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Understanding Wholesale Distribution and Sourcing

The eBay & Amazon Seller's News ~ March 2018 ~ Volume 19, Issue No. 5

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

In This Issue:

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

  1. Understanding Wholesale Distribution and Sourcing
  2. Making Money with Blogs
  3. Amazon Gets Strict on Bundle Policy
  4. Amazon H&B and Gourmet Food Expiration Policy
  5. eBay Niche of the Month – Used Film Cameras
  6. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

"I have the attitude that anything is doable, that I can make anything happen." ~ Lori Greiner of Shark Tank


One wholesale trade show we almost always attend is the ASD show in Las Vegas, (March 11-14, 2018). We had planned to attend this year, but my wife fell and injured her wrist. The injury is not that serious, but it does make handling luggage problematic, so we are going to pass this year.

I know several of my readers were hoping to meet us there, which is always something I always enjoy. So I am sorry we will have to miss you this year.

Ebay 2018 operating and policy update. eBay recently announced their 2018 Spring Update. eBay has adopted the sensible policy of making changes twice per year (Spring and early Fall), but the Spring Update has usually been the one with the greater changes. This year's Spring Update contains some real doozies. You can read the update here. The first change regarding inventory optimization is especially horrible for sellers. And the new eBay store fees will not bring joy either.

The big changes this year are in the categories eBay calls, Inventory Enhancements, Shipping Enhancements, Growth Tools, eBay Stores fees, Returns and Seller Protections.

I have always been a fan of Amazon support, until recently that is. In a previous issue I wrote about how bad Amazon seller support has been recently. I can't tell you specifically when it started to go bad -but I am guessing about 6 months ago.

It seems whenever I open a support ticket, the first answer I get is almost always not only wrong -it is usually completely non-responsive to the issue I raised. When I see the answer, it is obvious the support rep did not take the time to read the ticket, because their answer is often about a different subject than the one I raised. And, over 50% of the time, the answer is just a link to a policy.

Whenever this happens, I always re-open the ticket and request that my issue be elevated to someone who is knowledgeable. This usually works and those responses often start by apologizing for the incorrect information I was sent.

In December the Gallup Polling Organization asked the following question:
"Do You Do Your Holiday Shopping Early, Or Wait Until The Last Minute?"
Answer: Shop Early - 68% Wait until the last minute - 32%

Seller University Video Course . The Amazon Seller University Videos have replaced the old seller manual. Most of the info is pretty basic, but sometimes that is what you need. The videos are all pretty short and each is focused on one topic -and, there are over 20 topics covered. Once you log into into Seller Central you can access these videos here.

More about the new coupon program. I wrote about the new coupon program in the last two issues. First of all, the program does work. My results were not spectacular, but better than OK. I did learn two new things.

  1. Several categories are restricted from the coupon program, but Amazon will not tell us which they are. (I have no idea why they do this). If you set up a coupon on an item that is restricted from coupons, the system will flag that.

  2. When Amazon makes a mistake and overcharges you, they tell you that is too bad -no refunds. Here is an email I got from Amazon a few days ago:

Letter from Amazon on coupon refund policy

Click here for a larger image

Amazon raising Storage fees beyond the last February announcement. These could be real profit killers.

Here is what Amazon just announced (the Amazon links below require a Seller Central login):

  • Monthly Inventory Storage Fees: Starting April 1, 2018, monthly inventory storage fees will be increased by $0.05 per cubic foot for standard-size and oversize items. This change will first be reflected in May 2018 charges for storage that occurs in April 2018. See the Monthly Inventory Storage Fees section for more details.

  • Long-Term Storage Fees: Starting September 15, 2018, long-term storage fees will be adjusted and the assessment dates will be changed from a semi-annual basis to a monthly basis. See the Long-Term Storage Fees section for more details.

  • Minimum Long-Term Storage Fees: On August 15, 2018, we will introduce a minimum charge of $0.50 per unit per month for items in fulfillment centers for 365 days or more. The greater of the applicable total long-term storage fee or minimum long-term storage fee will be charged. See the Minimum Long-Term Storage Fees section for more details.

