Monday, February 24, 2014
Selling groceries on Amazon seems to be a hot topic right now around the blogosphere and on seller networking groups. Unfortunately, much of the advice being dispensed is really not the best advice for sellers, nor are the people offering the advice really very experienced in this niche. I'd like to take a moment to shed some light on some bad information floating around so that other sellers really can be successful.
I've been selling consumable grocery, baby, and health and beauty items online since 2007. I started this venture selling on eBay UK. Several eBay sellers offered consumable grocery, baby, and health and beauty items as order fillers. In other words, we created listings for products we could buy at regular retail from Costco, Sams, Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, and other stores. About twice a week, I would make the rounds to purchase items that had been ordered on eBay and ship them. This business model was great because I was able to use the customer's money to buy product and there weren't a whole lot of other sellers doing it so we didn't see the "race to the bottom" on pricing. (Click here to see posts about my eBay UK selling experience and how it worked back in the old days.)
I've learned a lot about selling locally-sourced consumables online since 2007. My philosophy has always been to make money as efficiently as possible and to find items that can be easily replenished that sell with an acceptable profit margin. Why reinvent the wheel every time, right? Figure out a product, sell it over and over again until it becomes unavailable or the market no longer supports the desired profit margin. So I come to you with this list of 5 myths about selling groceries on Amazon with a pretty informed and experienced perspective.
Myth #1 - You Should Sell Heavily Advertised Seasonal Food Products.
This is the absolute worst advice out there. Right now the heavily advertised seasonal foods are Easter items - marshmallow Peeps, brightly colored M&Ms, cake and cupcake mixes with spring colors, Pop-Tarts, Hershey kisses, Oreos with pastel colored icing, etc. If you see a big display of any of this kind of stuff at Wal-Mart, Target, or your grocery store as soon as you walk in - GUESS WHAT? So are hundreds of other Amazon sellers. What might look good now will be impossible to sell in a few weeks. A bunch of sellers will send in those products, the market will be flooded, and no one can make any money. This strategy used to work, but now too many people are getting into this business, the newbies flock to the seasonal foods on the big obvious displays, and the products are covered up with FBA sellers very quickly. There are plenty of opportunities elsewhere. Leave the Peeps and M&Ms to the people who don't know any better.
Myth #2 - You Can't Find Any Groceries to Sell on Amazon at Wal-Mart.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I have read this comment on a message board. The problem is not Wal-Mart, it is the seller making the buying decision. May sellers are much to focused on sales rank and they pass over items that will absolutely work. About 50% of the grocery items I sell come from Wal-Mart and they are NOT national brands, and they are NOT on sale. Sellers have become too rigid in their decision-making process and are passing by opportunities right and left. See this video, Amazon FBA Smarter Scouting Tips.
Myth #3 - You Should Sell Items on the Amazon Movers and Shakers Reports.
No, no, no! The Movers and Shakers reports show the top 100 gainers in sales rank in the last 24 hours. Most of the items are sold by Amazon (whose price you cannot beat most of the time), or they are covered up with FBA sellers. Remember, the more sellers on a product, the more opportunities to be out-priced and the more likely you will lose money or your product will expire waiting for sales . Use these reports to study and identify product trends, but don't try to sell the exact items. You will be frustrated, disappointed, and lose money.
Myth #4 - You Have to Buy on Clearance to Make Money Selling Groceries on Amazon.
Referring back to myth #2, most of you are looking for items on sale. I guarantee there are products out there you can buy at regular retail 100% of the time and make a good profit. For example, I sold this lemon tuna for a year before my grocery store stopped carrying it. My cost was $36 and it sold for $67.97 for a profit of $17.53 per unit. Here is a sales snapshot:
I sold 50 orders over the course of a year (some customers bought 2 sets), and total profit was $1,034.27, on a single product sourced at regular retail. And guess what? This came in other flavors and I sold those, too. That tuna was a good friend and I was sad to see it go away. This is only one product that I sourced at regular retail - so imagine this scenario multiplied 10 or 20 times a month.
Myth#5 - You Have to Live in a Big City to Make Money Selling Groceries on Amazon.
I hear this one a lot, because I live in Atlanta and people like to make excuses for my success. There are many other ways to source groceries other than standing in a store scanning like a robot all day. I am not talking about ordering from huge grocery wholesalers or ordering junk from China. You don't have to travel to trade shows or go to scary bad neighborhoods to shop at liquidation stores. There are many other ways to source groceries and consumables that are convenient, safe, and only require some time at the computer.
