WooCommerce inventory management settings explained in detail.

The WooCommerce inventory management settings can be a bit confusing, especially when you’re switching your online store from other platforms.

When we have worked with clients that are making the switch, we noticed they had questions about some options that are often overlooked in explanations online. There are also some settings that can seem universal, but may differ between other services and what they mean there.

Here are more details with explanations of the settings and what they really mean when it comes to WooCommerce inventory management as well as suggestions for the best WooCommerce inventory management plugins.

Enabling WooCommerce Inventory Management

To better understand the inventory settings that are available in WooCommerce, you’ll need to first enable inventory management.

To do this, log into the admin dashboard of your WooCommerce store. Then, go to WooCommerce > Settings in the menu on the left.
Select the Products tab, then the Inventory link below the tabs.

WooCommerce Settings page with the Products tab and Inventory link selected.
WooCommerce inventory management options can be found on the settings page.

Once you’re there, check the Enable stock management box if it’s not already selected. This brings up additional settings that are dynamically displayed on the page.

WooCommerce default global inventory settings on the left, and the page once the stock management option has been selected.
Enable the stock management option to find global inventory settings.

WooCommerce Inventory Management Settings Explained

Before you enable stock management in the WooCommerce settings, there are two options: out of stock visibility and stock display format.

Out of Stock Visibility

This option, when enabled, lets you hide out-of-stock items on the front end. This means that customers won’t be able to see any items on your site that aren’t available for purchase. 

Stock Display Format

You can select one option from this dropdown box. You have some flexibility on how products are displayed on the front end with this option:

  • Display the exact amount of inventory you have for a product
  • Only display inventory levels for a product when it’s low in stock
  • Don’t ever show quantity of stock

When you enable WooCommerce inventory management as outlined above, more options appear: manage stock, hold stock (minutes), notifications, notification recipient(s), low stock threshold, out of stock threshold, out of stock visibility and stock display format.

Manage Stock

When you check the Enable stock management box, you enable more inventory settings for managing it. When you uncheck this box, the additional options disappear.

Hold Stock (Minutes)

This is how many minutes that items in an unpaid order are reserved. It’s not counted toward the stock quantity for those items. When the indicated time has elapsed, the order is canceled. The items are returned to count toward the stock quantity.

This means that if you decide to accept cash on delivery as a payment method, for example, you’ll need to keep this in mind when choosing an amount of time.

Another example to keep in mind is if a customer’s credit card doesn’t go through the first time. If the payment gateway is set up to charge the card the next day, but this option is set to 60 minutes, the order will have been canceled before the second charge attempt.

If the customer ends up paying, your inventory numbers won’t be accurate so it’s definitely worth being mindful of what you enter here. It may also be important to note that this setting applies to orders with the “pending payment” status and not ones where they’re marked as “on hold”.

You can leave this option blank to disable it.


Under this section, you can check the Enable low stock notifications box. WooCommerce will send you an email when items in your online store are low in stock. You can define what a low stock level is in the other settings later on.

Additionally, you can check the Enable out of stock notifications box to let WooCommerce email you to let you know when items in your store are out of stock.

Notification Recipient(s)

This field is for the email address where you want to receive notifications about inventory levels and other settings based on your selections on the inventory settings page. You can choose to add more than one address as long as you separate them with a comma.

Low Stock Threshold

Whatever number you enter into this field will be the quantity of stock a product needs to be at for you to be sent a notification about the fact that the products in your store are running low.

If you didn’t check the box to be notified above in the settings page, then what you enter here will be ignored.

Out of Stock Threshold

Similar to the last setting, the number you enter here is the quantity of stock you want there to be left when a product is marked as being out of stock on the front end of your site.

If you didn’t check the box to be notified about products when they go out of stock from earlier on the page, then what you enter here will be ignored.

Out of Stock Visibility

When you check this box, products that are out of stock won’t be displayed on the front end for customers to see.

Stock Display Format

This is another option that controls how products are displayed on the front end of your site. You can choose to show:

  • The exact amount of stock left such as “12 in stock”
  • Only display stock level when it’s low such as “only 2 left in stock”
  • No stock quantity level at all

Product Settings for WooCommerce Inventory Management

There are also additional inventory settings you can tweak for each product. You can access these options by going to Products > All Products in the admin dashboard menu. From there, hover over an item on the list where you want to adjust its inventory settings.

