Posts Tagged ‘products to sell’

PLMA 2013 Tradeshow Report

November 22, 2013 Leave a comment

I just returned from the Private Label Manufacturers’ Association (PLMA) Tradeshow in Chicago.  It was a good show, and took me two pretty full days to talk to all of the exhibitors I wanted to see.

It was my first time at the show, and one of the things that really stood out for me was the number of companies making private label food products.  If you’re looking to sell your own brand of food, definitely go to this show next year.

Besides talking to the manufacturers I had pre-arranged to see, I also spent some time just wandering around the aisles to get ideas for other things I might like to sell but haven’t thought of.  I did come across one type of product that’s related to my current sales strategy that I don’t sell yet.  The trip would have been worth it for just that one revelation, but of course I got a lot of other business done, too.

In addition to products to sell, there were also some exhibitors there offering services to retailers.  For example, if you’re going to sell private label products, you want attractive, professional-looking packaging.  There were exhibitors at the show to help with all steps in creating your own packaging.

If you attended the show let me know what you thought of it.

There’s another good trade show for private label manufacturers and retailers coming up in March, ASD Las Vegas.  Check out their site, especially Source Direct, there’s probably something useful there for you to attend.


Private Label Manufacturers

September 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Last week I talked about selling private label products as a way to avoid intense price competition on Amazon.  Of course, to do that you have to find private label manufacturers.

This November there’s a private label trade show in Chicago.  I’ve never been to this particular trade show, though I plan to attend this year.  The organizers say there will be over 1000 companies exhibiting their products.

The ASD trade show is in Las Vegas in March.  That trade show is not dedicated to private label manufacturing.  But it does have over 2000 manufacturers and importers exhibiting their products, so there’s a good chance you can find manufacturers to work with.

If you attend either show, please send me an email and let me know how it went, and how valuable you thought it was.


Finding an Amazon Niche

August 30, 2013 Leave a comment

If you’re selling on Amazon, you’ll eventually notice that just about any product can get into a price war.  Someone decides they’re going to undercut everyone else to take the volume, and survive on thin margins.  Usually it’s a large seller with lots of volume.  Check out any of the most popular toys selling on Amazon as an example.

What can sellers who are just starting out do?

My suggestion is to start with products that aren’t going to invite a lot of price competition from large sellers.  E.g., you can focus on products that have good but not great volumes.  Products that rank in the 10K – 50K range are often good candidates.  Do make sure you track their sales rank for a couple of weeks to make sure they never drop below about 50K.

If you have a reliable source of used products of a single sku that can also be a good choice.  Most of the high volume / thin margin sellers want to concentrate on new products.  If you go this route it’s important that your source of products be pretty stable.  It takes time to create a good listing, so you need to sell a lot of products to make it worth your while.  A notable exception to little competition selling used products, though, is books.  There’s a lot of competition in used books.

Products that need preparation before being sent to an Amazon warehouse can also be good candidates.  Some high volume sellers handle their own fulfillment, but many send their inventory to an Amazon warehouse for FBA fulfillment.  If they do, they probably don’t want to spend the effort on a lot of manual, time-consuming product preparation, and will skip selling such skus.  However, if you’re fulfilling your own sales, you don’t have to worry about prepping the products to send them to Amazon.

You can also sell unique products, like your own art work or craft work.  A clever example of this I read about was someone who could print t-shirts on demand.  He had a program that generated random messages, and create an image of a t-shirt with that message (so he didn’t have to actually make a t-shirt with that message until an order was placed).  Then he had a program create an Amazon listing with the message, using the image created earlier.  In this way he was able to quickly create millions of unique t-shirt listings on Amazon, and of course no direct competition.

There’s no limit to the number of ways you can succeed selling on Amazon, but it will take a lot of effort to come up with a reliable way you can win.  The important thing is to actively work on finding a way to win, rather than just trying to compete on price, or hoping no one else starts competing with you.


I’ve updated my list of potentially good products for you to sell on Amazon for August.


Liquidation Companies

May 25, 2013 Leave a comment

If you’re looking for things to sell online, and you should always be doing this, a good source can be liquidation companies.  These are companies that buy excess inventory from retailers and manufacturers, and re-sell it.

Of course, the success of this strategy depends on knowing that you can actually sell what it is you’re buying, so you need to know how the product does on your sales channels.  Success also depends on knowing the price you’re paying will allow you to get a good profit margin, so don’t buy anything unless you know what you can sell it for, and what your fulfillment costs will be.

There are liquidation companies that do this online.  E.g., is a marketplace where sellers can list their excess inventory, and buyers can bid on it.  This can make your job a lot easier, because you can simultaneously check out what’s available online, and what you can get for it.  As a side note, I’m not endorsing here, I’m just pointing them out as an example.  You need to do your homework and find a liquidation company that works well for you.

Of course, the downside to this strategy, which is the same as the downside to any strategy involving one-off products, is that it’s time consuming.  In addition to the time spent searching for things to sell, which will only be amortized over a fairly small number of items, you also have to spend time creating a listing.  But, if you’re just starting out, or don’t have much capital to buy inventory, this could be a good way for you to get your online sales started.


I’ve updated my list of potentially good things for you to sell, this is the May 2013 list.

