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Five-Step Website Tune-Up for 2016 - Make Sure Your Website is Ready for the New Year

The eBay & Amazon Seller's News, February 2016 - Volume 17, Issue No. 3

Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Independent Online Sellers
by: Skip McGrath

In This Issue:

Musings from and about eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web

  1. Five-Step Website Tune-Up for 2016 - Make Sure Your Website is Ready for the New Year
  2. Pros and Cons of Private Labeling
  3. eBay Flat Ė Amazon Grows Sales 21% in the 4th Quarter
  4. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

"I have not failed. Iíve just found 10,000 ways that wonít work." ~ Thomas A. Edison


Besides this newsletter I also have a blog. But between writing this newsletter and my books and our eBay and Amazon business I find I just don't have time to do everything. So I'm looking for some folks who would be interested in doing guest blog posts or articles. But there are some conditions. Click here to read about what I am looking for.

I have two examples of great guest contributions. A few days ago Diana Ratliff did a great blog post for me about starting a local classified site on Facebook. You can read it here. I also have a guest contribution in this issue of the newsletter. It's by my web master, Marsha Perry about giving your website a tune-up.

Amazon's Seller University video tutorials can help you find success during your first year selling on Amazon, walking you through the platform and preparing you for the most common challenges. Visit Seller University (requires Amazon seller account login).

If you are importing, and want to know how much your import duties will be, here is a free import/duty calculator

I have just released the 2016 updated edition of my best-selling book on How to Sell Used Books on eBay, Amazon and the Internet. Those of you who bought the book can go back to the download page you were originally sent and download your free copy.

Remember new FBA fees go into effect on February 18th. You can see the new fees here. DNA Response has also updated their bulk fee calculator which you can read about here.

Speaking of fees, Amazon FBA long term storage fees are accessed on Feb. 15th.  Liz Adamson of Egility, recently wrote a blog post on Amazonís Long-Term Storage Fees: What They Are and How to Avoid Them.

Lets get started with this monthís articles:


1. Five-Step Website Tune-Up for 2016 - Make Sure Your Website is Ready for the New Year

Today's first article is by my webmaster, Marsha Perry.

Your website is an important business asset. The beginning of the year is a great time to make sure that your website is working well and that it shows you off to your best advantage.

#1- Test your contact form and email address

If you're wondering where all your clients are, it could be that they're trying to reach you! When was the last time you tested your contact form or your business email address? Just because it used to work doesn't mean that it still does.

To test your contact form go to your website and fill it out. If you don't get the email, be sure to check your spam folder. Website host sometimes change spam filter settings without letting customers know.

While you're at it you might also look into backing up your contact form submissions. If you use WordPress I recommend the Contact Form DB plugin. (You can learn more about that on my website.) Another great tool for any kind of website is JotForm.com.

#2 - Read the Content

When was the last time you sat down and actually read what was was on your website? Does it talk about products or services you no longer offer? Are your new products and services listed? You get the idea. Make adjustments to the text as necessary. As an additional bonus, remember that Google like websites with updated content. So you might get a SEO boost for your efforts.

#3 - Check for broken links

You want customers to trust you with their business. A lot of broken links on the site won't inspire your customers with confidence. brokenlinkcheck.com has an easy to use broken link checker that's great for small to medium sized websites.

#4 - How's your social media?

Do you have a Facebook that hasn't seen a post for six months? Has it been years since you tweeted? Was your last blog post entitled Welcome to my New Blog? Let's just be honest here and admit that social media isn't for everyone. Some people hate doing it. Some business owners just don't have the time. That's reality. So if you're not using your social media, it's much better to take the links off your site and close down the the unused social media pages.

The exception is, if your old blog posts contain relevant content that's still useful. If that's the case then rename the blog to "articles" and remove the posting dates.

#5 -Look at your copyright date

Many websites have a copyright date at the bottom of their site. Take a look to make sure that it shows the current year. If you have to change it look into replacing the date with a script that will update the date automatically. Then you won't have to worry about this issue ever again.

Marsha Perry is a website developer specializing in helping small business owners with WordPress sites. Her specialty is providing customized website services in a cookie-cutter world. Feel free to contact Marsha if you need help with your website.


