Finding inventory for your Ebay business is no easy task. Sure, once you know where to get it, it can get easier, but where do you start?
Keeping a wide range of sources for your inventory allows you to adapt to changes quicker, and not rely on strictly one source. In addition, it can open up new opportunities by broadening the range of products that you sell. The more types of products that you sell, the more you can become familiar with and better at selling. While it can definitely be advantageous to become an expert in one field, becoming an expert in more than one can open up a whole new world of opportunities.
To get started, you should try to exhaust all of your possibilities on things that have worked for you prior, and start to look ahead. For example, if you currently source your inventory through one single thrift store, the next logical step would be to find more thrift stores. Once you’ve thought about expanding in this direction, you can also look into other ways to source inventory for your Ebay business. Here on this page, you’ll find plenty of new ways to find inventory, as well as some methods that can save you money on your inventory purchases.
One of the tried and true sources for inventory can be, yup, the old fashioned yard sale. Yes, you drive by these and probably mouth the word “crap” as you drive by most of them, but there are a few diamonds in the rough of the abyss of personal items for sale.
As an Ebay seller, knowing the value of an item can be to your advantage. A lot of yard sale sellers simply don’t know the value of an item, and are willing to negotiate on whatever price they’ve set. This is how the majority of big ticket items are found, otherwise, the seller would be pricing them much higher.
In addition, some used items just aren’t worth as much in a yard sale setting as they are professionally photographed, described, and offered up for sale on Ebay. The unflattering top of a banged up folding card table doesn’t scream quality or scarcity like your top notch photos can convey. Think beyond the scratched up surface or out of the dusty old bin and imagine the item on display in all its glory in your studio setup.
Craigslist is like the half-way point between a yard sale and Ebay, only it’s free for both the seller and the buyer, and shipping isn’t involved. As a way of sourcing new inventory, Craigslist is perfect. If you sell in a certain genre, simply search the site for your desired items, and move through the list. Sellers are often willing to negotiate, and may offer discounted lots. Asking extra questions is also a good way to find inventory they haven’t even listed yet. Where there’s one item, there’s likely many more.
The answer to increasing your inventory could be sitting right under your nose. Ebay itself has the largest inventory for just about any genre you could be selling in. You might be thinking, how could that be? Doesn’t every item sell for fair market value on Ebay, in other words, selling for exactly what it’s worth? Not exactly…
Not every seller will list an item “in all its glory” like you can. While to you, you can’t imagine someone taking a picture of a vintage Prada wallet on top of a dingy old comforter, that seller might not have the item, means, or knowledge to make their listing as good as it can be. You, armed with knowledge, can see the item’s potential, and realize how valuable that item is, and that it’s just poorly marketed. Look for poor quality photos, misspellings of brands, sizes, and keywords, poor descriptions, low starting bids, and items that might be ending at odd times (like in the middle of the night on a Friday, or on a holiday weekend). Any of these miscalculations on the seller’s part can result in an item that ends cheaply with few bids, which means you will have found an item that you can sell for much higher.
Like Craigslist, Facebook is now a massive online marketplace. There’s a difference though. People’s real reputations are attached to the items that they are selling, which means it adds one layer of protection to would-be scammers. That doesn’t mean you are in the clear, though. It’s still easy to set up fake accounts with fake names and fake pictures. Don’t ever send money to someone you don’t know, because this isn’t Ebay, and you aren’t protected.
You can find just about anything on Facebook, so try searching their marketplace tab on their website/app, and see what comes up for you. It’s the luck of the draw on what you might find, so persistence is going to be key here.
Word of Mouth
Have you ever sold someone else’s items for them on Ebay? This is where word of mouth can come into play. If people know you are the go-to person to sell of their old merchandise, this can turn into a big source of inventory for you. Whether you want to market your Ebay store, your services through business cards, or just remind clients that they can get a referral fee for referring clients, word of mouth goes a long, long way. Don’t forget about email signatures, your own website, an email blast to friends/family, or your own Facebook page, all of which will help you promote yourself as a way to sell their old stuff on Ebay.
The fine art of outlet shopping can produce varied results even for the most veteran shopper. Sales can be unpredictable and confusing to the newbie outlet shopper, but knowing where and when to look isn’t so difficult once you’ve visited an outlet mall or store a few times.