Selling Clothes Online

May 10, 2013 1 comment

I wanted to talk today about selling clothes online.  There are a lot of good things about choosing clothes:

  • They’re always in demand, even in a weak economy
  • There’s a huge variety, so people are willing to buy clothes even if none of their existing clothes have worn out
  • There’s a large number of manufacturers, so even if one manufacturer won’t sell to you (as an online retailer), there will be others that will
  • They’re relatively high-priced, so you can earn a good income per hour of your time invested

Unfortunately, there are also a number of drawbacks:

  • The return rate on clothing tends to be much higher than for other products
  • It can be hard to judge demand for a specific style / size / color of clothing (e.g., you know there’s good demand for a particular jacket, so you buy it in ‘large red’, but the demand is heavily concentrated in ‘medium blue’)

To touch on the return rate problem a little more, unlike a store where people can try on different sizes to see which fits best, there’s no way to do this when shopping online.  So buyers will try it and just return it if it doesn’t fit right.  One of the most frustrating things as a clothing retailer is to see someone order a particular item in two or three sizes, you know with near certainty that all but one of those will be returned.

Amazon is a good marketplace to sell clothing.  One specific downside to selling clothing on Amazon, though, is that Amazon sells a lot in this category themselves.  If you see Amazon selling a particular item, it’s going to be hard to compete.  They’re getting lower wholesale prices than you will, and they price very aggressively.  That’s great if you’re a buyer, not so great if you’re a seller.  They sell most of the well-known brands, and are particularly aggressive about selling women’s clothing.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of capital for inventory, one strategy you could try is to buy clothing in outlet stores and re-sell it online.  You’ll need to do your homework to make this pay off, of course.  You need to check what’s available in the store, then go see how it’s selling online (eBay, Amazon, Sears Marketplace, etc.), then go back to the store and buy it if it’s a good match.  If you focus on a small number of brands and go to the outlet stores every day, after a while you’ll know what sells online without having to double check, so it will get more efficient.  But when you’re just starting it will take a lot of your time.

You could even create a listing for clothes you haven’t bought yet, knowing they’re available in the outlet stores.  Then when someone buys from you online, you go to the outlet store and buy it.  You’ll get some extra negative reviews from people if you’re not able to fill the order because the store sold out before you get there, though.  You’d want to at least check the store every day and remove listings for items no longer available.



Amazon Inventory Health Report

January 18, 2013 2 comments

In a previous post I discussed keeping track of the profit and margin you receive on each item you sell.  This week I want to talk about knowing how well each item is selling.  I.e., you may be making a lot per sale on a particular item, but if you only sell one item per year it isn’t very interesting.

Since I use the Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) program extensively, I’m going to discuss keeping track of inventory health using an FBA report in this post.  If you don’t use FBA, or use other fulfillment methods as well, you can do the same things, but the mechanics will be different.

Amazon provides an Inventory Health report for your FBA-fulfilled items: Reports => Fulfillment => Inventory Health => Download.  It’s organized by both SKU and ASIN, so you need to have a spreadsheet that maps either of these to the product manufacturer and product name.

The fields that I find most interesting without further processing are: Sellable Quantity, Inventory Age 365 Plus Days, and Units Shipped Last 365 Days.

Obviously, anything that’s been sitting in inventory for 365 plus days is a problem (I actually look at anything that’s been sitting in inventory more than 90 days, which is also available in the report but requires a little processing).  If something has been sitting in inventory for a long time you need to either mark its price down so it will sell and you can use whatever money is left on a better-selling item, or have it destroyed so you can stop paying inventory fees on it.

Units Shipped Last 365 Days is useful because it tells you what your best sellers are.  This, in conjunction with your profit per sale, gives you a pretty clear picture of where your profits are coming from.

Finally, the ratio of (Units Shipped Last 365 Days / Sellable Quantity) tells you what you need to make sure you re-order from the manufacturer soon.  Some items are seasonal, and sales around Christmas typically far exceed those of the rest of the year, so you need to apply some judgment as well.


I updated my list of what to sell on Amazon for January.  It gets updated about once per month, so check back regularly.


Finding Manufacturers To Work With

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

If you sell online, just about the most critical thing you need to do is find products to sell.  While the mechanics of running your business probably consume most of your time, the highest value part of your time is spent finding good product lines to carry.

You’ve almost certainly come across manufacturers that won’t sell to online-only businesses.  I’ve always had a small percentage of these, but recently it seems to be happening more frequently.

I’m sure the motivation of many of these manufacturers is to protect their brick and mortar retailers.  Physical store retailers are at a cost disadvantage because they have high fixed expenses (retail space, employees, etc.) that online retailers don’t necessarily have.

What’s surprising to me though is that these manufacturers could instead implement and enforce a Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policy, and still protect their brick and mortar retailers.  I buy from several manufacturers who implement a MAP, and it works out pretty well for everyone.

The biggest beneficiaries of implementing a MAP, instead of withholding products from online sellers, are people who live in smaller towns where selection is limited.  Refusing to sell to online retailers effectively denies these consumers access to a wide selection of products.  From the zip codes of my customers I know that most live in less populated areas.  For people who live in larger cities, the convenience of getting their purchase right away instead of having to wait a couple of days seems to be worth the higher cost to them.

The most effective solution I’ve found so far for manufacturers that won’t sell to online retailers is just to contact as many manufacturers as possible.  Volume works, but it is time consuming.

Another solution I’m considering (and will probably implement eventually) is to open a small brick and mortar store.  That’s expensive and time consuming, but it would open up a lot of product lines to me.  For the right price it would be a good trade off.