In the ’80s, my mom owned a local women’s clothing store (this was pre-eBay). When I was ten years old, she took me and her business partner to Mexico for some sun and fun. We spent the last day shopping in Puerto Vallarta, and in one shop, we found the cutest perforated, Mary Jane-style sandals. My mother bought the entire lot, all the colors and sizes, brought them home to San Jose, and ended up turning quite a profit on those shoes. (P.S. to this story: how I miss those sandals!)
Good business is all about spotting an opportunity and acting on it. So why not you use a trip—be it a family road trip across the US, an overseas adventure, or even a week at Grandma’s—as a chance to source some new goods?
If you’re planning a trip, we’ve collected some tips from fellow eBay sellers who’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt to prove it.
Tip #1: Takin’ care of (your) business. Before you set out on the open road for treasure hunting, be sure to put your eBay store on vacation mode. Here’s how.
Tip #2: Scout your location. Do some online research to understand what sort of suppliers, stores, or merchandise might be available.
Tip #3: Take a local with you. Whether you’re traveling stateside or heading overseas, try to get a local (a relative, friend, fellow seller, or eBay Meetup leader) to check out new goods with you. If language is an issue, a local speaker may help in negotiations. Seller Terry M. advises, “Be sure to get contact info and form relationships if there is any possibility that you might want to have an insider help you once you leave.”
Tip #4: Take an (informed) risk. Let’s say you spot a lot of items you are really interested in, but not sure if they are winners. To buy or not to buy – how do you decide? First, check the eBay mobile app for similar sold items. Did they go at a decent price? How long ago did they sell – recently or years ago? Next, do the math. What is your all-in cost (item cost, taxes, import costs, etc.)? What can you expect to get for them? What are your selling costs (final value fees, marketing costs, etc). Weigh the costs; if the numbers work and the demand exists on eBay, go for it!
Tip #5: Find a way to get your merch home. Depending on what you buy, you may be able to bring it home with you in your bags. Mandy K. uses the suitcase-in-a-suitcase trick. “I managed to find an old suitcase at a thrift store that fit exactly into my main suitcase. So, I travel to my destination with ONE case, and come home with two suitcases! I also pack very lightly to fit as much as possible in a suitcase or two.”
Seller Stephanie A. offers two bits of advice: First, research the checked bag pricing of your airline. Sometimes paying extra for two suitcases on one airline might justify paying more on another airline with no fee for checked bags. Do the math and weigh your costs. Second, pack your soft merchandise in vacuum seal bags that suck out all the air and conserve space in your luggage. Stephanie asks the hotel housekeeping staff if she can use the vacuum for a few minutes. So far, no one has said no.
Tip #6: Write it off, if you can. Of course, please consult a professional tax advisor, but you may be able to write off some of your travel expenses if you can demonstrate they were spent in pursuit of merchandise.
From what I know of the eBay seller community, you all love to travel, so tell us in the comments: what other tips have you learned while sourcing in a new place?
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