Online Catalogue/Retailing/Internet Sales


I'm a hard working single parent whos slowly saved up almost $2000 while earning very little at my job. In my spare time I've also built up my eBay selling numbers to around 250 with 100% positive feedback by selling items I find at thrift stores and other places. With my money I want to buy stuff in bulk from China ( or aliexpress) and then resell it individually on eBay. For the past few months though I've done research using eBay, Terapeak, and any other tool I can find until my eyes are popping out of their head, but I can't seem to find the right product. Part of it might be that I see this as my one chance to free my family and I from forever being poor and I don't want to blow it by choosing incorrectly. I left home as a young teen to get away from an abusive father so my highest grade level is 9th, but I'm pretty smart and I work hard at everything I do. I was hoping someone might have some ideas of what I could buy+sell because this is getting very frustrating and I want to pull my hair out sometimes! I'd really appreciate any ideas, thank you!

Congratulations on making it work with what you have done so far!  You seem to have a natural talent for this business.  I’m guessing your hesitation about the risk associated with going the route is coming from a true gut feel based on your experience.

My suggestion is to first think hard about why you have been successful so far and expand in that same direction.  Do this before risking the savings you have worked so hard to put away.  I can give you some things to think about here from the business structure side and you can add your own personal ideas.

In an eBay business there are two major investments required – the cost of product itself and the cost to take ownership.  Right now, this second cost is mostly your thrift store time – getting there, choosing product, and so on.  If you move towards Alibaba or similar, these product ownership costs go way up, mostly due to transport and related handling costs.

That would be OK, except for one area – big companies are doing the same thing, buying from Alibaba and selling on eBay.  If they are buying containers and truckloads of product, their transport cost per item will be much lower than yours, so they can sell the same item at a cheaper price than you can.

It will be hard for you to compete with the big companies on price, which is what selling on eBay (and lots of other places) is all about – having the cheapest price.  I have a feeling you figured this out, this is the thing your gut was telling you, the “can't seem to find the right product” feeling.

So, how can you beat the big companies?  Think about why you have been successful so far.

One thing you are currently doing that these companies can’t do is buying locally.  This means you are almost eliminating the ownership costs, especially transport, which means you can price lower than other people / companies who pay transport costs.

A second area where you may have an advantage over the bigger operations is the product itself.  Perhaps you are choosing items that are hard to find or unique in some other way?  Perhaps they are not made anymore, or were made locally?

Maybe the best next step for you would be doing more research on these two ideas (local, unique) before pursuing the idea any further?  You can always go back to Alibaba …

For example:

1. Most large thrift stores, especially non-profits like Salvation Army, have a bulk operation “out back” that sells large lots (bales and pallets), often for recycling.  Perhaps you can talk to the store manager and do a deal to review / buy these goods before they go into the recycling process?  You could pay more than store will get for item in recycling but much less than if buying at the cash register.

2.  Local artists and craftspeople would much rather spend time creating their goods than selling them, and often lack the kind of skills you have developed for selling online.  Seek them out and ask if they would be willing to sell you groups of “slow moving” items at a big discount.  You can meet them / get their contact info at craft / street fairs but it’s usually better to discuss this type of idea privately or at the very end of the event when they have to pack everything up.  Handmade / craft / locally produced items are very popular right now and often sell for high prices.

Both the product sources above rely on the same ideas (local, unique) you have used to be successful in the past, and there are probably more product ideas like these right there in your community.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to explore these kinds of sources first before heading down the Alibaba route?

It's always less risky to take the ideas that have made you successful and do them bigger than to head off in a different, unknown direction.  

Hope the above is helpful and good luck!


Online Catalogue/Retailing

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Jim Novo


Questions about using customer data to inmprove online profitability, particularly in retailing. Topics include profiling customers using weblogs, figuring out which ads generate the highest value customers, how to reduce the numnber of 1x buyers, how to generate higher sales from current customers, customer analysis, ROI calculation, reducing discounts while increasing resaponse rates. Do you collect customer data (purchases, page views, surveys) and not really use it for anything? Want to find out how? Just ask.


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Cellular One, MBNA, SteelTorch Software, Retek Direct, CBS Sportsline, Kobie Marketing, Aerial, Tupperware, Barnes and Noble, Comcast Corporation, Home Shopping Network

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