Where to Get Stuff to Sell on eBay
One of the most frequently asked questions experienced eBayers hear is "Where do you get your stuff?" or "Where can I get stuff to sell?" Obviously, no seller with a working brain cell is going to create competition by giving away his product sources to anyone! So where do eBay sellers get their stuff? What about drop shippers? What about wholesale sources? There's really no magic to it, just some general know-how to fit into your own situation.
Staying Close to Home
The first place to look for products is your own home. Nobody knows more about your stuff than you do. It's a great way to get started with your selling and learning the ropes. Once you learn the basics of getting something sold, you can move on to more involved sales.
The Re-Gifting Closet
Nearly everybody's got stuff that they've received as gifts, or bought and didn't like. They take it and stick it in a closet, the garage, the shed... some people even rent a little house someplace else to store stuff they're sick of looking at! Cindy and I pull stuff out as the seasons and holidays come along, and store away the previous season's items. Are we nuts? Well, yeah, because we've slowly built up extra holiday stuff along the way. So we have a lot of holiday-related stuff - and unwanted gifts that desperately need a home, any home besides ours - that we can turn back into cash.
The Empty Nest
Baby learns to walk, talk, ride bikes, kidnap the telephone, scream "I HATE YOU!", borrow the car, then ask you to help pay for college. There's lots of clothes and outgrown toys and redecorated left-overs that will sell. Look at recycling your yesterday cast-offs to pay for today's needs. If you're in a college town, you can really help out the students that need to dump their possessions after graduating or inbetween semesters, too.
To Grandmother's House We Go
Those kids grow up and give you grandkids, so eventually you come out on top again. Grandparents have had time to accumulate their own lifetime full of goodies, tchochkies and outright outlandishly goofy stuff. They're enjoying the retirement years, often need a little expendable income, and would like to get some of their old junk out of the way. Offer to turn those dust-laden obstacles into cash.
Dive! Dive! Dive!
Some folks find their treasures checking out the trash in dumpsters, or picking up discarded items left for pick-up at roadside. Please - if you decide to do this, make sure you've got permission to swim in somebody's dumpster... and for pete's sake, make sure it's rubbish day before you grab things out of somebody's yard! There's nothing you can find worth risking your personal safety. That said, this is a great place to get fixtures, seasonal decor items, BOXES and other packing material.
You've Got a Friend
About the time you start stripping your house down to the wall boards to support your eBay sales habit, your friends are going to notice. They're going to ask you if it's really true that selling their junk on eBay makes more money than having a garage sale. Offer to take a look at their stuff and split the take. If there's only a few things you want to mess with, cherry-pick their good stuff and sell it before some other eBayer snatches it later during the sale! Garage/Yard sales are a great source of stuff for eBay.
Help Yourself, Help Them Help Others
Most areas have Thrift Stores or charity groups that hold rummage sales. Thrift Stores often have Sales Days when they mark things down 50%. Rummage sales often tend to have nicer donated items, and can be a real goldmine of supply for you.
You Can't Take It With You
It's a fact of life that when we leave this mortal coil, our accumulated stuff becomes someone else's problem. Family members will gather round, divvy up the loot, and the rest is an Estate Sale. This is the same as a Garage Sale, only with nicer stuff. Sometimes these sales will be done by auctions.
Going Once, Going Twice, Sold to You!
Check your local paper and you'll see those estate sales as well as a whole bunch of different auctions. Often there'll be a list of key items to draw interest to the sale. These things will generally be out of your league and price range. Don't worry, though: the other stuff will tend to be overlooked by the buyers who come for the really great advertised stuff -- you've got a shot at some cool stuff!
My Stuff Has a Summer Cottage
Remember I told you that people rent places to store their overflow of junk? Some of those people forget to pay their rent. The storage place will change the padlock, then offer the contents up at auction to pay for back rent owed. Talk about a big grab bag mystery box! You're expected to claim the contents the same day of the auction, so be ready for anything. It's a good idea to go observe a few of these. You can watch and learn for free and decide if it's something you want to do.
Sold to the Lady With the Frightened Look!
Sometimes you'll find that several estates or properties will be combined in one location for everyone's convenience. There can be a real hodge-podge of stuff, so be sure to get there early and look through the items being offered. Don't be intimidated, just jot down a list of things you like, and what you're willing to bid on them. If you go over what you write down, you'll realize later than you had a lot of fun winning -- but lost your profit.
There's a New Sheriff in These Here Parts
Sadly, folks sometimes forget to pay their bit to the government and the Tax Man comes with Deputies to sell off the non-taxpayer's stuff to satisfy liens and court judgements. Sometimes businesses fail or quit. Whatever the reason, business auctions are fairly common. These are a great source for inventory, either in fixtures or merchandise. You might have to buy a lot of stuff, so be ready to store up some inventory. Sometimes you can bid on certain business items like a computer or cash register or scales, which can help equip your business as it grows.
If I Were a Rich Man, I'd Buy Wholesale
You don't have to be rich, but when you step up to buying at a wholesale level you're going to spend money on inventory. That is, unless you're fortunate enough to develop suppliers that will drop-ship for you. So what is wholesale anyway? Well, manufacturers make goods and sell at a discount (wholesale) to businesses that have a sales force to resell the product for profit to end consumers (retail). By buying in quantity, the retailers get a lower price with the manufacturer - and the more bought, the better the discount. Can a beginning eBay seller actually get wholesale prices without buying a lot of inventory? The simple answer is no, not really. The business world isn't always so black and white, though, sometimes it's more about shades of gray.
Liquidators and Tigers and Bears, Oh my!
