Inventory financing is a short-term loan or line of credit used by businesses to purchase inventory. Inventory financing is typically secured by your existing inventory with no need to pledge personal collateral. Annual percentage rates (APRs) can range from 12% to 60%. Inventory financing is commonly used to prepare for busy seasons or fill large purchase orders.
For most small businesses, the best inventory financing option is a business line of credit. If you’ve been in business for at least six months, have a credit score above 600, and more than $100,000 in revenue, you may prequalify for up to $250,000 with BlueVine. Their application can be completed online in a few minutes, and you can be funded in as little as one day.
Where to Find Inventory Financing
If you have already attempted getting inventory financing through a traditional bank or your suppliers and were unsuccessful, you may be wondering what other options are available. There are many alternative lenders that can provide financing options that can get you the funds that you need quickly and have more lenient qualification requirements than traditional lenders.
5 Top Inventory Financing Companies 2019
|Provider||Who It’s Right For|
|BlueVine||Newer businesses that need a line of credit up to $250,000|
|OnDeck||Prime borrowers (credit score of 680+) who need a line of credit up to $100,000|
|Kabbage||Established businesses that need a line of credit up to $250,000|
|Payability||eCommerce businesses on platforms like Amazon that need a line of credit up to $250,000|
|Behalf||Online inventory financing up to $500,000 for businesses that need fast funding|
BlueVine: Inventory Line of Credit
BlueVine’s small business line of credit (LOC) is a great solution for business looking for up to $250,000 of working capital. Newer businesses with only six months of business operations as well as those in a variety of credit score ranges can qualify. The better your personal credit score, the longer the repayment term you can qualify for and the lower the rate (APRs range from 15% to 78%). Plus, you can get funded in as few as one to three business days.
OnDeck: Line of Credit for Inventory
OnDeck offers a small business LOC that is great for prime borrowers ― 680 or higher personal credit score ― because they can qualify for special interest rates as low as 13.99% APR. Plus, you can qualify with a personal credit score as low as 600 if you have at least one year in business and $100,000 or more in annual revenue. If approved, OnDeck can get you funded in as little as one business day.
Kabbage: Inventory Credit Line
Kabbage offers a small business line of credit of up to $250,000, with an APR ranging between 30% to 50%. The repayment terms are six or 12 months with monthly payments. You can qualify if you have $50,000 or more in annual business revenue, a credit score of 550 or higher and have been in business for one year. If you’re approved after applying online, you can get funded in as few as 24 hours.
Payability: Inventory Financing for Marketplace Sellers
Payability offers a small business line of credit for ecommerce businesses, selling on platforms like Walmart or Amazon, of up to $250,000 based on their future marketplace receivables. Borrower eligibility is based on your marketplace account health and performance, and no credit check is required. You can apply online quickly and easily in a matter of minutes. If approved, you can get funded the same day
Behalf: Traditional Inventory Financing
Behalf is an inventory financing provider, who pays your vendors directly enabling you to make large purchases of inventory. You can borrow up to $50,000 with an APR averaging around 30% in minutes, and you have up to six months to repay the loan. The application requires only a Social Security number and a bank account.
How Inventory Financing Works
With traditional inventory financing, your lender will lend you funds based on the value of your inventory. You can use these funds as a source of cash to fund your working capital cycle, which includes buying more inventory, providing payment terms to your customers, and paying for business expenses. You can get traditional inventory financing from banks, asset-based lenders, and your suppliers.
However, other inventory financing options provide the same benefit. It’s often quicker and easier to get short-term working capital financing from alternative lenders. Since these loans are either unsecured or based on the value of your invoices, the approval process is much quicker. Plus, these lenders are often able to get businesses approved who might not meet the qualifications of traditional lenders, such as low credit scores or a short time in business.
