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What Should I Sell on eBay or Amazon? - Part II

by: Skip McGrath

What to sell on eBay? What to sell on Amazon?
Click here to read part I of this series

"What should I sell?" is the single most posed question I receive from my newsletter readers and book buyers. Let me say right up front: "There is no way I can answer that question exactly." I can point you in the direction and make some suggestions for categories to consider, but no one can answer that except you.

Unless you have very deep pockets and industry contacts, I can tell you what you should not sell:

Plasma TVs, iPods, the latest model laptops, digital camera and DVD players, Xbox, Gucci shoes, the latest perfume and other hot consumer products. The wholesale distribution of these products are tightly controlled by the manufacturer.

Here are a few examples to illustrate the problem:

  • If you want to buy iPods wholesale to sell on Amazon or eBay, the distributor requires that you have a $200,000 line of credit.

  • Channel perfumes and fashion accessories will only sell their perfumes to a select few stores. You can buy overstock or surplus famous designer items (Gucci, Prada, Hermes, etc.) through a few outlets, but the latest merchandise is only sold through their stores and a few select upscale retailers.

Lately, I have seen supposedly wholesale suppliers and drop ship companies that claim to have Xboxes, iPads and iPhones at prices where you can make money.

Be careful! Several of my readers have sent thousands of dollars to companies for a shipment of Xboxes that never showed up. Others listed them from drop ship companies that never delivered, and never answered emails once the item was sold and paid for.

Companies selling iPads via the drop ship channel have such a high price, once you add in the shipping and drop ship fees -you can't make any money. Other companies claim to have other Apple and Android products (like Samsung), but once you pay their $199 membership fee, all of a sudden they are "out of stock."

The only place I have found iPads selling for less than on eBay or Amazon, is at my local Costco. And they were only about $12 less which is just not enough to make a profit.

So back to the original question: What should I sell? As I said, only you can answer that question, but here are a few tips to help you decide:

You have probably heard this a dozen times, but sell what you know and love. I have collected Starbucks mugs, bears and cards for quite a while. I started selling them and have built up a very nice small --yet profitable niche. Because I know so much about them, I recognize a good value when I see it and can often double or triple my money when I buy a collectible piece.

I love my new laptop, but I am just not a computer expert. If I were a complete computer guy, I could not afford to become a distributor for a computer company, but there are plenty of sources of surplus and remanufactured computers. If I really knew computers and the market, I would know which ones were a good value for the price and how I could market and sell them. If the liquidation market interests you, please read my free article Buying Liquidation, Surplus and Closeout Merchandise.

Not having this knowledge however, would make it very risky for me to buy a pallet load of surplus computers from someone such as Liquidation.com. Here are a few other tips:

  • Try and find a niche. A niche can be a product, a product category or even how you market a product. The main advantage of selling in a niche is, you really get to know the product, the market, the pricing and the sources. And, because it is a niche, there is far less less competition.

  • Pick products where you can be assured of making money. Making a small margin on something that sells for over $500 is fine, but if you are only making 10% after expenses on a $50 item, you have to sell a lot of products to make $500 a week. If I am selling anything for under $100 I look for a 25% net margin after cost, shipping, eBay (and PayPal) or Amazon fees.

  • Research, research, research! Don't buy anything to resell until you have thoroughly researched the product, the market and the competition. Make sure the item will sell at a profit. There are lots of research services. I have tried them all, but by far, my favorite is Terapeak. Have you heard of it?

    Terapeak is an eBay Research Tool that gives you data to help you determine what is selling, what prices items are selling at, what keywords eBay users type in to find products and what are the best days and times to list items. Terapeak has now expanded this service to include Amazon. So they are now the one place to get both eBay and Amazon marketplace research data in one service .

  • If you are really stuck, start by selling things from around your home, then move on to selling items you buy at garage sales and thrift shops. As you do this you will see patterns emerging --things that sell well and are easy to buy. If you are patient and try a lot of things this will lead you to a niche.

    One person who did this found that old fishing gear sold very well and was easy to find cheaply at garage sales. He now has a large eBay business selling vintage and collectible fishing gear such as reels, fly rods, lures and so on.

    Another woman I know found that jig saw puzzles sold very well. Some went for just a few dollars while others would bring prices as much as $50 each. With experience she has now learned which ones to buy that will return huge profits. A few hours spent at garage sales spending less than $20 can often return over $500 in sales.

  • Non-Fiction books sell very well on both Amazon and eBay. Look for books in good condition on subjects such as art, photography, transportation (cars, trains, planes, etc.), how-to books, courses (I once found a cassette tape course with a workbook on Winning at Black Jack at a garage sale for $5.00. I sold it on eBay for over $70), local and regional history, antique and collectible price guides (less than 5-years old) and books on animals.

    Stay away from cookbooks unless it is out-of-print and a very famous one. Children's books sell very well if they are in excellent condition and children's pop-up books can bring a fortune if they are not broken or torn.

    The best sources for books are garage sales, library sales, flea markets and your local thrift shop.

  • Information products and taking advantage of eBay's new policy on selling digitally downloaded products may be the most profitable niche on eBay. The same thing is true on Amazon if you sell in the Kindle format. Check on Clickbank.com and you will find some great training courses on selling information products.

Whatever you decide to sell, test with a small quantity, or research it first to make sure there is a market before committing a large sum of money and make sure you have a stable source of supply.

Good luck selling online.


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