I hope these ideas will give you a new perspective about what is possible. There are huge opportunities in the grocery niche and enough room for anyone who wants to play. Check out my course, The ABCs of Selling Groceries on Amazon for more in-depth information about all of these concepts and many more strategies about making money in the grocery niche.
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Friday, February 21, 2014
To an untrained eye, the women's clothing section of a thrift store just looks like a sea of colors and fabrics. But if you have a short list of what to look for, you can become a clothing picker fairly quickly and learn how to choose items that can sell for high profits on eBay. Here are a few tips for sellers who want to expand into the women's clothing niche:
1. Start with one product type at a time, master that area, then add something new. For example, start with athletic apparel, learn all you can and experiment, then move on to coats or dresses.
2. Always, always, always, include measurements.Your buyers can't try on clothing before purchasing it. They will compare the measurements of the item to another garment that fits them well. It will pay off in the end to spend a few extra minutes on each listing providing the measurements. Also include fabric content and washing instructions. Buyers don't want to find out when they receive an item that it is dry clean only, if dry cleaning isn't in their budget.
3. Add a return policy - I suggest 30 days. A return policy helps create buyer trust. Would you buy clothing off the internet from a stranger without being able to return it if it didn't fit? Most people won't. Don't worry that your buyer may wear the item and return it. Include this statement in your listing, "Returns accepted for 30 days after shipment date. Item must be in original condition." Sure, you may get a few returns, but the reward far outweighs the risk. (Note: I've been selling clothing on eBay since 2003. I rarely get any returns - maybe 1%-2% a year. You can always relist and resell it again.) Don't obsess over what your buyer might do to you, think ahead about what you can offer the buyer that other sellers may not. Be the better seller!
4. Learn your vocabulary words. Having the right keywords in your title will bring more buyers to your listings. For example, some of the hot styles right now are gypsy, peasant, Boho, tunics, sarongs, maxi dresses, fit and flare, and DVF dresses. You have to learn the terminology your buyer is using so you can connect with them.
5. Don't be afraid to try lower-end mainstream brands - the money is NOT all just in designer brands. Wal-Mart brands, Target brands, Old Navy, Kohl's, and clothing from mall and outlet stores can do very well as long as you are purchasing them at a low enough price to achieve your desired profit.
I am happy to announce that my popular class, "The Profitable World of Selling Pre-Owned Women's Clothing" is now available as an instant download. Learn how to get started in the wonderful world of pre-owned women's clothing without being confused or overwhelmed. You receive:
60 minute audio & video recording of the class
74 page e-book of the presentation
List of suggested supplies and where to get them
Clothing measuring tips
List of over 60 popular brands that sell well on eBay
My personal insights for the seller new to this niche
Cost of the downloadable course is $39.
Happy thrifting and I hope you find lots of goodies!
Monday, February 17, 2014
This issue comes up at least weekly on eBay seller Facebook groups. Sellers not listing items because their free listings ran out, or eBay isn't offering a free listing special. You have done the work purchasing items, and those items are inches way from the very computer where you sit reading this, but some of you aren't listing those items because it may cost at the most an additional 30 cents to list the item? How else can you connect your item with a buyer? Have you ever received an email from a buyers stating, "Hey, I know you bought that great item at the thrift store last week, and you haven't listed it yet because you don't want to pay the listing fee, but can I buy it?" Yeah, nobody is ever going to get that email.
I am shocked at how many people don't list inventory because "My free listings ran out." Really? You are going to let a a small fee stop you from making money, maybe hundreds of dollars? I think about how many hundreds of items you CAN sell if you list them- even with fees. So let's break this down...
Let's say you have 50 items sitting around and you paid an average of $3 for each item. That is a $150 investment that isn't working for you. If you listed those items, with an insertion fee of 30 cents per item, you would be out of pocket $15. Right?
So let's say you listed those items with a price of $19.99 with free shipping - and shipping cost estimated at $5. Profit on each item would be $8.81:
If you sold 10% of those items this month, 5 items, your profit would be $44.05.
If you sold 25% of those items this month, or 13 items, your profit would be $114.53
If you sold 50% of those items this month, or 25 items your profit would be $220.25
By looking at the big picture, you can see how silly it is to let a 30 cent listing fee get in the way, right?
This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks I see with people I work with one-on-one, letting the nickel and dime fees STOP you from making money. It's called "Tripping over dollars to pick up pennies." It takes money to make money, pure and simple. If it isn't listed, NOBODY can buy it.