Who Inventory Financing Is Right For
Inventory financing is right for any retail business that needs to pay for inventory before they receive payment from their customers. It can help solve inventory shortage problems where you don’t have enough of the inventory your customers want, or it can help you increase inventory levels of new products to drive sales.
The following types of businesses may benefit from inventory financing:
- Brick-and-mortar retailers: Many retailers use inventory financing because most of their cash is tied up in inventory; having the right number of products on their shelves is often the livelihood of their business; inventory financing gets you the inventory levels you need while freeing up your cash flow for other expenses
- eCommerce retailers: Selling products online through an e-commerce website doesn’t necessarily mean your cash flow or inventory management is any easier; you’ll still likely need to keep your inventory levels at an acceptable rate to fulfill a constant flow of customer orders
- Wholesalers: Wholesalers need a steady supply of inventory to fulfill incoming orders and replenish inventory that leaves the shelves; since wholesalers typically have larger order volumes than retailers, it’s important to keep more disposable inventory that could get ordered at any given time; financing can help you replenish that inventory, even if you haven’t yet been paid for past purchases yet
Many retail and wholesale businesses use inventory financing because most of their cash is tied up in inventory. Having the right number of products on their shelves is often the livelihood of their business. Inventory financing gets you the inventory levels you need while freeing up your cash flow for other expenses.
Types of Inventory Financing
There are a number of ways to finance inventory. There are loans that are designed specifically to use your inventory as collateral, such as with traditional inventory financing from a bank. However, there are other financing options that can be used to purchase inventory without the limitations of an inventory loan. Five of the best short-term inventory financing options include business lines of credit, online inventory financing, traditional bank financing, asset-based lending, and vendor financing.
1. Small Business Line of Credit From an Online Lender
A business line of credit through an online lender is the fastest inventory financing solution. With a line of credit, you get financing that you can use repeatedly without having to reapply. Additionally, if you have unexpected expenses that pop up, you can use your business line of credit for more than just inventory purchases. It’s a good tool to have regardless of your needs.
Who a Small Business Line of Credit Is Right For
A small business line of credit is generally right for businesses that have consistent, or recurring, inventory or cash flow needs. Since you don’t have to reapply each time you need money, it’s an ideal solution to be used for the same purchases each month or to supplement a cyclical small business’ working capital needs.
Small Business Line of Credit Costs
The costs of a business line of credit can vary widely, depending on the lender that you choose. The general interest rate can range from 13.99% to 55% APR. This doesn’t include additional fees you may be charged in conjunction with the line of credit, such as draw fees, loan origination fees, or service fees.
Small Business Line of Credit Terms
With a line of credit, you can get funding up to $250,000, and repayment terms will generally be six to 12 months. You only pay interest on the portion of the credit line you’ve used. So, if you’re approved for a $100,000, but only borrower $10,000, you are only charged interest on $10,000.
Small Business Line of Credit Qualifications
To qualify for an unsecured line of credit you will need to have a credit score of at least 550, your business needs to be operational for greater than one year and needs your business needs to be generating at least $50,000 in annual revenues and have no recently reported credit violations.
Recommended Business Line of Credit Provider for Inventory Financing: BlueVine
We believe BlueVine offers the best line of credit option for most small businesses. This is because BlueVine offers lines up to $250,000 for borrowers with at least $100,000 in annual revenue and at least six months in business. Plus, you can prequalify online in minutes and get funded in as few as one to three days.
2. Online Inventory Financing
There are a variety of online lenders that offer financing specifically for inventory. Getting a business line of credit might be easier and faster, but if you know you’ll be using the money solely for inventory, it can be more affordable to choose one of these more specialized providers. These lenders typically pay your suppliers directly and then collect repayment.
Who Online Inventory Financing Is Right For
Online inventory financing is good for businesses that don’t have a lot of inventory needs, or that have difficulty qualifying for other forms of financing. Online inventory financing works well for businesses that need a smaller amount ― up to $50,000 ― as a short-term solution and know that they don’t need to use the financing for other purposes.