We have been 100% FBA sellers for the past four years. Maybe it's time to reevaluate that? More info in this eCommerceBytes Blog Post.

eBay policy has always been to give sellers one free relist on items that don't sell. However, I saw a post on Facebook from a seller who was being charged for this. Several other ebay sellers commented this happened to them also. If this happens to you, open a support request and eBay will make an adjustment. You can link to your latest fee statement in your seller hub.

Lets get started with this issue’s articles:


1. Understanding Wholesale Distribution and Sourcing

Understanding Wholesale Distribution and Sourcing

I often see questions from readers and in Facebook Groups about how wholesale sourcing works. If you are going to sell online (eBay, Amazon, Website, etc.), then it is important you understand the basics.

The first thing you need to understand is: There is no such thing as a "true wholesale price."

A "wholesale" price is any price you can buy at, that allows you to make a profit when you mark it up. Let me give you an example: If you go into Wal-Mart and buy a toy on clearance at 70% off, and the same toy is still selling near full price on eBay or Amazon, then the price you pay at Wal-Mart is your wholesale price even thought you bought it at a retail store.

In more general terms used by sellers, wholesale sources usually mean buying products at wholesale (a percentage off of retail), to retail at full retail price or close to it. The most typical wholesale pricing policy is 50% off of retail, but there are wholesale sources (jewelry for example) that give larger margins and a few that provide less. When you buy something that allows you to double your cost to get retail price, that is known in the industry by the term Keystoning.

OK - Let's look at the different types of wholesale suppliers:

  • Manufacturer - There are many manufacturing companies in the US and overseas who will sell to you directly. When you do this, you are usually getting the lowest wholesale price. In the US these companies tend to be smaller specialty companies, whereas overseas they will be larger companies

  • Importer - An importer is much like a stocking distributor (see below). They import goods in very large quantities (such as a full shipping container), then break the product up into case lots (typically from 12 to 24 each) and wholesale them to retailers. I deal with one such company that imports and sells backpacks, luggage and similar products. Their prices tend to be a higher than a direct manufacturer, but a little better than a distributor.

  • Stocking Distributor - A true distributor usually purchases and stocks products they buy from manufacturers. Then, they mark up the products and resell to retailers (both online and offline).

    For example, a distributor might buy a product from a manufacturer for $4.00 each, mark it up to you at $6.00 each, and this allows you to resell at $11.99 to $12.99. When a manufacturer works with a stocking distributor, they will usually not sell directly to you unless you are a large chain store that can buy several truckloads at a time.

  • Commission distributor or Manufacturer's Rep Firm - Not all distributors buy products and stock them. Some of them (often called manufacturer's rep firms) buy just enough products to fill a showroom where you can see, touch and feel products. They sell to resellers like you, at a price that allows you to double (or sometimes more than double) the wholesale price to sell at retail. When they make a sale, the manufacturer pays them a commission that can vary from 5% to 12%.

  • Liquidation and Closeout companies - The last issue of my newsletter was my annual liquidation sourcing issue. If you recall, Liquidators are companies that buy excess merchandise from manufacturers and stores at pennies on the dollar and sell to resellers like you and me.

  • Wholesale Clubs - These are places like Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's or Big Lots. These companies sell all kinds of products at steep discounts that can allow you to buy at a cost that may be higher than a manufacturer or distributor, but low enough to resell at a profit. Sometimes they will be brand name products, but often they are house brands. For example, Costco's house brand is called Kirkland. If you type Kirkland into the Amazon search box, you will get over 10,000 products. Here is an example of a top selling Kirkland product on Amazon (You can find them on eBay as well). This one has an Amazon Best Sellers Rank of: #2,696 in Grocery & Gourmet Food.

Example of a Kirkland product on Amazon

I can't remember the exact cost at Costco, but I think it's in the $9.00 range and this seller is selling it for $18.99, just slightly over a 100% markup.

The last type of wholesale source isn't really a wholesale source. But, when you buy a book at a Garage sale for $1.00 and sell it for $6.99 on eBay or Amazon, then your wholesale cost is $1.00. Essentially any garage sale in your town is a potential source.