The WooCommerce Products list page.
You can manually adjust a product’s inventory.

Click on the Edit link that appears beneath the product title. If you haven’t created one yet, you can do that instead by going to Products > Add New. Then, navigate down the page to the Product data section.
Select the Inventory tab to see additional stock management options for that product. Below are detailed explanations for what each of the options mean.

The settings in the WooCommerce product page editor.
You can choose to enable stock management on a per-product basis.

Original WooCommerce Inventory Management Settings

By default, here are the options you’ll see first:


The SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) field is a unique number or code. It’s used to identify a product or service you’re selling. These numbers are often organized in such a way that the order of numbers and letters or the specific ones used have a certain significance when it comes to stock management.

For example, if your online store sold apparel, you could have a SKU that looked similar to “T3 075”. The letter “T” would indicate the clothing size is for toddlers; the number next to it could indicate the suggested age of the toddler for sizing reference; the other numbers could mean the order in which the product shows up in your internal catalog.

The SKU can follow whatever sequence makes sense to your business, as long as each product has a different one.

Manage Stock?

When you check this box, you’re enabling more stock management options for your product. Additional options dynamically appear when selected.

Stock Status

You can choose to mark the product on the front end as:

  • In stock
  • Out of stock
  • On backorder

It’s important to note that the word “backorder” can mean slightly different things depending on what software you’re using. The distinction is important.

In WooCommerce, when a product is placed on backorder, it means an order has already been placed with your supplier and more stock is on the way. Customers will still be able to purchase the product, even though stock doesn’t technically exist yet. When the product arrives, the items are then shipped out, as needed.

Other platforms may vary. For example, some mark products as being on “backorder”. But, this means that more of the product needs to be ordered from the supplier and there isn’t currently and stock on the way.

While customers could still purchase items on backorder, the status in the back end for the order would be “backorder”. It would be similar to an order being placed on hold in WooCommerce.

Sold Individually

Check this box and your product can only be purchased once per order. This is particularly helpful when it comes to selling unique or one-of-a-kind items such as handmade goods, or art.

Additional WooCommerce Inventory Management Settings

If you choose to select the box to allow WooCommerce to manage stock for your product, then additional options appear. They’re explained in more detail below.

Stock Quantity

You can enter the amount of stock you have for this product in this field. If you selected this to be a variable product instead of a simple one, then this number will be used to control the stock for all the variations on the product. That is, unless you defined the stock level for the specific variations.

Allow Backorders?

With this option, you can choose to allow backorders. Here’s what the available options mean when it comes to WooCommerce inventory management:

  • Do not allow – Customers can’t purchase items that are marked as being on backorder.
  • Allow, but notify customer – Customers can purchase items on backorder, but they’re notified of the product’s status by email.
  • Allow – Products can be purchased by the customer if it’s on backorder and the customer isn’t notified of the product’s backorder status.

Low Stock Threshold

If you want to override the global settings for the individual product, you can enter an amount in this field. It will indicate how many products need to be available to receive an email notification that the item is low in stock.

If you have a variable product, it’s possible to set different amounts for each variation.

Top WooCommerce Inventory Management Plugin Options

In the event that you need to extend the core WooCommerce inventory management options, you can do that with plugins or extensions.

If you’re running a WooCommerce Multisite network, check out these resources for compatible inventory plugins: 4+ Top WooCommerce Multisite Inventory Sync WordPress Plugins and How to Set Up WooCommerce Multisite with Stock Syncing.

You can also check out one of our other upcoming articles Top WooCommerce Inventory Management Plugin Options to find the inventory plugins you may need.

Wrapping It Up

Now that you better understand WooCommerce inventory management settings, you should be able to navigate through them to run your online store.

Keep in mind that if you’re not able to find a WooCommerce inventory management plugin that works for you, feel free to reach out to us. We’re platinum-certified WooExperts. We can build you a custom extension that has the features you need.

Do you have any questions about WooCommerce inventory management? Share your thoughts in the comments below and we’ll try to help you out as best as we can.

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