Makin' a List, Checkin' it Twice

Here's how to ensure you're set for the holiday frenzy.

by staff writer
- Aug 14, 2009

In the article "Christmas in July," we discussed small tasks you can do to prepare your inventory and make sure you're ready for the craziness that sets in when the holidays roll around. But now it's time to make sure you haven't forgotten anything on your holiday selling checklist.

Finding out you don't have enough bubble wrap to cushion that delicate glass vase you need to ship before the post office closes today is not only frustrating, but it could delay delivery and leave your buyer with a bad impression. During the holidays, buyers count on fast service—especially if the item they purchased is a gift for little Suzy or Uncle Bob. To avoid problems, read our suggestions below to make sure you've made your list and checked it twice.

1. Stock your shipping materials

Now is the time to amass essentials, such as packing peanuts, bubble wrap, boxes and even thank you cards to enclose in your packages. You can buy these items in bulk through companies like Uline and OfficeMax, or even on eBay.

If your budget doesn't allow for purchasing new packing supplies, it's OK to reuse materials—as long as they're clean and in good condition. Shipping something in a beat up old box with scary-looking stains on it is not the best way to represent yourself to a customer. Familiarize yourself with the restocking schedules of your local retailers and ask them if they have any discarded packaging you can have. You can often find great quality boxes and cushioning materials that look practically new. Craigslist or Freecycle can also be great places to find used packaging.

Torn or damaged boxes will make you appear unprofessional

Make room in your home for these materials and keep them in one location, especially if they're smaller items like tape. This will help you keep track of your supplies, and it'll prevent your space from feeling like an obstacle course every time you head for the door. Remember, you will have to live with these items in your house for several weeks.

But be sure your packing materials will remain in good condition in the area where you store them. Again, torn or damaged boxes will make you appear unprofessional. So think twice before you cram all your supplies into a tiny closet or a leaky garage. It could come back to haunt you in your detailed seller ratings.

2. Organize your goods

If you haven't already, make sure the items you plan to sell are in tip-top shape. If clothes need to be ironed after being stored away for months or collectible knickknacks need to be cleaned, take the time to do that now. It's also a good idea to move these items out of storage and into that workspace we discussed in our previous article.

3. Research shipping methods

Ask yourself if you know what your shipping fees will be when the holidays roll around. If you're a veteran seller, you should have a good idea. If you're new to selling online—or you've been away for a while—it's time to review the rates of the major postal carriers. Compare services and prices to decide if you'll ship with USPS, UPS, FedEx or all of them.

Return to these sites again in November to check out carriers' holiday hours. Once these are released, post them or your refrigerator or in another prominent location so you'll know exactly where to look when it comes time to ship.

And if you don't have an account with postal carriers, what are you waiting for? These are free and allow you to schedule pickups, print shipping labels and find the nearest drop-off location—all of which will save you time during that busy time. You can even get free shipping boxes, but only for use with that carrier.

Start monitoring trends to see what people are buying and what they want to buy

4. Order boxes

It's not hard to realize that you'll need to stock up on boxes. You'll be using lots of them. This can run up your expenses, but don't forget that you can get free Priority Mail boxes from the post office; you can even get boxes with eBay's logo. These co-branded boxes are also free and will be delivered right to your doorstep. They come in several sizes so you can find the right one for your goods. These can be ordered 10 or 25 at a time on eBay.

5. Know the trends

You should also start monitoring trends to see what people are buying and what they want to buy. Remember to check Google Trends, niche publications and eBay Pulse for ideas. Electronics are popular during the holidays, so look at the latest video games and gaming systems for clues to what will be hot. You could even sign up for gaming newsletters, some of which contain exclusive promotion and coupons.

If you feel confident enough in the product research you've done, consider buying some items you think are going to be big this holiday season and post them later.

"It's kind of risky, but the payoff is good, if you know what you're doing," says product analyst Rebecca Miller. She made a killing doing this when the first Tickle Me Elmo dolls hit store shelves.

Take one last glance at your listings to make sure descriptions are complete and accurate

But realize this strategy is a gamble and be OK with the idea that the items may not sell. It's a good idea to verify the store's return policy just in case, Miller suggests.

Terapeak is another good option for sellers who want to know what's popular, Miller notes. This site tells you what items are selling on eBay, popular keywords and other valuable information. You can obtain free search results with this site, but for more detailed information, monthly or annual subscriptions are necessary.

6. Glance over your listings

Lastly, you should take one last glance at your listings to make sure descriptions are complete and accurate. Last month we suggested you begin creating listings and save them so you wouldn't have to worry about that part in November, but there may be one or two you forgot to complete, or a few you never started. You might even have some you'd like to revise or add to. So just give them another look to make sure you're all set.

Also be sure to go through your saved profiles to ensure they're accurate and abide by eBay's policies. There might be a mention of paper payments that you forgot was in there. In that case, your listings would fail to post—and possibly miss a crucial selling window.

Now that you've made your list and checked it twice, you should be ready for the holidays. Just wait for the orders to start rolling in and sit back. You'll need to be good and rested come late November.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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