Somebody with deeper pockets than yours will buy up that inventory from closed businesses. Sometimes the business will raise cash by selling off excess inventory all at once instead of closing shop. Think of your local department store's after-Christmas sale merchandise... now think of all that stuff loaded on a couple of trucks and sold for pennies on the dollar! Yep! Overstock, "shelf pulls", liquidation, reclaimation... all of these are inventory or bulk lots of goods that have found their way into the hands of the Gray Market. Even at these prices, unless you're prepared to store inventory you can't really afford it. There are other pitfalls to dealing with gray market bulk goods that I won't go into here, but it's really a shark-infested neighborhood. This merchandise eventually finds its way down the foodchain until somebody is selling it at their "Cheapo Depot" discount store. Here is where you can find great bargains to sell on eBay. Always haggle for a better price with the store owner. =-)
Itching for Bargains at the Flea Market
A lot of that stuff from Cheapo Depot? Yep, flea market dealers often buy from those places and resell in their booths! These vendors are often eBay sellers on the side (or on the sly, if you see'em grinning at you). They buy from auctions, and garage / estate sales, and storage units and, and, and... and a lot of times, they've bought from Vinnie (I'll get to him in a minute). If you spot a Prada handbag - slightly scuffed - for $18? An autographed Babe Ruth rookie card with a genuine holographic seal of authenticity? A Mission-style credenza displaying repeating muskets from the Mexican-Nebraska war? You think I'm being funny, but "Let the Buyer Beware" is the rule of thumb at the Flea Market. Know what you're buying if you think you've got a treasure on your hands. You can get great deals if you're careful.
Buy Direct and Save Billions!
I don't want to discourage you from looking for suppliers that will sell to you in small quantities. The smaller and more unique the manufacturer, the more likely that they'll work with you. The same thing goes with small distributors. Distributors will buy from several manufacturers at a discount, then resell to you at a mark-up -- with any luck, slight enough that you can make a profit on eBay. This is extremely difficult, and requires a lot of homework. You will often need documentation as a real business. Look for companies that are physically close to you, in the same county or state. You can find these folks by talking to your Chamber of Commerce or various state agencies that promote business. Your size is a limitation, and many places won't deal with you if you say you sell on eBay. With some experience, though, some will be interested in talking to you about representing their items!
Vinnie, Vidi, Vici
Never underestimate the power of spreading the word. Once you're known to be "that guy that sells on eBay" or "you're the eBay lady!" people will talk to you about it. It's nice to talk about your hobby/part-time business, but this sort of conversation is a trade. Entertain the questions, but ask them "Do you know anybody that wants to turn some of their stuff into money?" This word-of-mouth is called networking by experts, and all that means is make as many friends and contacts as possible and let them work for you. You'd be surprised how many people will come to you with stuff they'd like to sell. Watch out for Vinnie, though! His stuff didn't really fall off a truck, and when the deal's too good to be true you know Vinnie's gonna stick you with broken, stolen, knock-off garbage.
If It Fell Off a Truck, Is It Drop-Shipped?
One of Vinnie's tricks is to buy a lot of discontinued, clearance, shelf-pull, overstock, over-run, liquidation, as-seen-on-TV merchandise and offer it as "wholesale" to anybody AND he'll ship it to your customer for you! No inventory to buy, no packaging to fool with, no shipping to learn, woo-hoo, it's eBay paradise! Except this is Vinnie we're talking about, and he'll charge you to join his "special wholesale club" and charge you too much and charge you to dropship your goods. Meanwhile, he's also charging everybody else you know, offering them the exact same stuff, and the whole big mess is being oversold on eBay! Nobody is making any money except Vinnie and his special wholesale club.
If Vinnie runs out of stuff before your order gets filled? WHO CARES? Vinnie isn't going to get negative feedbacks and kicked off of eBay: you are. There are many people that have success with drop-shipping, but far more find it a never-ending nightmare of ruin. Until you're experienced and dealing with suppliers that you have a trusting relationship with, drop-shipping is a minefield you would best avoid. If any drop-shipper wants to charge you account fees or membership, lose their web address pronto.
I Googled It and It Kept Coming Up eBay
That's because eBay has got a lot of great stuff! You can actually find lots of stuff right here to buy that you can later resell for a handsome profit. Look for wholesale lots, items that you have expertise in, visit the eBay Reseller Marketplace, or watch for items that have been listed incorrectly.
Sell For Others - For Fun & Profit
With some experience, you might think about selling other people's stuff. You've got your friends and neighbors, family members and the whole community ready to have you sell everything that isn't nailed down by now, right? eBay's made this easier for you with the Trading Assistants program. If you qualify, eBay will put you in a directory of Trading Assistants, give you templates for business cards, flyers, posters, you name it.
Greener Pastures Often Mean Just More Bull Poop
Some sellers try to stretch out to other markets. They haven't gotten the success from eBay they'd like or they're looking for something different. Whatever their thinking, they've listed products out on other auctions sites. They'll often drop their prices on items listed there in order to get them started, and you can find yourself gobbling up good stuff at cheap prices. The same thing happens when some folks set up web sites, so keep an eye out for bargains.
Uncle Joe is a PowerSeller, Trading Assistant, eBay Volunteer and Mentor, and an Education Specialist trained by eBay. He's been enjoying eBay for fun and profit since 2001. He's mostly involved with selling tie dye shirts and clothing in his Silver Dollar Outpost eBay store (you can find savings in his blog). If you have any comments, please click on his feedback profile and send a note. You may also enjoy joining his Mentoring group. No one named Vinnie was actually harmed in the writing of this Guide.