Now comes the fun part--looking for the merchandise you want to sell. Most eBay sellers agree that looking for new treasures is the best part of their job, which is why it often seems more like a hobby than a business.
From clothing and accessories to shoes and handbags, sample sales are a great way to get designer goods at deep discounts. Lynda Ott-Albright (eBay User ID: shoppe*head2toe) lives in the Los Angeles Basin and frequently has the opportunity to visit manufacturers' sales at the L.A. Market Center to purchase items for her eBay store, the Head-2-Toe-Shoppe. "I have been very spoiled because of my access to the Market," she confesses. "It has been a great asset to my business."
Buying sample sales directly from the designers and manufacturers gives you an early peek for the upcoming season, as well as discounted bargains at 40 to 80 percent off retail prices. They are the shopping secret of the fashion conscious, as well as one of the best ways to get beautiful, authentic name-brand merchandise without paying full retail prices. They are also a good way to check out and purchase unique items from newly emerging designers who haven't yet hit their stride in the fashion scene.
Some designer sample sales require you to make an appointment or at least have your name placed on their guest list. But don't let this intimidate you as very few sales are limited to a specific audience. Simply call and let them know you are coming.
The best times to attend a sample sale can vary, but try to avoid the lunch crowd (11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) because that is when they are the most crowded. Early in the morning on the first day of the sale is always a good time because the best items will be displayed and easy to find. As time goes on, the items will become disorganized and picked over; however, they will usually be offered at even bigger discounts as the end of the sale approaches.
To find sample sales in your area, check the newspaper for listings of upcoming manufacturers' sales. Your favorite designers' web sites often have mailing lists that you can subscribe to for information on upcoming sales. Join focus groups to network and discover sample sales that will be held in your area.
Buying Wholesale Clothing from Manufacturers
Many high-volume eBay sellers purchase merchandise directly from wholesale sources to be resold on eBay. When it's done right, wholesale clothing can provide high profit margins along with high-volume sales. The hard part sometimes is weeding through the junk to find quality distributors, so you may have to get down in the trenches and do some digging.
Don't waste your money purchasing lists of wholesalers, when you can find them on the internet for free by typing "clothing," "wholesale," and "manufacturer" in your browser. And avoid distributors who charge administrative or setup fees. To refine and narrow your search for wholesale clothing manufacturers, look for specific designers. Most have web sites, but if they don't you can at least get their company's contact information and ask for a catalog and price sheet for retailers.
Not all wholesalers are created equal so you should familiarize yourself with each company's prices, shipping policies, warranties, and other terms of service. Depending on your niche, you may want to open accounts with several distributors so that you can shop for the lowest prices and take advantage of specials each one may have. Be sure to ask for and check references so that you talk to other resellers who are buying from these sources. In addition, check with the Better Business Bureau, industry associations, and state regulatory agencies that can verify claims, if any.
The checking process is a two-way street and legitimate wholesalers will also want information about you. You will need to provide them with a sales tax ID number, as well as any required business licenses for your location. If they do not ask for this information, then they are not genuine wholesalers; merely glorified discount retailers. Wholesale distributors do not sell their merchandise to the general public--only dealers, retailers, and resellers like you.
Watch for advertisements at local retail stores for big sales that are held at certain times of the year. Merchandise that goes on sale after the season has ended can reap some of the best deals--as much as 75 to 90 percent off retail prices in department stores and specialty shops. Although the selection of items will be limited, the savings will be remarkable. Savvy shoppers know to look for bathing suits and sandals in October, and wool sweaters and fur hats in April. Avoid fads that may have a short life span. Select classic, timeless items such as handbags, wallets, and clothing that will carry over several seasons without going out of style. You can also find great bargains at stores that are "going out of business."
Discount Stores and Clothing Outlets
Often brand-name companies such as Polo, Gap, and Carters send their seconds or unsold inventory to the manufacturers' clothing outlets or other discount stores, such as Marshalls or TJ Maxx. You can discover some great deals marked down 50 to 75 percent or more. These garments and accessories are top-quality, brand-new merchandise with the tags still dangling on them, which is a big draw for eBay buyers. Talk to sales personnel and find out when their scheduled shipments are, as well as "Final Sale" days to get in on the best deals.