Another example is when you find an item selling cheaply on eBay that you can buy and resell on eBay or Amazon for more. Here is an example: I used to sell a lot of collectible Starbucks mugs. I saw a fairly rare mug on eBay where the seller obviously didn't understand the real value. I bought it for $9.99 plus $5.00 shipping and sold it for nearly $200. So, $9.99+$5.00 ($15.99) was my wholesale price.

There are some distinct advantages when buying from repeatable wholesale sources:

  • Save time. When I run low on stock, I can reorder by phone or email
  • If I am selling the same product over and over, I only have to take one photo, and write one description. This also saves time.
  • Most products come with UPC (or EAN) codes so I don't have to buy them unless I am bundling

I used to do a lot of garage sale and retail store sourcing, but got tired running around all the time, so now I concentrate on buying repeatable wholesale products. (Although we still buy occasionally from Costco because we shop there and it is not a special trip).


2. Making Money with Blogs

A lot of people blog because it entertains them, or it strokes their ego. But what you may not realize is that many bloggers earn a substantial income from their blogs. This can vary from $500 to $1000 a month for a small blogger, or up to $50,000 or more per month, for larger or, more prolific bloggers. So how can you do this?

The industry term for making money from a blog is monetizing your blog. Let's look at a few ways to do that.

Almost all successful blogs are specialized in a niche. So step one is to figure out what subject/topic niche you are going to cover. It should be narrow enough that there are not very many competitors, yet broad enough that there is a market.

Examples of Niche Topics

Rather than a general blog on quilting, you could specialize in something such as applique quilting techniques. Or do a blog that reviews tools and accessories for quilters.

If you like cooking and want to write a food blog, I suggest you pick a specialty such as Spanish Cooking, Vietnamese Cooking or Middle Eastern Cooking. Cuisines such as Italian or Mexican are probably too competitive, although you could break it down such as Mexican Street food or the The Cooking of Northern Italy.

There are already tons of blogs about fly fishing, but perhaps you could do something such as Fly Fishing for Salmon, or Fly Fishing the Yellowstone River.

If you want to make money from a blog, the first thing you need is traffic -or what some people call getting the eyeballs. This means, that no matter what your subject, you will need content that people want to read and will come back for over and over. This same content should be searchable from the web when people are looking for information on your topic.

Sources of revenue:

Google Adsense - Google has an advertising program where they place ads on pages that relate to the content of your page. For example, if your content was about Traveling in Ireland, Google may place ads for hotels, tours or canal cruises in Ireland.

Advertisers bid on the cost of clicks on these ads. So. If one of these ads appears on a page in your blog and someone clicks on it, Google will pay you a generous commission. Each click may only earn a few cents to a dollar, but if you get hundreds or thousands of clicks per month, the money can really add up quickly. My last check from Google was about $1000 and that was from just one blog.

Google Adsense examples from a travel blog about Ireland

Google Adsense examples from a travel blog about Ireland

Affiliate Marketing - This is where you place a text link or banner on your blog, and if someone clicks on it and decides to purchase the product, you get a large commission.

There are three keys to making really good money from affiliate text links or ads:

  1. Trust. Your readers have to trust you, and your recommendations.

  2. Relevant to the content. If your blog is about how to make wooden toys and you are recommending credit cards or cancer cures, then your readers will not take you seriously.

  3. Integrity. The programs or products you recommend should not be junk or scams. The best and fastest way to make a lasting income from affiliate marketing it to build credibility with your readers and only recommend things that will truly benefit them. My personal policy is: If I would not recommend something to a close friend or family member, then I wont recommend it to my readers either.

Build Blogs and sell them - If you become good at creating niche blogs that make money, there are plenty of people who will pay you good money, so they don't have to reinvent the wheel. Small niche blogs with even a basic level of traffic can often sell in the range of $1,000 to $5,000. Larger blogs with a proven record of traffic and sales can bring upwards of $50,000 to $100,000, and even more.

