Not all sellers are ready to work with a professional supplier from the very beginning. Whether it’s a restriction of capital, credit, labor, time, or just a desire to start cautiously, sometimes sourcing product locally on a small scale is the way to go.
Drop shipping products can help alleviate some of these issues, and we’re proponents of using drop shipping to help build your business, but working with drop shippers can present its own set of challenges. Data management, customer service, reliable shipping, and lower ROI are all very real issues you have to work out to be successful with this approach.
In reality, most sellers get started by selling items they either own themselves or have access to locally. As sales increase and inventory dwindles, however, you always have to be sourcing inventory. It’s the name of the game, after all, and cash is tight. Fortunately, there are some places that are ideal for local product sourcing on a budget. Here are 5 great places to help you get started (and a few bonus ones too!).
‘Friends of the Library’ Sales
You never know what type of books might pop up at a “Friends of the Library” sale, so they are definitely worth checking out. While many of the books may be worth only a few cents or dollars, you can often find some gems of real value. Cookbooks, history books, and illustrated books usually have good potential and a quick check on AddALL from your mobile device can tell you if the book you found is a keeper.
Bidding on the content of abandoned storage units has become increasingly popular due to television shows like Auction Hunters and Storage Wars. Since bidders are not allowed to physically go through the items in a storage unit prior to bidding, you are taking a chance as to whether there are items of value inside. Make no mistake, it’s a gamble, but it can be a great way to source products if you have good instincts and get lucky. Know your area!
In recent years, many thrift stores have caught on to the fact that their customers often buy items to resell online. Although this has resulted in some stores raising prices on popular items, sellers can still find great bargains. If your store seems priced higher than normal on the “A” brands, focus on the long tail. Skip the Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, and concentrate on less common designer names that have a presence in the big box retailers (as well as vintage sites!). Do a little bit of research online to generate a list of names, prioritized by their SKU count and site real estate, and you may find you can scour the aisles a lot more efficiently and effectively.
Some sellers think sourcing inventory at discount stores like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx is a waste of time, but I disagree. There are lots of these stores around, and each one carries different inventory. Since stores literally gets tens of thousands of pieces of new inventory a week, the opportunity to find product is always there. One small caveat to these types of stores, however, is that merchandise changes often, so it’s not practical to expect to find the same type of items week after week.
You may not think about sourcing for products while you are grocery shopping, but it’s a fair bet that some of the items you already purchase each week have the potential to sell for profit. Regional items, such as BBQ sauces, hot sauces, etc. are often a favorite purchase for online buyers who are unable to find these particular items in their own area. (Disclaimer: I often crave a particular brand of cheesy poofs that are only sold back where I grew up…) — can you tell I’m from the South or what?!?
And how about post-holiday discounts? On top of seasonal flavors that people love (see: pumpkin-spiced ANYTHING), check the seasonal aisle for bulk products that are manufactured for only a short amount of time: Halloween supplies… Christmas lights… Independence Day decorations.
Garage and Yard Sales
Since most people who hold garage and yard sales simply want to get rid of their old stuff, this is often a great place to find low-priced items to sell for a profit online. Keep in mind that yard sale sourcing does take a little preparation if you want to beat the crowds and find the best deals. Plan your excursion the night before and locate the places you want to visit ahead of time. Check classified ads online or your local newspaper to locate nearby sales in your driving area. Make a list of which sales you think are worth attending, then plan your route accordingly. Optimize your time and gas investment.
Odd-Lot and Dollar Stores
It might surprise you to learn that many sellers make a living by simply frequenting their local Big Lots and Dollar stores. Since items turn over quickly, finding salable items may be hit or miss. They are definitely worth checking out, however, especially for the FBA seller. Many discontinued items tend to find their way onto shelves at these types of stores, and since they are sold at discounted prices, you can often lot the items together or sell them in bulk for a nice profit.
These are just a few ideas for places in your area to add to your local sourcing routine. Have some other ideas? Leave them for us in the comments section!