Profile: Source of Happiness

Online merchant prospers using Doba's drop-ship sourcing service.

by staff writer
- Sep 08, 2009

To Sherri England of Melrose Best Buy Family Outlet, there's a certain joy that comes with being able to offer bargain prices for high-quality, name-brand goods people might otherwise be unable to afford.

"It makes me feel good to know I can list items that I get at near-wholesale prices and pass on the savings to buyers," she says.

It's also satisfying that, in doing so, England has grown her business beyond her expectations without sacrificing profits. But the best part, for her money, is that by using the drop-ship sourcing service of Doba, she doesn't have to manage the inventory, or deal with the listing details and delivery logistics.

England has more than doubled her monthly sales on eBay since signing up for Doba's Advanced package five months ago. She first heard about the sourcing service on an eBay Radio broadcast and decided to try the company's free trial after supplies from her overseas source became scarce.

At the time, she was operating an eBay Store under the name Melrose Handbags and More, specializing in private-label women's accessories. But through Doba, she found a ready supply of everything from totes to clothing to jewelry to electronics. That spurred the name change to Melrose Best Buy Family Outlet, and a rebranding of her store around products that appeal to the whole family. She's now expanding her online footprint to include a store of the same name on Auctiva Commerce.

Doba provides so many suppliers that there's always a way to find more products, so I never run out

Reliable source

England's pursuit of great deals for online buyers isn't purely unselfish, of course. Like many eBay sellers, she was drawn to e-commerce by the need to develop a steady stream of income, while balancing the demands of raising a family. As a part-time student and single mom of a teenager and a toddler, England relies on her online sales to help make ends meet and cover costly medical treatments for her little girl, who has a life-threatening condition.

"It's real important for me to continue to sell things and not run out of inventory," she explains. "Doba provides so many suppliers that there's always a way to find a backup source or more products, so I never run out."

Doba provides access to more than 1 million products, as well as seller tools and training to help merchants get up and running quickly. Doba's interface to eBay includes a "Push to Marketplace" feature that enables sellers to create listings—complete with descriptions and images—with just a few mouse clicks. For more advanced merchants, the Custom Product Exports feature imports item details directly into off-eBay Web stores.

England primarily uses eBay's fixed-price format to list items, but she'll use three- to seven-day auctions on items for which Doba's online catalog shows fewer quantities in stock. But when listing items with quantities of 75 or more, eBay's Best Offer and Markdown Manager features can be great marketing devices.

"I'll sometimes run specials where I'm only making $10 to $15 in the pocket, but it's a good way to get the buyers to come by and see what we have," she says.

Affordable convenience

Though Doba's pricing is not as low as having a direct manufacturing source, England finds the drop-shipping service to be cost-competitive and more suited to her needs than other sourcing sites she's tried.

You can push a product to your page without having to buy it first

For example, prior to joining Doba, she used Global Sources to locate potential suppliers in the Far East. While she found a large supply of "excellent merchandise" at very low prices, she would have had to buy products by the pallet and store them in her own "warehouse"—which, for England, is her living room.

"It was a bit overwhelming," she remarks.

On FragranceNet, she found name-brand fragrances in bulk and light bulk quantities, but again, she had to make a big upfront investment, store the inventory, photograph items, and package and ship them herself.

"Doba does everything," she says. "It's convenient, because you can push a product to your page without having to buy it first and you can sell items in individual quantities or case lots.

"You do have to watch your inventory lists and check Doba each day and night to see how much quantity is in stock, but Doba provides a listing tool that helps you see right away if something has sold out," she explains.

The one drawback, England notes, is that products sourced through Doba may only be shipped within the 48 contiguous United States. But even for merchants who sell internationally, Doba is still "a good way to supplement other merchandise you already have," she offers.

Cost vs. benefits

Because there's no startup investment beyond the membership fee, drop shipping can be a low-risk way for online merchants to expand their product sources. By leaving inventory handling to the drop-ship supplier, sellers can spend more time on product research, marketing, customer service and managing their businesses.

However, drop-ship order fees can cut into your profits, and there's always a risk that hot-selling products will sell out. That's why some sellers opt to work directly with product wholesalers or manufacturers.

I think using Doba selling with Auctiva is a fantastic combination

But if negotiating with individual suppliers, and purchasing and storing pallets or cases of inventory isn't an attractive option, drop shipping can be a convenient, flexible and profitable alternative. Product sourcing marketplaces, such as Doba, offer customers access to millions of products from thousands of vetted suppliers of brand-name merchandise at competitive wholesale prices.

"We’ve designed our service so that even beginners in online retail can run a successful business," says Brandon Delgrosso, Doba's executive vice president. "Doba is a quick, easy, risk-free way to get started selling online."

England is excited to think about the possibilities, using Doba in conjunction with her stores on both eBay and Auctiva Commerce. "I can imagine when I can devote a full-time schedule to it," she muses.

One feature of Auctiva Commerce that will make life easier, she says, is the built-in inventory management system that will alert her when Doba stocks get too low.

"If I want to list an item, but there're only a few left… I can set my [Auctiva Commerce] inventory level for low-stock at three, and I have a check-and-balance system at Doba," she explains.

"There's still so much to learn," England adds. "But one thing about Doba that's so amazing is they have an education component designed to help sellers be successful with their online businesses. That's so important—I was very happy to know they care about our success.

"I think using Doba selling with Auctiva is a fantastic combination," she says.

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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