Online Inventory Financing Costs
Online inventory financing lenders will typically charge you up to 3% of your loan for every 30 days that you are in repayment. The average APR falls between 21% to 61%, which is standard for most short-term small business financing options. Therefore, this type of inventory financing can be more affordable if you pay the borrowed amount back within the first month.
Online Inventory Financing Terms
Inventory financing loan amounts range from $300 to $50,000, and your repayment terms will be between one and six months. These loans work similarly to a short-term business loan, but the use of the funds is limited to the purchase of inventory. You can get fully funded in as quick as one day.
Online Inventory Financing Qualifications
Online inventory financing lenders are not always clear about their qualification requirements. Each of them will generally check your personal credit and request to connect to your bank account to determine your eligibility. If approved, some will want to verify information about your inventory to see how long of a shelf life it typically has.
Recommended Online Inventory Financing Provider: Behalf
Behalf is an inventory financing provider, who pays your vendors directly enabling you to make large purchases of inventory. You can borrow up to $50,000, with an APR averaging around 30%, in minutes; you have up to six months to repay the loan. Application requires only a Social Security number and a bank account.
3. Traditional Bank Financing
When looking for inventory financing, you can also go the route of more traditional financing and get a bank loan or line of credit. This is the slowest option but the most economical one if you’re borrowing money. Banks prefer to lend to businesses with strong cash flow and good credit. The value of inventory is a secondary consideration.
Your existing inventory will serve as collateral for bank financing, but the bank may also place a blanket lien on your business assets, which allows them to go after any business asset if you can’t pay back the loan. A blanket lien can also affect your ability to get other financing. If your business isn’t profitable, the bank is less likely to approve you or will approve you for smaller amounts of capital.
Who Bank Financing Is Right For
Businesses that don’t need immediate financing and are looking for the most affordable option. Also good for business owners with a strong personal credit score and businesses with a strong business credit score and business credit report.
Bank Financing Costs
Whenever you get a loan from a bank, you’ll likely encounter origination fees, packaging fees, or other upfront costs that are rolled into your loan or paid out of pocket. The APR typically falls between 4% and 10% for traditional banks and closing costs can be 2% and 5%.
Bank Financing Terms
You can borrow a large amount of money to fund your inventory from a bank, as much as $1 million or more. You’re also likely to get the longest repayment terms with a bank, typically falling between one to five years. A bank may offer you a business line of credit to finance your inventory if you need money on a consistent basis.
Bank Financing Qualifications
Like other forms of financing, it can be difficult to qualify with a bank. While it will vary by lender, and depend on your current banking relationship with them, you can generally qualify if you meet these minimum standards:
- Credit score: 680 and higher (check your credit score)
- Time in business: Two or more years
- Inventory value: One year or more of shelf life and can only borrow up to 50% of inventory value
- Debt service coverage ratio (DSCR): 1.25 and higher
- Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Less than 36%
- Other qualifications: Business must be profitable; you can’t have any negative credit events such as bankruptcy, tax liens, or repossessions
Generally with a bank, the stronger your business’ cash flow is, the more likely it is that you will get approved because you’re showing lenders that you can pay back the loan.
Recommended Bank Financing Provider: Wells Fargo
For businesses preferring to work with a traditional lender and OK with waiting a few weeks for funding, Wells Fargo offers a small business line of credit. Prime borrowers wanting easy access to funds via a credit card may find this to be a very attractive option as well. While its line of credit caps out at $100,000, Wells Fargo offers reasonable APRs ― ranging from 9% to 40%.
4. Asset-based Lenders
Whereas banks lend based on cash flow and credit score, asset-based lenders look at two sets of assets, accounts receivable and inventory, in deciding whether or not to approve you for a loan.
“We serve businesses that can’t qualify for bank financing because their profits or credit score aren’t high enough,” says Marc Smith, senior vice president at Magnolia Financial, an asset-based lender that provides inventory financing for business-to-business companies.