Try plugging in some numbers yourself with this free eBay profit calculator.
And make sure you understand listing fees for your unique eBay business.
No more excuses. Dig in and get those items listed. Unlisted items can't sell.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Time to get out of your own head again and be open to a new idea. When you are out thrifting, do you usually skip over Walmart brand clothing because you figure nobody would buy it on eBay? Now of course, your profit will depend on the relationship between the price you pay for the item and the selling price on eBay. But if you buy items by the pound at the Goodwill Outlet, shop a special "fill a bag" days, or can buy lots of clothing at garage sales cheap, you may want to open your mind to selling Walmart brands of clothing, when the situation works.
The first step in this process is learning the Walmart apparel store brand names.Walmart clothing brands include:
Vintage items can sell for hundreds of dollars. But most of the time, you won't happen upon that rare find. Here are a few examples of completed sales for Walmart brands of clothing, in used condition, that you might actually find when out thrifting....just to blow your mind:
White Stag women's jacket size 3X sold for $44 plus shipping.
Men's George cashmere sweater sold for $80
Women's Faded Glory motorcycle boots sold for $99
No Boundaries women's overalls sold for $36.95
If you still aren't convinced, here are some interesting statistics about completed listings for Walmart clothing brands:
5,000+ completed sold listings for keywords "faded glory" in women's clothing category, eBay USA
5,300 completed sold listings for keywords "white stag" in women's clothing category, eBay USA
3,400 completed sold listings for keywords "no boundaries" in women's clothing category, eBay USA
Keep in mind that some of the completed listings will have items in mixed lots, but you the idea that Walmart brand apparel can be lucrative to sell on eBay.
This is the kind of information I share in my clothing classes. You don't need access to high end designer brand names to make money selling clothing on eBay. Everything you need is already out there waiting for you to come find it - you just need the knowledge to realize the mainstream brands that can sell. Check out my women's preowned clothing class here and expand your knowledge, and find out what you have been walking by that can make money for you on eBay.
Monday, February 10, 2014
I had an interesting experience last week. After feeling bad for a few weeks, I finally went to the doctor. My symptoms weren't too extreme - nagging unusual headache, fatigue, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, dizziness - a bunch of non-specific stuff. Blood tests revealed that my hemoglobin was 6 - normal for women is between 12-14. The doctor sent me straight to the hospital for a blood transfusion. I totally wasn't expecting that.
During the process of being admitted and cared for, I noticed a few nurses wearing Grey's Anatomy scrubs. I mean, there isn't much else to look at when you are lying in a hospital bed all night. I started asking the nurses what was up with Grey's Anatomy scrubs - are they better than other kinds? Is it a trendy thing?Where do they buy them?
My night nurse, Kelsey, explained that they are more comfortable and wear better than other brands. She said they feel less like cardboard than other brands. So I started looking up Grey's Anatomy scrubs on my eBay mobile app in the middle of the night, and sure enough, they are popular. (I've sold a few cartoon character scrubs in the past, but never really focused on brand.) Here are some stats:
2,815 completed listings for used Grey's Anatomy scrubs on eBay
Best seller - this set of purple top and bottom size medium sold for $49 shipped
Highest price sales are for lots grouped together by size
Use keywords medical, dental, nurse, and nursing scrubs in title
We see scrubs at thrift stores on a regular basis - look in both the short sleeve clothing, athletic wear, and pajamas. They seem to be scattered in different sections. I'll start looking for this brand from now on.
I honestly think there is a reselling gene. Raise your hand if your mind goes to reselling in the most unusual of circumstances. We can't help it. We see opportunities everywhere - if not for buying inventory, for learning about products to sell. Other people are a great source of information so keep your eyes open and ask questions.
And on a more important note, I want to thank all you dedicated people out there who donate blood. This process took about 7 hours and I received 3 units of blood. Every time they bought a new unit, I kept thinking about the nice people who took time out of their day to donate blood to help somebody like me. Blood donation is a truly selfless act and really, you never know when somebody might need it. I never had a blood transfusion before and never dreamed I would need one - I am a healthy person who exercises and watches my diet and lives a pretty low-risk lifestyle. So thanks to those who donate blood - your actions are truly appreciated.
I feel so much better now and am working with my doctor to find out why this happened. Thank you for all your prayers and thoughtful messages - I appreciate your concern.