2. Pros and Cons of Private Labeling

Private labeling (PL) is hot -and it can be highly profitable, but there are some risks that can turn out to be very costly. As with most things, there are pros and cons. Here are some experiences that I've had with private labeling.

The Benefits of Private Labeling

  • The biggest benefit is lower competition and higher profits. When you private label you can register your brand with Amazon and this will allow you control over the buy box. And, when you own the buy box you own the price.

  • As for profits, I source most of my PL products overseas (although there is one I source here in the US). Since I am sourcing direct from the manufacturer I am buying at a really low cost, and since I control the buy box I can mark the items up as much as I want.

    Here is an example. This is a shoulder holster I sell for $39.95 and my landed cost (including shipping and customs duty) is under $8.00.

  • The other factor, frankly, is fun. I really enjoy finding new products, testing them out and selling them.

  • Another advantage is you can sell your items wholesale. This is important when the manufacturer requires you to order large quantities. Here is a PL product that I have to order a minimum of 200 at a time and itís somewhat expensive, so when I get a shipment in I take them around to local kitchen stores and sell them a case at a time.

    That really helps my cash flow because although these knives sell fairly steady they donít sell really fast.

Possible Problems with Private Labeling

Now letís look at some of the cons of private labeling. There are not that many, but they can be important.

  • Risk Ė This can be a huge factor, especially when you purchase a large dollar volume of items. Of course the biggest risk is that your product just may not sell. It doesnít work 100% of the time but one way I get around that is to buy a few samples and list them on Amazon. If the samples sell well then I know that in general, I can sell larger quantities. Note the ďin generalĒ. It doesnít always work.

    Here is a product I bought in a small quantity on Aliexpress.

    Aliexpress is a site owned by Alibaba where you can buy the same things sold on Alibaba but in smaller quantities. I often buy anywhere from 5 to 10 items on Aliexpress to test them first. If they sell I send a sample to my agent in Hong Kong and ask him to source them. The reason I do that instead of just buying from that manufacturer is he can often find another supplier who can give us a better price.

    Anyway, once I got this product in, they just stopped selling. I even dropped the price to $16.95 (I sold the original items for $21.95) and they are still not selling. Fortunately, my landed cost is under $4 an item and I only had to buy 200 so I am not out a fortune, but this is an example of what can happen.

  • Product quality Ė Itís great to get samples, but the quality of the final items may not always equal the samples. I have an agent in Hong Kong who checks quality of shipments for me but on large shipments itís too expensive to check every item so we usually do a spot check. Sounds great, right? But even this came back to bite me once.

    This is a product that was an excellent seller. My landed cost was under $5 and we sold them for $21.95 and some days they would sell as many as 10 a day. The problem was the mechanism leaked and my return rate was over 25% so we eventually stopped selling them. I ended up donating about 100 of them to my local thrift shop. I think they were selling them for 50Ę each.

  • Inventory management Ė The time cycle on reordering and importing goods can be quite long and there are issues that come up like dock strikes or containers falling off ships. These can really screw you up. Another issue is Chinese New Year. During that time China essentially shuts down for two weeks. I ran into this issue recently. I was running low on one of my fastest selling items and totally forgot about the holiday. So now I will not be replenished until early March which means I will be out of one of my fastest and most profitable sellers for almost two months.

    Last year there was a dock strike in California that delayed a shipment of my goods about 5 weeks. That shipment also contained a fast selling item.


3. eBay Flat Ė Amazon Grows Sales 21% in the 4th Quarter

Because of holiday selling, the 4th quarter of the year is the most important quarter not only for us as sellers but for the entire retail industry as well. It turns out that this was not a great 4th quarter for eBay and Amazon and for many of the large brick and mortar retailers. eBay reported essentially flat growth in total revenue with sales in the marketplace division actually falling 1% over the 4th quarter of last year.

Amazon did a lot better at 21% Revenue growth but that was far lower than Wall Street expected. As a result Amazon's stock price fell over $50 in one day. A big factor was foreign exchange. Amazon is a dollar denominated company, but lately they are doing great sales in foreign currency but the value of those currencies is falling and that impacted their sales and profits. Other factors were growth of 51% in Prime memberships and sales through FBA now totaled over 50% of their business. The problem with that is the high cost of logistics and shipping. Amazon is such a big consumer of shipping that any increase - even if it were tiny adds up to millions of dollars off the bottom line.