Outlet malls, in theory, offer up discounts on name brand products that usually cost significantly more. The discount on items could be 50%, 20%, and sometimes none. Seasonal sales will offer some of the biggest discounts, and they often happen at the same time of year. Signing up for their email subscriptions may also result in notifications of sales, and also discount coupons that you can bring to the retailer for additional savings. Also, search the web for any extra coupons you might be able to bring with you. If they have a clearance or markdown section, also be sure to shop that section.
Knowing your product line can also increase your profits, since some items that are rare, retired, or hot at the moment may sell for above asking price or for full price on Ebay.
If the outlet clerk asks why you are buying so many items, you may want to say that you are stocking up for Christmas gifts, depending on the attitude of the clerk and the store policy. Not all clerks or businesses will be helpful or understanding of your Ebay business, even though you are doing them a favor by shopping with them. This can be especially true of high value fashion items that the brand may not want on Ebay in the first place, which they may feel “degrades” their brand.
All of these coupon and outlet savings will add up to a very low price paid per item. Add to that that many outlet stores offer styles and product lines that may be not current, which means it could be harder to find for many online shoppers, putting you in a great position to make some money.
Just about every store has a clearance section. This is where you can find items that are being marked down to get them out of the store fast. Clearances can be a huge source of inventory, and yield high profit margins. While some stores have a dedicated clearance section, some are interspersed with regular items, which may see at Target or Wal-Mart.
Clearances often have cycles, so the item will be continuously reduced in price until it is at its lowest weeks or months later. Buying these items low and selling them high, at a time when the inventory is often low online, can result in higher auction prices. For example, buying bathing suits at the end of summer on clearance and holding on to them until December through March, when bathing suits can be hard to find, is a good strategy. While the big box retailers won’t have bathing suits, you will, and you can sell them off quickly with little competition.
While brick-and-mortar stores have clearly defined clearance sections to shop from, online stores have the digital version on their clearance page. The advantage here is that you can not only save yourself a trip out, but find a steady source of inventory by keeping an eye on brand name websites popular in your genre. Don’t forget about discount retailers, too, not just brand name specific websites.
Be sure to enter any promo codes that you can find applicable to your order, and sign up for email newsletters that may contain additional savings or sales notifications to extend your savings (and profits) even further.
A small business in your area may not have the time, manpower, or expertise to increase their sales by offering up some of their inventory on Ebay. Whether the seller wants to unload old items that aren’t selling, or wants to stage a permanent online presence through a store format, you can have a constant source of inventory by initiating a relationship with a small business. Strike up a conversation with your local business owner to see if they might be interested, and be sure to post around town about what you do. Word of mouth might come your way.
Liquidation websites and companies can offer large quantities of cheap merchandise that ranges as much as you can imagine. Liquidators want to unload as much product as quickly as possible, for the most money. Be wary of generic items, questionable photos, and place of origin. Do your homework, ask plenty of questions, and search, search, search for the right fit for your product line. The right fit for you may not be on page one of Google, so keep on looking, and vary up your search terms to find new results.
Auction houses can have a wide variety of items that can range from overpriced to way undervalued. Attending a local auction is the only way you’ll be able to find out! Do some Google footwork and find some local auctions in your area.
Like liquidators, wholesalers can offer up products quite cheap. The key here is to keep digging until you find what you’re looking for at the price you’re looking for. You know what price you need to sell an item for to make a profit. So, be sure the buying price is well below that, and use that as your starting point. Wholesale distributors can be as easy to find as using Google, or, through email communication. Don’t forget that not every opportunity is advertised online. Make your own connections and see if a local wholesaler, who may not necessarily be putting themselves out there for small purchase individuals to step foot in, may have large amounts of leftover random stock that could be an option for you. Try to set up a conversation through email or in person and see where you get. Be wary of knock-offs, items that aren’t discounted enough, and damaged items.
Make it Yourself
Sometimes, the best thing to market is you. What can you offer that no one else is or can on Ebay right now? Is it a service? Is it a product that you can make yourself that is in high demand, but no one else is selling? Thinking customized can be key here, too. For example, I recently purchased a light switch cover on Ebay from a store that printed their very own light switch art. These were printed, cut, and applied with adhesive to the light switch cover, making instantly customizable products in any image imaginable. I was looking for a specific type of dinosaur art for my son’s bedroom, and I found it. This seller had thousands of options available, and had little competition. Can you carve out a niche in a similar way by offering something no one else can?
Photo by Emma Jane Hogbin Westby.