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Did I lose you with the word "trend?" Don't be scared, this isn't an economics lesson. When many smaller at-home eBay sellers (without a business background) hear the word trend, their pulse rate rises, they envision a complicated graph in the Wall Street Journal, or feel like they need an MBA to understand the next paragraph. Not so. I'm going to make this easy for you and help you understand how to identify trends in an uncomplicated way, with zero cost.
So, let's break this down. What exactly is a trend?
A trend is a general direction in which something is developing or changing.
Trend analysis is is the practice of collecting information and recognizing patterns in the information around you.
Looking at trends can help you identify products, categories, or niches of items to sell. You want to pay attention to trends over time to see how something is developing. To see if the general population is catching on and spending money on a specific trend. Let me give you some examples.
Reality TV shows are an entertainment trend.
Gluten free foods are a food trend.
Tall boots and leggings with a big sweater is a winter fashion trend.
Free lancing and working at home is a job trend.
Camouflage clothing is a fashion trend, thanks to Duck Dynasty.
Cupcakes and cake pops have are a a food or entertaining trend.
See how easy that was?
When you pay attention to trends, you can discover new pockets of customers that are interested in very specific items, supplies, or products that you can provide. As entrepreneur Seth Godin says, "Find products for your customers, not customers for your products." In other words, educate yourself on what people want, and figure out a way to provide it for them. This kind of thinking is what should drive your sourcing efforts.
Top 5 Ways to Identify Product Trends
1. Pinterest. If you aren't on it, get on it. Because of the visual nature of the site, you don't even have to read anything. Just look at the pictures. Follow the main feed or choose a category that interests you. Look for patterns. For example, I love the DIY category, even though I am not very crafty. I can get ideas on what supplies or materials people are using to make projects, and find a way to make those materials available for customers to purchase on eBay or Etsy. Find me on Pinterest here.
2. Google Trends. These are hot trends in entertainment, music, books, news, food and beverage, companies, sports, science, gaming, technology, and other topics. See Google Trends here.
3. Twitter Trending. You don't need to post tweets or spend hours of your time on Twitter. Go to the main page of Twitter, and look on the left and you will see a section, Trends. This will change based on what is happening in news, sports, weather, celebrities, entertainment, health, technology, and other categories. Pay attention to what you see here over time. It could be the Super Bowl, a new diet book, or a celebrity who has recently died.
4. Most major news websites have a trending news section. Visit USA Today, Fox News, ABC News, NBC News, and Huffington Post and pay attention to what is trending.
5. Become a regular on Entrepreneur.com and Inc.com. Pay attention to articles about start-ups, inventions, technology, consumer buying patterns, and new product niches. For example, the pet product industry is predicted to take off in 2014.
If you really want to dig deep into what is specifically trending on eBay, try a one-month subscription to Terapeak. Use this tool to identify hot products, popular categories, and items with high sell-through rates. Hot items are always a moving target, so expect to do this research on an ongoing basis.
Trend research is really just paying attention to what is going on around you. And this is how I get some of my best product ideas.
Small and mighty - pay attention to little packages
But I figured nobody would want that!
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Monday, February 3, 2014
If you are new to selling vintage clothing, or hesitant to explore that niche because you feel like you don't know enough, The Vintage Fashion Guild is a helpful resource. From their website:
"The Vintage Fashion Guild™ (VFG) is an international organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of vintage fashion. Founded in 2002 by a group of vintage sellers, it soon grew into a vintage-fashion knowledge base exceeding any other web-based resource. Our objective then became focused on collecting, organizing, and presenting that information. Those efforts resulted in the first incarnation of the VFG website."
This is a membership site which costs $35 a year to join (if approved), but offers plenty of free resources if you are just tipping your toe into the waters of vintage clothing, shoes, and accessories. Their label resource section is very helpful when trying to determine if a garment is vintage, and from what era. For example, some Burberry items may be vintage and the period which it was made can be determined based on what the garment label looks like. If a clothing item is at least 20 years old, you could list it on Etsy as well as eBay. (And Etsy buyers often pay more than eBay buyers for the exact same item.)
The Vintage Fashion Guild also offers a "Fabric Looks Like" resource page where you can determine the material a garment may be made from. Close-up photos of fabrics and descriptive words like "thick furry pile fabrics" or "fabrics with a soft brushed feel" help users to determine the names of particular fabrics of clothing.
This site is an excellent resource for vintage clothing, shoe, and accessories sellers. Visit The Vintage Fashion Guild here, and check out their Facebook page here.
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