Asset-based lenders take a much more hands-on role in assessing your inventory by appraising your inventory on-site prior to you getting approved. After that, they require monthly reports on inventory levels. Ideally, according to Marc Smith, they want clients with well-managed inventory systems who know exactly where their inventory levels stand at any given moment in time.
Who Asset-based Lending Is Right For
Businesses who need a large amount of financing of $500,000 or more and carry at least double their financing needs in inventory value. Meaning, if you need $500,000 in financing then at any given time you have $1 million or more in inventory.
Asset-based Lending Costs & Terms
Asset-based loans have interest rates of approximately 10% to 18%. There may also be loan origination fees and costs related to the lender doing an on-site inventory analysis. You can borrow up to 50% of the value of your inventory and get funded within one month. The loan is secured by your inventory and your business receivables.
Asset-based Lending Qualifications
There are no set credit score or revenue requirements. Instead, the lender will inspect and appraise the inventory and assess your inventory management system. You can get approved for up to 50% of the value of your current inventory.
Recommended Asset-based Lenders
5. Vendor Financing
A good place to start when looking for inventory financing is to ask your vendor if they will allow you to pay on credit. This is often the easiest way to purchase inventory when you’re short on cash because your vendors will be very interested in making a sale or getting an update on the payment you owe them.
Vendors may offer 30- to 90-day payment terms. If this is the case, they may collect a percentage of payment up front (deposit) and defer the rest to an agreed upon date. They might collect installment payments over time. Still, if you have a good relationship, you should be able to negotiate payments in full after 30 to 90 days.
Although most vendors that offer these financing services offer them for free, some may charge an interest rate. Before offering you a payment plan, the vendor will most likely check your business credit score and business financials. However, a vendor is more likely than a lender to overlook issues like a bad credit report or poor cash flow.
Who Vendor Financing Is Right For
Vendor financing is for everyone. If you can get your vendor to agree to extend your payables, then it’s a great solution, regardless of what your needs are or how big of a business you have. It’s typically best for existing businesses and business owners with prior vendor relationships.
Vendor Financing Costs & Terms
Your vendor can extend your payables by offering you additional time to pay what you owe them, or they may charge you interest to pay off your inventory during a longer period of time. These costs could be anywhere from 1% to 10% or more, depending on how comfortable your vendor is with offering financing. There might also be late payments if you fail to pay on the agreed date.
Vendor Financing Qualifications
In most cases, a vendor will require that you have an established history with them. This will likely entail a review of your purchase and payment history with the vendor. Additionally, your vendor will typically also want to review your credit scores. Specific requirements will vary by vendor, so you will need to talk to your vendor directly to find out their requirements.
How to Get Vendor Financing
Some vendors may openly advertise that they provide vendor financing options while others may not. If you are interested in utilizing vendor financing for your inventory needs, you should inquire with your vendors to find out what, if any, options they offer. The vendor will be able to tell you what requirements you need to meet, and what the fees and repayment structure will look like.
Pros & Cons of Inventory Financing
As there are with nearly all decisions in life, there are pros and cons to using inventory financing for your business. Some of the positives of inventory financing are that it allows you to increase your sales volume, and helps you prepare for your busy season. However, the negatives of inventory financing can include that many inventory loans can only be used to purchase inventory and most inventory financing options are short-term.
Pros of Inventory Financing
Inventory financing has many benefits for small businesses with inventory needs. Inventory financing can assist you in maintaining cash flows while keeping inventory available for your customers. Retailers are notorious for having thin profit margins, which can be problematic when you want to add additional inventory. Inventory financing can help with that cash flow problem.
