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Find Sales Gold on Amazon.com with Liquidation Stores

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.

lentil soupsI paid $6 a case for the soups (50 cents a piece) which I sold for $29.99 on Amazon.

mincemeatThe mincemeat was 50 cents per box.  I sold it in a pack of six ($3 total) for $45.99

NocciolataThe fancy Italian chocolate sauce was $12 a case. I’m selling it for $39.99.

kitty litter linersI bought these kitty litter liner bags for 50 cents each and sold them for $9.99 on Amazon.

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.

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{ 20 comments… add one }

  • Rachel S August 28, 2013, 9:38 AM

    Does the book give you ideas on how to find the stores? Or did you use Google?

    • Cynthia Stine August 28, 2013, 10:01 AM

      Rachel and Dave,

      The book tells you what to look for and then I used Google to find ones in my area.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

      • Rachel S August 28, 2013, 10:25 AM

        Thanks! I think I’ll pick it up.

  • Dave August 28, 2013, 9:54 AM

    So how did you find these liquidation outlets? I haven’t found any similar ones in my area.

  • Mary August 28, 2013, 10:16 AM

    I bought Jessica’s book recently. It was very interesting. I have not found any of these stores in my area yet, but I am still searching. I hope to find liquidation stores in the future.

  • Shahnaz August 28, 2013, 11:56 AM

    So you probably need UPCs to send in multiple items. Where is a good place to buy UPC codes?

    • Cynthia Stine August 28, 2013, 9:37 PM

      Shahnaz,

      If you google “cheap UPC codes,” you’ll find many sites that offer UPC codes for bargain prices. The last ones I bought were less than $1 a piece. Obviously, you want to use these for products of which you will be selling a lot. I found that many of the products I wanted to sell in cases were already in the Amazon catalog in units of 3, 6, 12, etc.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

  • Jessica August 28, 2013, 1:25 PM

    Thanks Cynthia for sharing your awesome results from my book! It is always nice to see how much other people can benefit as well.

    For those of you having trouble finding stores, just keep pushing and asking around. It took us over a year to find our first ones. They got much easier after that. Like anything new it takes persistence. You can still apply the information to try new things at other stores as well :)

  • Jamie August 28, 2013, 3:00 PM

    The trouble I have with the case-pack tactic is that the screenshots you’re showing don’t tell the true story, and it’s vital that sellers are aware of their inbound shipping costs upfront.

    For example, a case of 12 boxes of soup that are 17 oz apiece will weigh close to 18 lbs. Assuming your inbound shipping cost is an average of $0.50 per pound, your actual cost on that item was $6 + $9 shipping, or $15 total. Selling at $30 gives you a pretty low margin, especially if you needed to buy special boxes to accommodate such a huge case-pack.

    I keep seeing (sponsored/affiliate/commission) blog posts about Jessica’s book, and the information does sound fascinating, but it sounds like she gives you some search terms and then sends you to Google. What else does the book offer that reviews like yours, Jordan Malik’s, et al doesn’t provide?

    • Cynthia Stine August 28, 2013, 9:27 PM

      Jamie,

      That’s a good point about shipping and I totally agree. However, I paid a lot less for shipping than that. The soups, for example, cost me just over $5 to ship and they are compact so my regular boxes were just fine. I haven’t seen Jordan’s review of Jessica’s book so I can’t answer that part of your question. What I found helpful in her book was she explained how these surplus grocery stores worked, how to find them and how to ship everything to Amazon. She talked about her strategies of when to bundle and when not to, and how she and her husband replaced both their incomes selling on Amazon – of which surplus grocery/beauty is a huge component. I found the examples very helpful, too. The book paid for itself in my first shopping trip.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

  • Nancy Apfel August 28, 2013, 3:37 PM

    Thanks, Cynthia. I have Jessica’s book but haven’t made it to the local places yet. Maybe this weekend?!

    Great blog post and very inspiring.

    • Cynthia Stine August 28, 2013, 9:38 PM

      Nancy,

      Dress for the dirt and heat. :) Happy scouting!

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

  • Kevin August 28, 2013, 11:30 PM

    Hi, Cynthia,

    Shoot, I just purchased the book from Jessica last week. Would have loved giving you that small commission for the great information you added. What timing!

    As always, I love reading your blogs and just marvel at the great info you give away. I hope you find the time and the way to turn all your thoughts into another book. You should get paid for this.

    Anyway, I can’t wait to hit the salvage stores this weekend and do some hunting. Maybe we’ll run into each other as we seem to do. I’m looking forward to it. Go Bull Dogs, even if my son is a Falcon now. :-)

    Kevin

  • Nikki August 29, 2013, 8:34 AM

    Hi Cynthia,

    I have purchased the book and trying to find one in my area but had a question. When you went to the stores and began scanning, how did you determine it was a good but for bundles? Or we’re these products that you know are good seller based on experience and decided to bundle them to see if they would sell? Not sure if that makes sense, but just a bit confused as to how you all are deciding on making them into bundles from seeing singles being sold on amazon.

    • Cynthia Stine August 29, 2013, 8:57 AM

      Nikki,

      One of the strategies in Jessica’s book is about bundling. Amazon is converting more and more smaller items under $10 to “add-ons” that are not eligible for free two-day shipping by themselves. She wanted to appeal to the Amazon Prime customer and so she started creating bundles that would meet the threshold. I decided to do the same. For items that did not already have a bundle (many of them did) and for which I had a lot of items to sell, I created a bundle. Also, you can look at ranking (for existing bundles) and see what is selling faster – the solo or the bundle? – and make your decision that way.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

  • Bill-Jax, Fl August 29, 2013, 4:32 PM

    What scanning tools are you using to validate the saleability of the items you’re looking to purchase at these locations?

    • Cynthia Stine August 29, 2013, 7:28 PM

      Bill,

      I use Scan Power mobile on my smartphone.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

  • Ann September 3, 2013, 11:49 PM

    If you create a bundle that is not listed on Amazon do you have to purchase a UPC?

    • Cynthia Stine September 4, 2013, 10:40 AM

      Ann,

      For bundles of different items (olive oil and a cookbook, for example) you need a UPC as you are actually creating a new product. For bundles where you are listing multiples of an item that already exists, you do not need a separate UPC. Amazon has a function as part of the listing process where you can create packs of different numbers of units all using the same UPC code that is on the product already. What will happen is that there will be a separate ASIN page for each pack (6 pack, 12 pack, etc.) but a shared UPC.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

  • Ann September 4, 2013, 6:22 PM

    Thank you Cynthia. I loved your book!

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