Sell your own digital products -People are willing to pay top dollar for information. Once you build trusting readership and traffic, you have a built-in market to sell you own digital products such as eBooks, Video courses or DVDs. The same factors, Trust, Relevance and Integrity that work for affiliate marketing go into successful digital product marketing.

I once saw a blog about the Civil War. The blogger was selling a guide book to the best B & B's located near famous Civil War battlefields.

Write Tutorials - In-depth tutorials can result in a ton of inbound links and social shares. They can also be a great way to earn income. For example:

  • Include affiliate links for the products you use in your tutorial

  • Promote your own products (eBooks, videos, etc.)

  • Make an agreement with an advertiser (for money) to promote a certain product (Make sure to let your readers know it is a sponsored post).

There are actually many more ways to monetize a blog. These are the most common, but I have just scratched the surface. I remember back when I was researching my blog, I came across an online article that said something like 20 or 25 ways to make money blogging (Google and you can probably find it).

The easiest and most common way to quickly and effortlessly create a blog is with Wordpress. When you go to their website, they will try and sell you on all sorts of fancy (and unnecessary) products. The basic software is free, and if you need help making your first blog, post a request on Fivver and you will find a ton of low-cost help.


3. Amazon Gets Strict on Bundle Policy

Personally, I do a lot of bundles and have found them to be highly profitable. Amazon has long had a bundle policy. Frankly -although they have a lot of rules, they have not enforced them very often. But, that is changing. Amazon has put the word out they will soon begin doing so. Enforcement will consist of removing listings and in some cases suspending sellers who consistently violate the policy.

Here is Amazon's Bundle policy with my comments in colored Italics:

No bundles are allowed where the primary product in the bundle is a book, video game, music, video, DVD product. They can be secondary products - ones that enhance the primary product. For example - you can list a set of Rachael Ray Cookware with a Rachael Ray cookbook, as long as the cookware is more expensive than the book and you list it in the Home & Kitchen category -not the books category. Amazon is very serious about this one.

Bundles must adhere to Amazon's selling policies/guidelines for each category the products fall within.

Items in bundle must be highly complementary. Sticking a random item into a bundle is a no-no. It needs to make sense. You just cannot put a mishmash of products together -they must be complimentary and make sense.

Your bundle needs to be listed in ONE category. If in doubt, choose the category of the highest priced item in the bundle. Again, this cannot be a book, DVD, video game, music, or video. Again, this is a rule they police aggressively.

The bundle must have its own standard product identifier or manufacturer part number separate from any item in the bundle. You are responsible for obtaining a UPC for each bundle you create. Amazon recommends you get your codes from GS1, but that is not mandatory. However, if you use a brand name, the UPC code prefix must match that company. For example, if you bundled a Cuisinart food processor with a set of cooking utensils and you put Cuisinart down as the brand, then you would need a UPC code that matches Cuisinart which could prove impossible to get. Instead, put your own PL brand name in the listing as the brand and manufacturer. Ditto.

Do not include generic items in a bundle. Each product in the bundle must have a brand name, but put that in the bullets and description. If you put it in the title or brand name field, then you would need a UPC code matching that brand -unless it is your own private label brand. If any item in the bundle is generic, I use my own PL brand.

If you list under another seller's bundle it must be exactly the same in every respect including packaging. If yours is slightly different, you must create a new bundle listing. An existing listing cannot be changed to align to the specifications of your new bundle. For example, you see a bundle that comes in a red gift box. You must use the identical gift box. You cannot use a white one instead. This is actually a benefit to you because it makes it harder for others to copy your bundle.

Bundle components and listings cannot be changed once they are created.

Bundles can't include separate warranty products or extended service plans. This is a huge no-no on Amazon. Only Amazon is allowed to sell warranties -not sellers.

Bundle Title & Listing Rules

  • Bundle title length should align to title length rules in Amazon's listing policy. This policy allows listings with a title length of maximum 200 characters (including spaces) in all U.S. categories.

  • Include the word "Bundle" and the number of items in the bundle: Espresso Barista's Accessory Tool Kit Bundle - Tamper, Utility Brush, Machine Cleaning Brush and Frothing Pitcher with Thermometer - 3 Items Amazon has not enforced this in the past, but they may start doing so.

