Does anyone ever really plan on doing things at the last minute? Somehow, as that deadline gets closer, it seems to gain speed until we start to feel panicked.
It's no different when you're an online seller. Chances are, you're either sourcing for the holiday season a bit late in the game, or you simply didn't order enough inventory and your stock is already almost cleaned out.
But don't worry, you're not alone. Even holiday shoppers are notoriously late with their purchases. Last year, as many as 42 million consumers still hadn't completed their holiday shopping lists by mid-December, and I doubt those millions learned their lessons.
If you're scrambling to come up with some last-minute sourcing ideas, here are your main options.
Ask your suppliers what will be hot this holiday season, and make sure what they have available is already located in your country
Find the trends
First, if you're still not sure what to source, do some research on what's been trending since summer ended. Amazon has a best sellers list, and you can perform a Google search for trend articles. In the search box, type in something such as, "2013 product trends."
Since there is a seemingly limitless number of items you could sell reliably well, you first should narrow down your ideas to at least a general category. If you want to sell kids toys, for example, it's still a rather broad subject, but a good start.
When you know what category you want to sell, browse consumer magazines and trade journals in that category from the past six months so you can get a better eye for what's hot. What has that industry been talking about, and what has media been saying?
Start with your suppliers
Next, you might be able to swing some sourcing channels through wholesalers and drop shippers. Keep in mind that most retailers have already scooped up the hot products, so your choices may be limited to what's leftover. That shouldn't stop you from trying, though.
Ask your suppliers what they've projected will be hot this holiday season, and make sure what they have available is already located in your country. Anything that still needs to be shipped overseas just isn't going to get to you in time, at this point.
After you've exhausted your supplier channels—or if you've never worked with a wholesaler before—the next best bet is your good old, neighborhood thrift store. Yard-sale season is over, so all that leftover stuff is now being dropped off at thrift shops, just waiting for you to pick it up.
Yard-sale season is over, so all that leftover stuff is now being dropped off at thrift shops, just waiting for you to pick it up
People don't just buy brand new items for holiday gifts these days. Last year, I sold a vintage film-camera set to a buyer in France, and a used digital SLR to someone else locally. They were both purchased by people who intended to give them as gifts.
Vintage, unique, recycled and affordable are all hot keywords for many genres of online shoppers. Plus, you could market some "white elephant" or "ugly Christmas sweater" items. I'm trying one ugly sweater in my listings this year to see how well this strategy might work.
Discount stores aren't my favorite go-to source for inventory, but they're reliable when you're in a pinch. Besides finding general merchandise to resell, you can also build up stocking stuffer packages.
One great idea is to fill a stocking full of candies and small gifts and sell the set as "For Boys," "For Girls," "For Mom," "For Dad," "For Fido," etc.
If you're a negotiator, I would recommend attending your local holiday craft fairs. Most crafters create large inventories for these events, and I think they'd rather sell the lot to you at a discounted price than find themselves hauling their leftovers back home.
Maybe you can place an offer for a somewhat large quantity, and just let them know they can give you a call after they've had time to think it over. Try this technique with several booths; my guess is you will find that some will flat out say "no," but others will be more agreeable to the idea.
Some sellers find that January and February can be equally as busy for selling as the holiday season
Finally, some of you will be lucky enough to live near merchant marts and trade shows. These are excellent venues for last-minute sourcing, and you can be one of the first sellers to offer the new wares.
It's not over yet
The shopping season is not over after the gifts have been opened. Some sellers find that January and February can be equally busy selling seasons.
Consumers will want to buy wish-list items they didn't receive, or add some accessories to their new tech gear. Kids will be jealous of their friends' new toys, and will beg mom and dad to level that playing field.
As far as brand name stores go, they're already getting ready for the next hot selling season. They'll want the holiday inventory to fly off their shelves to make room for what's next. And I'm not just talking about holiday-themed items, either. There's plenty of kitchen, home, garden and seasonal clothing that's just "so yesterday" for big box stores.
So there's your last sourcing tip. Get to those clearance racks and stock up. List them right away so your online inventory can stay full and active.