Consignment Shops and Thrift Stores
Look for consignment shops that carry high-end merchandise, as well as quality thrift stores run by charitable organizations. Most shops handle their inventory in the mornings, so make it a point to stop by first thing to increase your chances of finding the best items. Stephanie Inge (eBay User ID: stephintexas) looks for her cowboys boots and vintage wear in a variety of places including thrift shops, garage sales, flea markets, and estate sales, and she advises eBay sellers to get on top of their game to find their treasures. "I have a circuit of thrift stores in my area," she says. "I know when they get their deliveries and when they stock their shelves, so I try to get there before anyone else does."
Many thrift stores have clearance days such as "Red Dot Wednesday," where everything is half-priced. Consignment shops also have traditional sales just as retail stores do, so get on their mailing lists or talk to sales personnel to find out when upcoming sales will be held.
Garage sales are the backbone of eBay clothing resellers who have a specific niche and know what they are looking for. This gives you the opportunity to handpick specialty items for a small investment to be resold at a higher profit. Even crafters are able to find supplies at greatly reduced prices for their custom-made items.
Most garage sales are held on the weekends and you will be competing with other resellers, hobbyists, collectors, and frugal-minded folks, so use your time wisely. Sit down with the classified section of the newspaper and a map so that you can plan out a route that will include at least five to six garage and yard sales. Look for garage sales in affluent areas as they often have high-end, designer clothing and accessories. Community-wide garage sales are a huge bonus, and don't pass by unadvertised garage sales along the way.
Next, get your beauty sleep the night before because you will need to get a very early start. When you arrive at your destination, head straight for the clothes rack, children's table, handbags, display, or other main area of interest. Stay on target and don't get sidetracked by other items because you will have a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time. You will find that as mid-morning rolls around the pickings get slimmer, so your mission is to "hit and run."
Develop friendly negotiating skills to see if sellers are willing to come down on their prices. One approach is to ask what is the lowest amount they will take for a specific item. Another method is to simply offer a dollar amount based on what you are willing to pay. Always remain respectful, but be willing to walk away if the seller is not flexible.
Estate sales are generally held when someone has passed away or is relocating to a smaller facility and needs to liquidate and dispose of belongings. They are more organized than a typical garage sale and are usually held inside a home or an auction warehouse. Estate sales that are handled by nonprofessionals such as family members generally yield better results for the reseller because the host may not be as savvy about resale values. But even when a professional is in charge of the sale it is certainly in your best interest to check it out.
Heirloom accessories, used designer clothing, and vintage wear are some of the wonderful treasures you can find at an estate sale. Clothing and shoes are usually displayed in the bedrooms, although coats, outerwear, and some accessories may be exhibited in other areas of the home.
Look up estates sales in the classified section of your local newspaper. Contact local auction houses in your area to see when they will host their next estate sale. You can even look on eBay for estate sale listings.
Flea markets may be another great source for finding clothing and accessories to resell on eBay. Just remember that the dealers are there to earn revenue, so you need to be sure that you can successfully resell the items for a profit. Go early in the morning to see the best selections. Take a quick tour before buying to see what different types of items are being offered. Many vendors have similar merchandise and competitive prices. You may also find hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind items that are in demand on eBay. Picking up a dozen custom-made belts to resell could bring in a generous profit.
Inspect the items carefully to make sure there are no stains, tears or other flaws. Flea market goods are generally sold "as is" without the benefit of a return policy. Just as when you are at a garage sale, approach the vendor with a friendly manner to see if he or she is open to negotiations. Sometimes they will offer discounts if you are buying in quantity, but you will need to ask.
One Final Tip
Remember that eBay is a great resource to find items to sell on eBay. You can find plenty of wholesale lots that you can buy and then split up to be relisted individually. Also take advantage of the less than stellar listing practices of fellow eBayers. Look for misspellings in titles, or find auctions that have poor quality photographs or descriptions. These auctions will have very little, if any, bidding activity and you can purchase the items at bargain prices to be resold later.
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