  • If the bundle includes several items, list the primary and secondary items in the title, along with the total number of items in the bundle. In these cases, the entire bundle component information must be listed in the bullet points within the bundle details.

    [Main Product title] + "Bundle with" + [Bundle Component Summary] + "(# Items)"
    "Yamaha PAC112-J Sunburst Guitar Bundle with Bag, Stand and Accessories (11 Items)"

  • The first Bullet on the detail page for your bundle must state that it is a bundle of X items and identify the products in the bundle. Amazon is serious about this one.

  • The description in the detail page must state that it is a bundle and must also identify the products in the bundle with appropriate designators such as model number, color and size. Ditto.

  • The main image must include the specific products in the bundle and must not include items that are not included in the bundle. You can't use representative or similar products. This is another rule Amazon has hardly enforced in the past, but the new policy may change that.

As I said at the beginning, Amazon will now be enforcing a lot of these rules. So this is something you should pay attention to, if you bundle products to sell.


4. Amazon H&B and Gourmet Food Expiration Policy

Amazon recently sent the following email to all Food sellers on Amazon:

Starting March 28, all sellers who sell grocery items must indicate if their product contains an expiration date. In the inventory file template for new ASINs, change the value of the "is_expiration_dated_product" field to "True" or "False" accordingly. If you set the value to "True," then update the FC (Fulfillment Center) shelf life attribute with the length of time an item remains sellable or usable for consumption.

If you sell in the food, and/or Health & Beauty category, Amazon has just changed their expiration date policy. I strongly suggest you read and understand the entire policy.

I found their explanation of the policy to be a little confusing, because a lot of my items already had an existing listing in the Amazon catalog. Every time I tried to change one of those listings to comply, the system blocked me from entering any data that was not on the Offer Page. So, I reached out to Amazon support for help. Their explanations only confused me more so, I am doing further research on this and am waiting for some answers from support. When I understand this better will be writing more about this in a future issue. You can see the policy here, (Must be logged into your account to view this page).

The new policies go into effect on March 26.


5. eBay Niche of the Month – Used Film Cameras

We all use digital cameras these days -or at least most of us do. However, there are millions of people in the US and around the world who still use, and prefer, old fashion film cameras. Many of them are hobbyists and collectors.

eBay is probably the best venue for old film cameras and lenses, although I have seen some listings on Amazon as well. Having said that, I think eBay is the much better venue for used cameras and lenses -especially the older ones.

Here are some recently sold listings on eBay:

eBay listings of film cameras eBay listings of film cameras

What kinds of cameras sell best?

Almost any pre-2001 film camera will sell well, but the better brands such as Canon, Nikon, Ashai Pentax and Leica sell the fastest, and bring top dollar. As for the type of camera, cameras known as Single Lens Reflex (SLR) probably sell the best, although the market for older Nikon and Leica rangefinders is also hot. Other highly desirable brands include Hasselblad and Bronica medium format camera but they tend to be harder to find. I have also done well with twin-lens reflex cameras.

Some of the lower-cost, but still sellable, brands include Mimaya, Kodak and Fuji. These cameras have a decent market and you can make money with them, but they sell for less than the big name brands.

Here are some images of the various types of film cameras:

Image of a Single Lens Reflex camera Image of a Rangefinder camera Image of a Twin Lens Reflex camera Image of a medium format camera

Single Lens Reflex, Rangefinder, Twin Lens Reflex, Medium Format (Bronica/Hasselblad)

Condition and workability

I have seen non-working (even broken and damaged older cameras As Is for parts-only, sell, but they tend to go for very low prices. A camera in good working condition will always sell faster and bring more money. Check the lenses very carefully for scratches, and do not buy any camera that has them unless you are selling it As-is for Parts.

A camera in good working condition where you still have the original box and instruction manual will always bring the best price.

Unless you are highly knowledgeable, the only way to be 100% sure everything is working perfectly is to buy a roll of film, shoot a few pictures and then have the film developed.

