Sourcing Options for Small-Town Sellers

No matter where you live, you can always find good items to resell online.

by Miriam Otto
- Feb 14, 2011

I often meet people from rural areas who want to sell on eBay but think they can't. They say things like, "Where will I get merchandise? We don't have many thrift shops and yard sales in my area." My response is simple: No problem! Anyone can sell on eBay. In fact, eBay sellers living in rural areas have a wide variety of sourcing options.

Get away for a wider selection

One way to buy merchandise for resale is to go on buying trips. This allows you to purchase product en masse. It's also a great way to mix business with pleasure. With a little planning, you can travel to a nice, more populated locale, visit a multitude of thrift shops and yard sales, and pick up a few months worth of merchandise! All while enjoying a fun getaway. Hey, why not make your vacation pay for itself?

I should note that owning a GPS or smart phone is important when going on buying trips, so you don't waste all your time getting lost. And don't forget to record your mileage for tax purposes.

We spent all afternoon walking up and down the streets and came home with some incredible deals

Attending community yard sales in higher-income towns is another way to find inventory. These events can be well worth the drive. Some areas have these sales just once a year, often in the spring. They are always advertised on Craigslist, and sometimes listed on chamber of commerce Web sites.

Last June I went to a community yard sale in Portland, OR. An entire neighborhood of Victorian homes participated in the event. We spent all afternoon walking up and down the streets and came home with some incredible deals!

Buying merchandise at wholesale is also an option when you're traveling. If you're vacationing in a large city, consider attending a gift show while you're in town or plan a vacation around one of these events. These are a great way to scout out potential suppliers.

Before you sign up for shows, be sure to apply for a seller's permit and have checks printed with your business name on them. You should also bring your business license to these events. Double check with each show's Web site to make sure you have the proper credentials for admission.

Be opportunistic in your purchasing

Because of the popularity of TV shows like "Storage Wars" and "Auction Hunters," storage unit auctions are, no doubt, becoming more competitive, but they're still a great sourcing option. Try attending one of these events to see if storage-locker auctions are for you.

But spend some time observing before you take the plunge. Be sure to bring a flashlight and have an organizational system in place before buying a unit for resale.

When you get home, divide merchandise into four categories:

  1. Items to list on eBay
  2. Items to list on Craigslist
  3. Items to donate
  4. Items to throw away

Not everything in a storage unit will be "eBayable," and you don't want your house or your garage to turn into a disaster area, so it's best to sort your merchandise the minute you get it home.

Purchase clearance items from sites that sell name-brand merchandise at a discount

If you live in a small town, you might also consider purchasing items in bulk from the clearance sections of your favorite online stores. I sometimes order 50 of the same item, which means I only have to create one listing for all of them. I also purchase clearance items from sites that specialize in selling name-brand merchandise at a discount. When they have a sale, they have a sale! Sometimes these companies even offer free shipping. (Unfortunately, I cannot reveal my sources. But start looking. You'll find them)!

Sell other people's stuff

Finally, consider becoming a trading assistant. Practice selling your own items before branching out. Once people find out you sell on eBay, you will have people knocking down your door asking you to sell their stuff.

The best thing about selling for other people is that you're getting paid to learn about new products! If you become a trading assistant, focus on selling high-profit items and be sure to have each and every client sign a contract.

If you don't live in a big city, don't despair! Selling on eBay is within your reach. Try one of these sourcing options, and you'll be on your way to running an online business in no time!

About the Author

Miriam Otto is an eBay educator, based in Northern California. Miriam sells more than 500 items per month on eBay, and finds most of what she sells at yard sales and thrift shops. When not teaching eBay classes or running her business, she enjoys writing about her latest "scores" on The eBay Life blog. In addition to living "The eBay Life," Miriam works as an independent study teacher helping adults earn high school diplomas.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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