What is Open to Buy: A Comprehensive Explanation for Retailers

Open to buy (OTB) is a crucial metric in retail that measures the amount of inventory a retailer can purchase to meet future demand. It is calculated by subtracting the current inventory and projected sales from the planned sales for a specific period. OTB is an essential tool for retailers to maintain optimal inventory levels, prevent stockouts and overstocking, and maximize profitability. It also helps retailers make informed decisions about product assortment and allocation of resources.

OTB is used not only by buyers but also by other stakeholders in the retail supply chain. This includes manufacturers, suppliers, and logistics providers. By having visibility into the retailer’s OTB, these stakeholders can align their production and delivery schedules accordingly. This collaboration ensures a smooth flow of goods and minimizes disruptions in the supply chain.

OTB is a dynamic metric that fluctuates over time due to various factors such as changes in consumer demand, market trends, promotional activities, and economic conditions. Retailers need to continuously monitor their OTB and adjust their purchasing strategies accordingly. Effective OTB management can lead to increased sales, improved customer satisfaction, and reduced costs.

How to Calculate Open to Buy

Step 1: Determine Planned Sales

Forecast future sales based on historical data, market trends, and promotional activities. Consider factors such as seasonality, economic conditions, and competitor activity.

Step 2: Estimate Current Inventory

Count the quantity of each product currently in stock, including items in transit, at distribution centers, and in stores. Accuracy in inventory counts is crucial for a reliable OTB calculation.

Step 3: Calculate Projected Sales

Project sales for the upcoming period based on historical data, current trends, and any planned promotions. This step helps determine how much inventory is expected to be sold during the period.

Step 4: Subtract Current Inventory and Projected Sales from Planned Sales

Calculate OTB by subtracting the sum of current inventory and projected sales from the planned sales for the period. The resulting figure represents the amount of inventory that can be purchased to meet future demand.

Importance of Open to Buy

Optimized Inventory Levels

OTB helps retailers maintain optimal inventory levels to meet customer demand without overstocking or experiencing stockouts. This prevents losses due to obsolete or slow-moving inventory and ensures product availability when customers need it.

Improved Cash Flow

Effective OTB management can improve a retailer’s cash flow by reducing the amount of capital tied up in inventory. By purchasing inventory only when necessary, retailers can free up cash for other business needs, such as marketing or expansion.

Increased Sales and Customer Satisfaction

Accurate OTB calculations help retailers avoid stockouts, which can lead to lost sales and dissatisfied customers. By ensuring that in-demand products are always in stock, retailers can increase sales and improve customer satisfaction.

Challenges in Open to Buy Management

Demand Forecasting Accuracy

Accurate demand forecasting is crucial for effective OTB management. However, forecasting is often challenging due to unpredictable factors such as changing consumer preferences, market trends, and economic conditions.

Inventory Visibility and Data Quality

OTB calculations rely on accurate and timely inventory data. Poor inventory visibility or data quality issues can lead to incorrect OTB calculations and suboptimal inventory decisions.

Supplier Lead Times and Reliability

Long supplier lead times or unreliable suppliers can make it difficult for retailers to manage OTB effectively. Delays in receiving inventory can result in stockouts and missed sales opportunities.

Strategies for Effective Open to Buy Management

Data-Driven Decision Making

Base OTB calculations on accurate and comprehensive data, including historical sales data, current inventory levels, and reliable demand forecasts. Use data analytics tools to identify trends and patterns that can inform purchasing decisions.

Collaboration with Suppliers

Work closely with suppliers to establish reliable lead times and ensure consistent product availability. Open communication and information sharing can help prevent supply chain disruptions and improve OTB management.

Inventory Optimization Techniques

Implement inventory optimization techniques such as safety stock management, ABC analysis, and just-in-time inventory to minimize carrying costs and reduce the risk of overstocking or stockouts.


What is the difference between open to buy and available to sell?

Open to buy is the amount of inventory that a retailer can purchase to meet future demand, while available to sell is the amount of inventory that is currently available for sale to customers.

How does open to buy affect profitability?

Effective OTB management can improve profitability by reducing inventory carrying costs, preventing stockouts, and increasing sales.

What are some common challenges in open to buy management?

Some common challenges include demand forecasting accuracy, inventory visibility and data quality issues, and supplier lead times and reliability.

How can retailers improve their open to buy management?

Retailers can improve their OTB management by using data-driven decision making, collaborating with suppliers, and implementing inventory optimization techniques.

Why is open to buy important for retailers?

OTB is important for retailers because it helps them optimize their inventory levels, improve cash flow, increase sales, and improve customer satisfaction.


Open to buy is a critical metric in retail that plays a vital role in inventory management and profitability. By effectively managing OTB, retailers can optimize inventory levels, improve cash flow, increase sales, and enhance customer satisfaction. OTB management involves challenges such as demand forecasting accuracy, inventory visibility, and supplier reliability, but these can be overcome through data-driven decision making, collaboration with suppliers, and the implementation of inventory optimization techniques. Effective OTB management is essential for retailers to remain competitive and achieve sustainable growth in a dynamic and ever-changing retail landscape.

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