Last month I wrote about the possibility of a new recession. We are not there yet, but the stock market continues to be highly volatile with daily ups and downs averaging over 200 points in one day on the Dow index.

One reason for the choppy and uncertain markets is storm clouds over an upcoming credit crisis. You don't see any news about this, but it's happening and Wall Street knows it. One of the big causes of this is falling oil prices. Oil companies are highly indebted to banks to fund their operations and many of the smaller and mid-size companies are in danger of bankruptcy. There have already been a couple but if there are a slew of these you will see the crisis spike. The other factor in the credit crisis has been a huge drop in Junk Bond prices - These are the bonds that finance many small and mid-size companies and that whole market is in trouble.

The simple fact is that consumers are just not shopping. They have more money in their wallets due to falling gas prices and in the past that would spur spending, but it's not happening this year. Personally I think the stock market has people spooked. Stocks were up during the 4th quarter but the increase was very choppy and volatile - then everything came tumbling down in January. The market keeps trying to rally but it can't seem to hold on to gains for more than a day or so.


4. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

Your Lovely Bedding sells organic and Fairtrade cotton sheets, duvet covers and blankets. Only non-toxic and eco-friendly dyes are used.

Harvest Import Inc. supplies the craft, bridal, floral, gift packaging, home sewing, wedding and event planning wholesale markets with an extensive selection of ribbon, trims, packaging, table runners, tote bags, favor bags and more.

Culver Ltd sells a large line of decorated glassware for resellers.

I have mentioned the company 888 Digital before. They are the company that buys liquidation good from Amazon and sells them back to Amazon sellers. Well they have opened a new operation called Miami Lots. Miami Lots was opened to target the Southeast United States, the Caribbean and Latin America. (They have plenty of Spanish speaking reps.)

Main benefits and features

  • $137 flat shipping rate per pallet shipped anywhere in the Continental United States.
  • 98.5% Manifest Accuracy.
  • No processing fees.
  • Customers can make offers for each pallet to negotiate the price. All the lots are manifested and each manifest include information with: ASIN numbers, Condition, Quantity, Cost, MSRP value, Current price on Amazon, Item Review rank, Item sales rank, Description of each item and a picture.
  • Very intuitive and easy to use website.
  • Different sorting options for pallets by: Price, Units, OFF MSRP, Unit cost
  • Different sorting options for items in the manifest by: MSRP value, Cost, Price on Amazon, Quantity, Sales Rank, Reviews Rank.
  • All the pallets are sorted in main categories which include subcategories, our current categories are: Art & Crafts, Home & Garden, Sports & Outdoors, Automotive, Literature(Books), Tools & Hardware, Beauty & Health, Media & Games, Fashion & Travel, Office, Electronics, Pet Products, Toys, Kids & Baby

Check out Miami Lots here

Premium Wood Designs is a model company. They make and sell beautiful wood models of all most anything. Cars - Planes - boats and more. Besides the ready-made models they sell they will also do custom work.

The Silk Flower Depot is a large wholesaler of silk flowers and they also sell greeting cards and other related items.

Vash Designs sells Adult Humor Greeting Cards and Novelty Gifts. Categories include Birthday, Over-the-Hill, Bachelorette, Anniversary, Holiday, Any Occasion and Jewish Humor.

Regent Products is a large distributor of pet supplies - and they will be exhibiting at the ASD show if you are going this year.

Project FasTags are the makers of FasTags brand ID tags for pets: dogs, cats, and horses, as well as kids' backpacks and sports bags.

The Music Connection is a large wholesaler of music CDs and even still carry cassettes. They have a low minimum order quantity of 50 pieces.

Orthodoxstyles sells Hand-Painted Orthodox and other Christian Crosses and Wording on Baptism Towels, Baptism Bibs, Infant Wear, Totes, Aprons, candles, T-Shirts and other gift items. They can also personalize items and encourage special requests.

Thatís all for now. See you again in two weeks.

Skip McGrath
The eBay & Amazon Seller's News

P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.

 The Online Seller's News is the oldest & largest newsletter for eBay, Amazon & Online Sellers. Get news, tips, tricks & learn online selling strategies.
New Wholesale Sources in every issue.


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