Cleanliness is also very important. When I buy a camera to resell, I wipe the outside down with a kitchen wipe or damp cloth, and clean the front and back of the lens with a lens cloth and lens cleaning solution.

Where to find them and what to pay?

I find almost all film cameras at garage sales, moving sales and Estate sales. I have found the occasional camera at a thrift shop, but not that often. One thing I do at every garage sale that doesn't have any old cameras out is ask: "Do you happen to have any old film cameras you would like to sell?" You will be amazed at how often this works.

People often have unreasonable expectations on what a camera is worth, and they often ask $50 or $100 or more. These almost never sell at a garage sale, so I make a habit of going back to those sales later in the day and offer a more reasonable price.

The last time I came across a twin-lens Bronica, the seller was asking $150.00. I went back at the end of the day and bought it for $40.00. I can't remember the exact price, but I think I sold it for around $375. I also bought a cheaper copy of that same camera by Yashica for $22 and sold it for around $190.00.

After a while, you will get a feel for what to pay, but until then look on Terapeak or eBay sold listings to see what different cameras are worth. I can sometimes find a $300 + value camera for as little as $10 or $20. But I often pay up to $75 or even $100 for a well-known, in-demand brand in really good condition.

(I once paid $150 for an older Leica rangefinder that I sold on eBay for well over $1,000).

Learning the marketplace

The best way to learn about these old cameras is to talk with someone over the age of 50 who is a photography buff. You can still find books at the library that date back to the days of film.

The other place to learn a lot is by reading the auction listings for old film cameras. They contain a ton of good information -and if you have a question about a camera in an ongoing listing -just email a question to the seller. If they are a one-off seller, they will likely know very little, if anything. But, if they are regular sellers, they will probably know quite a bit.

What else to look for

Film had to be developed and printed. Probably the largest category of related products is darkroom equipment. There is also an excellent market on eBay for those products too. These would include film developers, enlargers and solution trays.


6. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

My regular readers know this, but my reader base grew by over 1000 last month, and they have not seen this notice about my wholesale sources.

Note: Many of these websites are retail, or display-only websites, or wholesale sites that require permission to enter. The main reason for this is wholesale manufacturers and distributors do not want the general public to see their prices. If you don't see wholesale information, or a link to register, just use the Contact Us form to send a polite, businesslike email to request wholesale information.

Venus sells women's swimwear, clothing, lingerie, accessories and plus sizes.

The Flying Tomato is another supplier of women's fashion and accessories.

Shoelaces Wholesale sells almost every type and size of shoelaces made and they are 100% wholesale.

Selini New York sells apparel accessories for men, women and kids

Hydration Health Products sells a line of hydration products to take before and after a hard night of partying.

Veterans Flag Depot offers flags and flagpoles at the wholesale costs. All their U.S. Flags are made in the USA. They also sell State flags, specialty flags (MIA/POW, etc.) and other flag related products.

Bulk Beef Jerky sells jerky in 1, 5 and 10 pound bags. Their jerky is all natural -and not just beef. They also sell turkey jerky and exotic jerky from Alligator, Buffalo, shark and Elk.

Burnt Whiskey sells everything to do with beards, from actual razors to balms, oils and grooming products

Iris Sunglasses has a very nice line of stylish sunglasses and most of their designs can be private labeled.

First Look NYC makes and sells handbags, tote bags and luggage for men and women. Many of their products can be private labeled.

Urban Fitz sells a nice line of casual clothing for men.

HEAVENDROPT (part of Evergreen Services) is a nonprofit organization that provides services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. HEAVENDROP takes retired military parachutes and employs people with disabilities to repurpose the parachutes into new products such as pet bandanas, necklaces, bracelets and more.

Buy 4 Less Electronics Inc. sells Name-Brand Consumer Electronics, Computer Products, and Photo products. Both new and refurbished Cameras, DVD Players/Recorders, Audio, PDAs, MP3 Players, Camcorders. (Be careful, some of the name brands are restricted on eBay and Amazon).

Cotytech manufactures and wholesales flat screen TV wall mounts and LCD monitor wall and desk mounts. They are based in Taiwan but stock many products the US.

That’s 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.

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