Some of the benefits of inventory financing are:
- You can prepare for the busy season: If your business is seasonal or cyclical, you can prepare for the upcoming busy season by using inventory financing to acquire inventory during the months leading up to the start of your best season; by using inventory loans, you can be prepared to meet your customer demands, and repay as the inventory clears your shelves
- You can improve your cash flow: Many retailers struggle with cash flow problems due to thin profit margins and the timing of their sales in contrast to their expenses; to alleviate some of these cash flow woes, an inventory loan can help purchase new inventory to sell and thereby free up working capital to help you meet your other business expenses
- You can increase sales volume: Inventory financing can help your business improve its total revenues by allowing you to maximize the amount of inventory that you have for sale; when you don’t have to cash on hand to purchase your inventory, you’re much more likely to purchase extra items that sell well or new inventory items to offer your customers
- It’s easier to get than other financing: The actual inventory you purchase with an inventory loan is often used for collateral when you’re financing it; this means that inventory financing is much easier to obtain than an unsecured business loan would be; additionally, because the inventory loan is secured by collateral, you won’t be required to sign a personal guarantee with the lender
Cons of Inventory Financing
While there are many benefits to businesses when utilizing inventory financing and inventory loans, there are also some aspects that may be concerning to business owners. Many inventory specific loans can only be used to finance inventory, which may not fully meet your small business’ working capital needs entirely and valuing inventory can be difficult.
Some of the negatives associated with inventory financing are:
- True inventory loans can only be used for inventory: If you opt to go with an inventory specific loan, the loan funds can only be used for the purchase of inventory; if you find yourself not needing the amount of inventory that you thought you would, you cannot use the remaining loan funds to supplement other working capital needs
- Inventory financing options are short-term: While you may only need a single influx of funding to purchase inventory, it may take some time to turn that inventory into cash; inventory loans often have short repayment terms, and if you aren’t able to convert your inventory into sales quickly, you may find yourself struggling to meet your debt obligations
- It can be difficult to assign value to inventory: One major drawback is the expense of due diligence; many traditional lenders will require a field audit to look at your inventory, and see how you care for your inventory; they may also want to look at your accounting and inventory systems to make sure they’re functioning properly and get an inventory appraisal
- Due diligence items can be costly: Due diligence items pertaining to inventory financing can be costly, and you’ll be asked to pay these costs up front before you know if you’ve been approved for financing; if you go with a loan provider that requires these qualification measures, we recommend only applying for larger amounts of inventory financing, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars
- Inventory carries risk: Using inventory for collateral on an inventory loan can be risky. Items that are flying off the shelves today may not be tomorrow. Inventory can be stolen, or damaged and lose value; due to these risks inventory lenders may undervalue the inventory that you want to use for collateral
Inventory Financing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A lot of information has been covered in this article about inventory financing and inventory loans, what lending options are available for inventory financing, and the pros and cons of using inventory financing. If you have any questions about any of the information presented here, you can post them in the FitSmallBusiness forum.
What Is Inventory Finance?
Inventory financing is a short-term loan or line of credit used by businesses to purchase inventory. The loan or line of credit is typically secured by existing inventory without needing to pledge personal collateral. Inventory financing is commonly used to prepare for busy seasons, fill large purchase orders, or as startup capital for product-based businesses.
What Is an Inventory Loan?
An inventory loan is a loan that is secured by a business’ inventory. The collateralized inventory can either be existing inventory, or inventory that is being acquired with the inventory loan. Retail businesses often use inventory loans to increase their inventory levels prior to the start of their busy season in anticipation of increased demand.
The Bottom Line
Inventory financing can help your business meet customer demand by funding the purchase of additional inventory that will fill your shelves and hopefully increase your sales. There are numerous options for inventory financing available; the right financing option for your small business depends on how much funding you need, and how quickly you need it.
Our recommended inventory financing option is a business line of credit. If you’ve been in business for at least six months, have a credit score above 600, and more than $100,000 in annual business revenue, you may prequalify for up to $250,000 in financing with BlueVine. The application can be completed online with pre-approval issued within minutes, and you can receive funding in as quickly as one day.