Nearly every one of the thousands of sellers we've spoken with have told us of a time when their eBay businesses drastically needed more inventory. Likewise, many have shared stories of the "mistakes" they've made in buying for resale when they first started out.
Here, Kathy Terrill shares her hard-earned wisdom to keep you from making common inventory mistakes. She also discusses how to reach out to other sellers for advice.
Pay attention to the world around you, both online and off… Watch what people are tweeting about. Watch for movie releases."
Terrill's insights are perfect for people who sell an eclectic inventory, but her trend-spotting advice is useful, no matter what you buy for resale.
Spot the trends
Terrill's first piece of advice is to watch cultural trends and know your inventory so you can maximize the buzz.
"I have a friend who sells dolls," she says. "When Shirley Temple died, she sold everything overnight. She had them posted for two years without interest."
Just don't depend too heavily on trends because they're only popular for a short time. To spot opportunities early on and more consistently, Terrill says you should pay attention to the world around you, both online and off.
"Watch what people are tweeting about," she continues. "Watch for movie releases."
To spot what people are interested in right now, Terrill suggests sellers look at others' shopping carts at brick-and-mortar stores. "I watch what's being marked down," she says.
She can then quickly research if the bargain-priced stock is selling somewhere else for more. "Buy it if it's selling elsewhere," she recommends. "Then you can get some great stuff that will sell in a huge market."
Don't be afraid to take risks as you build your business, either, she says, especially if your product line is eclectic. "If it's cheap, take a risk," she continues, but look before you leap.
Terrill came upon a large Batman statue at just the right time. "It sold," she recalls, "but it took me an hour to wrap it for shipping. I had to safeguard his ears, fingers (and) toes. He sold fast, but shipping was hard."
Be ready to adapt
If your niche or area dies, you have to move on. Mark (the item) down and move it
No matter what, you're ultimately going to end up with some items that just don't move, even if you research diligently and source carefully. When that happens, you'll have to accept and adapt to market changes.
"If your niche or area dies, you have to move on," Terrill says. When we spoke, she had just experienced a market drop in designer jeans.
"That just died," she tells us. " …Designer-brand jean prices have dropped drastically in the past year unless (they're) new with tags due to their availability in discount chains and outlets … (When something like that happens) you have to accept it. Mark (the item) down and move it."
Over time, you'll get a feel for what to risk and when to cut your losses. Terrill's own experience showed her she wasn't interested in selling sports clothing, for example.
"Unless it's a very unusual shirt, it won't sell," she explains. "I came across a Super Bowl shirt from a few years ago, but it didn't sell. It didn't age well."
But she was able to find a workaround for another sports item. Terrill found herself stuck with a Yankees' player's shirt from an All Star game that just wouldn't budge.
"It didn't sell until I found out it was the highest-scoring All Star game in history," she recalls. "I put that in the listing, and it sold right away."
She suggests you look for tidbits like these that will help you sell off a slow-mover. When you do you'll educate yourself more about your buyers, your stock and what you might be able to move next.
Reach out to other sellers
The online community Terrill's built for years has been invaluable for learning the ins and outs of her customers' habits and her inventory.
"I get a lot of help in forums and groups about what isn't moving," she tells us. It's important to build a strong network of other sellers who know the marketplace and are happy to share with other sellers.
It's important to build a strong network of other sellers who know the marketplace and are happy to share with other sellers
"It's invaluable to discuss these things with other sellers," she continues. "I'm good at noting general areas where they sell and don't ask inappropriate questions, like about sourcing. I keep track of that and turn there for support."
As an example, Terrill turned to a woman she knows online who sells vintage clothing. Since that's an area where Terrill never plans to compete, she thought it would be OK to ask the woman about a particular item she'd found.
She suggests that when newer sellers start asking for advice from others, they be mindful of the group's purpose and the topics they generally discuss. "Do your homework," she explains. "Include pictures and ask your questions very specifically."
She finds the sellers in the eBay Groups to be very helpful. The eBay Store Group, of which she is the administrator, is naturally a special favorite of hers. "As long as you're an eBay store owner, you can ask them anything," she says, reminding sellers to be mindful of other's time.
We hope you've found some wisdom from the tips Terrill generously shared. She's not only a successful seller, but she also has a series of videos on her YouTube channel, I Love To Be Selling. Since she's also worked for many years as a professional actress, you'll find she's very comfortable in front of the camera and full of good advice, earned from her many years of success.