the U.S., the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a holiday time, time to spend with family and friends, enjoying each other’s company before resuming our regular, often hectic lives in the New Year. But for those who work in the retail world, this week is often one of the year’s busiest.  Besides the year-end sales that take place, retailers spend this last week of year taking inventory of their stock.

Many of the larger chain retailers bring in special staff to do the job, or, in some cases, allow volunteers to help out in return for a hefty donation to their organization. But for the small business person, it’s usually up to them and their employees.

I was reminded of this process the other day when in a local business where I purchase the paper stock used for making of my ‘Really Fine’ card line. The owner’s staff had already begun counting the hundreds of items in her paper and crafts store.

Dad on Front STep 750
My father in front of his studio entrance during the late 1970s. His was the oldest continually operated studio in the state of Kansas until he sold it.

It brought to mind the years that I spent in my Dad’s own store, helping to inventory cameras, projectors, albums, film, flashbulbs, Viewmaster reels, gadgets and frames sold in his camera shop and studio. I don’t remember it being a tedious job. In fact, I liked it because while taking stock of everything in the store, I became very familiar with every little thing we sold.  Especially projector lamp bulbs.

You can’t imagine how many different movie and slide projector bulbs there were. Standardization  didn’t seem to occur to these manufacturers. ELH, DAK,FGF,DFW,CLX. They all fit different models of projectors. GE. Sylvania and Kodak were the major makers of these bulbs which also came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some were long and tubular with four or five prongs on the end. Others were rounder and short or looked like a miniature version of a car headlamp. They all needed to be counted and we had lots of them.

CAmera Shop stock 750
The cameras, cases, projectors, lights, film were neatly arranged on the shelves in my Dad’s retail camera store. It was part of my job when I worked there to keep them in order and dusted, as well as inventoried.

Then there were the frames. My Dad’s studio offered both ready made and custom made frames for his portrait customers. Frames were my favorite part of the inventory. I loved the range colors, shapes, profiles and designs. Boxes and boxes of them. Constructed of solid wood–or metal–they were moulded, carved and stained. The easel backs of the smaller, tabletop frames were usually covered in a velvet-like material, not like the flimsy, cardboard backs I see today on the shelves of chain and big box stores.

portrait reception 750
This photo of the portrait reception area of my Dad’s studio probably dates from the late 1950s, before I started taking inventory there. The displays on the wall give you an idea of the variety of frames that the studio stocked.

I could recognize the style of each company–Carr, Burnes of Boston, Hartcraft, Kendall, to mention a few. Many of these companies have long since been gobbled up by bigger companies and frankly, the quality has slipped. But sometimes I see a frame today and know exactly which company made it.

Taking inventoy was a good way to learn about every single item in the store. It’s similar to what many of us do in our personal lives when thinking about New Year’s resolutions. As the end of the year approaches, I find myself reviewing my year, taking stock, if you will, of what I accomplished, what I didn’t quite finish and what I never got started.  It pulls things into perspective and helps me figure out what’s really important and what’s is not.

Cheryl at Back Door 750
Not a great photo of me, but here I am headed into the back entrance of my Dad’s portrait studio. I recognize the bag in my hand as one from the studio. This probably is from the mid-1970s.

In a sense I’m still taking inventory, just as I did for my Dad’s studio, but the things I count now are much bigger than projector bulbs and picture frames.