When people ask me, “Is it hard to find inventory to sell on Amazon.com?” I always say “No! There is more out there than I can possibly buy.” Three years into it and I’m still discovering exciting new sources of inventory. Recently I read Jessica Larrew’s book Liquidation Gold and my eyes were opened to a totally new source of inventory as well as two new categories – grocery and beauty. I waited to write about this until I tried it for myself. Since I was a newcomer to the idea of liquidation stores, I believe my experience will be similar to yours.
In her book, Jessica explains how liquidation stores work and the types of products they sell. Armed with this knowledge, I found several stores in my area that fit her description. She had warned me in the book that they are dirty and boy she wasn’t kidding about that. Imagine the dirtiest third-world grocery store you can imagine with no pretty displays and you get an idea of what they are like. Don’t touch the floor. Just saying. One of them wasn’t even air conditioned…in Texas! That was a tough day. The prices, however, are fantastic.
What I found were huge warehouses with rows and rows of food in cans/boxes/bottles. There is no fresh produce and generally no meltables (one store had a refrigerated case). There are also other items like you might find at a drug store from shampoos and soaps to over-the-counter drugs. I found everything from dog food to a large singing fish on a wall plaque (sold the first day it hit Amazon’s warehouses). I bought cheap toilet paper (it is impossible to leave without a few things for your own household), hair frou-frous and even a pink sponge for removing deodorant from your clothes (who knew?). I found wallpaper stick-ons, books, bags of all sorts, and lots of food.
Each store was completely different with different foods and brands. Inventory changes daily and they likely will never have the same item twice. It is not a typical grocery store where they stock regular items. They are buying their items in huge truck lots – often sight unseen – and then putting them out on the floor for sale at a deep discount. What this means is you are unlikely to be competing with a lot of other FBA sellers when you find a good deal. It also means that you better buy ALL of them because they won’t be there when you go back. I bought cases of food, not just a few cans or boxes.
The trick with food is the expiration dates. A lot of the food you find in these places is too close to the expiration date to send in to Amazon. Jessica says she looks at the expiration date first and then scans and I did the same. Also, many of the items are sold in packs and cases on Amazon so you have to figure out how you plan to sell it and buy enough units at the store to fit into how you plan to sell it. For example, I found a brand of Matzo crackers that was selling online in packs of eight so I purchased eight, bundled them together and sent them in. Jessica has helpful information in her book and on her blog how to package multiple units in such a way that the folks on the warehouse don’t separate them. Also, she reminded me that Amazon insists that we put the expiration date on top of the package in a large font. I used my Dymo printer to create the expiration date stickers.
Some of the items sell both as “solos” and in packs. I sent in one item as mostly cases and then I regretted it later as all my solos sold out in the first week and the cases are still sitting up there. I may have Amazon return some of my cases so I can break them up and sell them as solos. There is enough margin in this item that paying to have it sent back and then re-shipping it back in is well worth it. In the future when I have a lot of cases of something, I plan to send in solo and cases and see what sells faster before sending in everything. Luckily for me, this particular item was small, lightweight and the cases were not oversized.
Jessica’s book comes with a handy “cheat sheet” of expiration dates that lets you know whether or not an item is worth buying. Most of the items I bought expired at least a year or two out so that wasn’t a problem, but if you are within six months, you’ll want to check her cheat sheet to make sure you can sell your items before they expire. Amazon clears items out of the warehouse approximately two months before their expiration dates.
Now, the fun part – sales! I packaged everything up and sent it in to the many warehouses that Amazon dictated (sigh) and I had sales right away! Besides the singing fish, I had food and bags flying out of the warehouse. I’ve got a few listed below to give you an idea.
There were things I couldn’t buy because they were potentially hazmat like certain cleaning supplies. What I mostly looked for were specialty foods that may be hard to find in a typical grocery story. I bought mincemeat and organic pumpkin puree, fancy chocolate and holiday ham sauces, sardines, organic vegan soups in vacuum boxes and vegan chick’n bouillon. As a vegetarian, I was drawn to things that I know are expensive and hard to find in the stores.
I’m still learning what is a fast-selling rank in grocery and beauty and what isn’t. Jessica gives her guidelines for rank in her book which I followed. What I’ve discovered so far is that any item that Amazon is already selling, sells fast. I had soups that were about 36,000 when I bought them and the first case sold in less than a week (and they are still selling). Some items have been up there for several weeks and still haven’t sold – like the dog food. It was closer to the high-end of Jessica’s suggested range.
Overall, I learned a lot from Jessica’s book and I’m thrilled to be selling in two new categories. I don’t mind dirt and the margins are terrific. I was buying cases of products for $5 a case that I’m selling online for $35-$50. Even with the extra shipping costs (cans are heavy and bulky when sold by the case), there is huge margin to be made. I found a liquidation store not far from my mother-in-law’s house so you can bet I’ll check it out when we visit her next.
If you are interested in learning more, you can buy Jessica’s book HERE. I make a small commission if you buy through this link, but you will pay the same price if you go directly to her site at www.jessicalarrew.com. I occasionally take advantage of commissions as a way to help compensate me for the time I put into my blog, but I won’t recommend products/services that I’ve not checked out first.