Summer is one of the slowest seasons for online sellers, but it does provide more time for us to prepare for the upcoming holidays. In this series, we'll tell you how you can use these slower months to prepare for the upcoming holiday selling frenzy and stay productive.
Our series will share with you how and where to find the hot items for the season, plus how to prep your shipping center, create great descriptions, market your items and more.
Let's start with how and where to find items to sell.
What should I sell?
I know it can be hard to keep up with what's hot and what's not. Personally, I don't have the time or energy to stay on top of the latest trends, so I use the "learn as I go" method. For sellers like me, some of the first go-to resources include Terapeak, eBay and Amazon.
Terapeak is a technology that gathers data from millions of online stores so sellers can quickly see what's selling and when. You must be a paying member to use the resource, but the cost makes up for all the time you save trying to gather and analyze sales data yourself.
Look for products that will fulfill Santa's list, like new gadgets, but also look for inventory for other holidays throughout the year
You can also use eBay's Completed Listings to tune into what's selling. And Amazon keeps an updated Best Sellers list of all its popular products, including hot new releases, and movers and shakers.
Look for products that will fulfill Santa's list, like new gadgets, and find fresh angles on things you know always sell well. And while Christmas is the main holiday that consumers shop for, don't forget to look for inventory for other holidays throughout the year, like Labor Day (ahem, camping and grilling supplies), back to school, Halloween, New Year's and Valentine's Day.
For online sellers, these festive seasons provide the best opportunity for sales as buyers hunt for clothing, supplies, decorations and gifts. Look for quality products, such as working iPhones and iPads, winter sports gear, popular toys, and ugly sweaters for those fun December parties. Also keep an eye out for quality vintage décor items, which are very popular in some circles.
You might also consider holidays observed by different religions and cultures, as well as special occasions that happen every day. I'm talking about birthdays, anniversaries, quinceañeras, bar mitzvahs, housewarmings and similar celebrations. These occasions call for wrapping paper, party supplies, unique gifts and today's hot products.
Summer provides lots of inventory sources
During these warm summer months, keep in mind that this is the glorious time of year when our neighbors clutter their yards with used treasures for sale, and cars with bumper sticks that read "I brake for yard sales" line the curb.
Many eBay sellers adore yard sales, and why not? It is one of the hottest—in both senses of the word—ways to get a good deal on items. If you're not already using this fun way to source products, now's a good time to start. Look for Christmas decorations and unopened toys, and even bed linens that kids outgrow. These could be Barbie-, Cars- or Toy Story-themed, for example.
What doesn't sell at yard sales usually ends up at thrift stores, so make regular trips to your favorite ones and learn when they host big discounts, too
Whatever doesn't sell at yard sales usually ends up at thrift stores, so make regular shopping trips to your favorite stores and learn when they host big discounts, too. Also, if your area offers it, look to get on the mailing lists for local estate sales. They're fun and rewarding, albeit a little competitive.
Browse Craigslist for trendy toys and gadgets that are still marketable. While you're there, post a wanted ad for things you know your customers like to buy. Also, talk to friends and family to see if they want to consign some items through you. Remind them it will help clear their clutter and earn them some holiday cash. They could end up just giving you their products for free to clear out their homes.
A lot of eBay sellers practice the art of arbitrage. They buy from discount and retail stores—they even buy from eBay—and then resell the marked-up item for profit. This works because not only do stores try to clearance their end-of-season inventory, but some buyers don't have access to the stores you take for granted.
Don't forget about trade fairs
If you haven't tried tradeshows and wholesalers yet, maybe 2013 is your year to expand sourcing boundaries a little bit.
Tradeshows are, in general, events where companies present ideas, trends and products to merchants and related professionals. While some tradeshows are closed to the public, consumer fairs are open to everyone.
Start browsing for tradeshows in your area on the National Retail Federation's website or Tradeshowusa.com, or try using your favorite search engine to locate an upcoming exhibition in your area. Search under such titles as "trade fairs," "retail tradeshows" and "wholesale trade expos."
I fell in love with a particular clothing brand. I contacted the company about its wholesale program and the owner sent me a contract to look over
You can also find merchant marts located in some major cities. These permanent exhibitions are open year-round and also host trade fairs. Check out some of the big city marts in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle.
Also check out cash-and-carry shows. These avenues of sourcing provide instant inventory just in time for your Christmas sales.
Try wholesalers and manufacturers
While it's not always easy to establish your first contract with a wholesaler, it's not impossible. Many of the big brand names may not work with you, so try smaller companies to get your feet wet and build a foundation.
I fell in love with a particular clothing brand that is relatively small. I contacted the company to ask about its wholesale program and the owner sent me a contract to look over.
Nick Spence, marketing coordinator for AmazonGenius, says he usually goes to AliExpress and Alibaba.com when he's looking for bulk inventory. After thorough research on what he thinks will sell, he tests the market with a few items then finds the right manufacturer to work with.
Sourcing products for holiday inventory can be a big job, but you should have a little spare time to find some new inventory if your summer sales are poking along. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series to help you get your shipping center squared away now for the upcoming holiday season.