Locating Steady Product Sources
When you'd rather spend more time selling than searching for products, it's time to consider more reliable sources of merchandise.
No one can deny the thrill of posting a garage-sale find or department-store clearance item on eBay and snagging 10 times what you paid for it or more. But you have to put up with the feast-or-famine nature of sourcing your business this way. Now that you know how eBay works, you're ready to take on the bigger deals and larger volumes that will produce a steady stream of product and establish you as a reliable seller among eBay shoppers.
Wholesale distributors, liquidators, closeout distributors and job-lot traders offer a virtually unlimited choice of product, though quality and quantity will vary. For access to these suppliers, you'll need a state resale number, which allows you to buy wholesale anywhere in the country. Manufacturers and wholesalers may also set minimum orders, so you must first decide how much merchandise you can afford to buy and store.
Some wholesale distributors and manufacturers avoid internet businesses because they consider them unstable or unprofitable. But according to Chris Malta, CEO of Worldwide Brands Inc., a product sourcing research publisher in Orlando, Florida, there is a subset of suppliers that tailor their businesses to online sellers such as those on eBay. These "light bulk" wholesalers, as Worldwide Brands refers to them, offer minimum orders of $500 or less.
Locating a wholesale distributor who supplies what you want to sell isn't always easy, but Sun W. Kim, 30, founder of TekGems Inc. (eBay User ID: tekgems), found a novel way to do it. The San Francisco electronics entrepreneur did Google searches for the model numbers of products he wanted--searches that often led right to distributors' websites. "Pretty soon, I knew who the distributors were and whom to talk to," Kim says.
Now, it seems the manufacturers find him, using the same technique to check on their products. "I probably have a supplier or manufacturer interested in selling me something once a week," Kim says.
Marsha Collier, an eBay PowerSeller and author of several books about eBay, recommends eBay itself as a product source. Using search terms such as lot, case quantity, surplus or pallet, sellers can find liquidated merchandise and closeouts from providers too busy to sell the products individually. Liquidation.com is also a popular source for finding these goods.
Buying from liquidators offers a significant price benefit, but you never know what you'll get. "You'll find good bargains," Malta says, "but you can also end up with items taken from breakage piles."
Whom you buy from also depends on what you want to sell. Avoid product categories where oversupply has dropped prices too low to provide a profit. Asad Haroon, general manager of GoWholesale.com, a Washington, DC-based search portal for the wholesale and small-business sectors, recommends buying merchandise related to a hot item. Instead of adding to the glut of cell phones, for example, sell cell-phone plates or car adapters. "You may not have as big a demand," Haroon says, "but there won't be a lot of other people selling [them]."
Whatever you sell, opt for items that will maintain your interest in the business. "If you hate the items you're selling," Collier says, "you're really going to be bored."