Category Archives: Sales Rank

A Case Study in Sales Rank

41ABSIQsvzL._SY300_Today we’re going to look at the sales rank history of a specific book I’ve been following for over seven months. I first found The Boy Captives at a thrift store near my home and quickly bought it. The book had a rank of about 1 million and was being sold as used on Amazon for over $25. This was my kind of find. My only hesitation was that this book had a rank of over 1 million. I remembered reading that ranks over 1 million won’t sell that often and that I should stay away from them… I’m glad I bought that book, for it’s given me a huge lesson in sales rank.

As with most of my inventory, I sent The Boy Captives in to FBA as soon as I could. I didn’t think much of it and assumed that it would sell someday, but probably not very quickly. I assumed this was going to be a “long tail” item. A few days after the book arrived at the FBA warehouse it sold. I was excited and was wondering if all the “gurus” who warned against selling books over 1 million were right or wrong. I decided to start tracking the sales rank of this book on a daily basis to see what would happen. The results surprised me.

After I sold the book, its sales rank jumped from over 1 million to 247,216. In the book category, this is a great rank. One week later, the book was at 680,293 (still a pretty good rank). Two weeks after the sale, the book was ranked at 1,086,291. The rank was getting worse daily over a two week period — because the book had no sales during that time. Only a few days later the sales rank jumped to 154,950, telling me the book had sold again. The book would follow a similar pattern over the next 7 months. The image below is a screenshot from CamelCamelCamel, showing how the book was purchased about 22 times in 8 months (each spike straight up signifies a sale).

Boy Captives Sale Rank

If you found 20 copies of this book in a thrift store when it was ranked 108,645, then you’d probably buy them all to resell. But if you found 20 copies of this book when it was ranked at 2,145,787, then you might pass on all of them. So when you are out scanning books, how can you tell if this is a good book to resell? The answer can be found by looking at factors other than just sales rank.

An additional factor that makes The Boy Captives a good book to buy to resell is the number of sellers. Currently, there are only 7 sellers with this book for sale. The lower the number of sellers, the fewer the sellers who might lower the price of the book in order to seek the next sale. If The Boy Captives had 200 sellers, then it’s likely that they might, over time, begin to lower the price in seeking the next sale. The fact that this book sells, on average, every 11 days means that having a lower number of sellers will most likely give you the sale at the higher price you’re wanting. If one seller drastically lowers their price to be the lowest, it’s not a problem. They’ll sell their copy, and about 11 days after that, you can get the next sale.

So when you’re out sourcing and find a book with a sales rank of over 1 million, take a look beyond the sales rank and see what else you find. Even finding a 2 million ranked book might bring you back a nice payday sooner than you think. Just look a little harder at the information given to you. You’ll make better decisions and your pocketbook will thank you.

How about you? What other factors do you look at when you are buying a book for resale? Leave a comment and let us know about your experiences with books with “high” sales ranks.

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Lowering Prices vs. Pulling Items From Amazon Inventory

0809_LowPriceArrowSometimes it’s inevitable. You’re not going to get the price you want for an item you’re selling. This happens all the time online and in retail stores. Even brick and mortar stores understand it’s a good idea to lower their prices in order to move inventory. Most retail stores lower their prices because they just don’t have shelf space for the few items they have left. Other stores lower their prices because of a change in seasons. As a reseller, we love it when they lower the prices and move these items to a clearance section. In fact, we usually capitalize on these clearance items. But the issue of lowering prices is a whole different story with Amazon resellers.

There are many different reasons someone might want to lower their price on Amazon. Some sellers are just not patient enough to wait for their item to sell at their price. They don’t know that some products sell hundreds a day and that they may have the sale sooner than they think. Other sellers have a business model that is mainly focused on the super fast sale. They want to get the sale as fast as possible and turn that profit back into more inventory. Some people think that if an item sits in the warehouse too long, then it’s wasting capital they can use to get better selling inventory. This type of business model is more focused on the fast nickel instead of the slow dime. If an item hasn’t sold fast enough, then they lower their prices in order to get the fast sale.

I think a better business model includes products that are both fast nickel as well as slow dime. A healthy FBA inventory will have both products that sell quickly and products that sell slowly.

I almost never lower price… especially with Christmas coming up. For most items (there are exceptions) I may lower my price if the product has been sitting in my inventory for over a year. A whole year’s cycle is a good snapshot to see if an item will sell. If it doesn’t sell in a year, then I may lower the price, but if the rank is good, then I probably won’t lower it to match the lowest current price. If the rank is poor, then I’ll lower the price somewhat. If the rank is really bad, then I will most likely lower my price to match the current low price (FBA or not).

I am usually a patient person. And being patient has, more often than not, paid off in my pocketbook. I look at the pricing trends on CamelCamelCamel and make educated pricing decisions. I know some items will sell for $20 in the summer, but will sell for $80 over the Christmas holidays. I can wait a few months for that kind of ROI (return on investment), especially when monthly storage fees are usually only a few pennies per item.

price-cutAnother time I’ll lower my price is for the items that are subject to a long term storage fee. On February 15th and August 15th of every year, FBA conducts an inventory cleanup. On these dates, any inventory units that have been in a FBA warehouse for over 365 days will be assessed a fee of $22.50 per cubic foot. This is a HUGE fee and is to be avoided at all costs. The only nice thing about the long term storage fee is that FBA exempts one unit of each applicable product. This means that if you have 5 identical items that have been in a FBA warehouse for over 365 days, then you’ll only be charged the long term storage fee for 4 of those items. Around two months before the long term storage fees hit, I’ll search my inventory and find the items that might be charged with this fee. I’ll lower my prices to match the lowest price in the hopes that they will sell before the fee hits. Amazon is even kind enough to send you a few warning emails that this fee is approaching, along with a link where you can see what items you are selling apply for the fee.

There are currently only two times I pull certain inventory that has not sold. The first reason is if the sales rank is too high paired with the profit margin being too low. If I have a book with a sales rank of 7 million that I’ll only make a few bucks on, then I’ll have it sent back to me. The second reason I have items sent back is if they qualify for the long term storage fees (and don’t sell after I lower my prices, as stated above). Most likely, I’ll add these returned items to a box I keep at home for stuff I want to sell next time I have a garage sale.

So what about you? When do you like to lower your prices? What are your reasons? We’d all love to hear what you have to add to the conversation.

What Does a Sales Rank of Zero Mean?

Most Amazon resellers use sales rank as a major factor in deciding whether or not to buy an item to resell. But what happens if the sales rank for an item is zero or “N/A” (Not Available)? Are there any other ways to decide if this item is worth reselling on Amazon?

For most items, a sales rank of zero simply means that the item has never sold, or has not sold in a long, long, long time. This will apply to most of the items that have no sales rank, but there are some exceptions.

Some categories don’t offer up sales ranks. Electronics is an example. Amazon does not provide the sales rank in relation with the whole category — they only offer up sales rank in subcategories under Electronics. (Read more on how to decode the Electronic sales ranks.)

Sometimes Amazon decides that sales rank in certain categories should disappear for a few hours or a few days. One time, all sales ranks for books disappeared. To be honest, I panicked a little. I’m not sure if it was an error on Amazon’s part or if they were doing something with the algorithm, but for a few hours, it was gone. I was relieved to see sales rank for books return, but wondered what life as an Amazon reseller would be like without relying on sales rank.

Some items have a sales rank of zero, yet I sell many of them a month. Why is Amazon not giving sales rank for that item? Who knows.

So, if you come across an item with no sales rank, how can you tell if it’s never sold, not sold in a long time, or is actually a great selling item? Here are a few ideas:

Seinfeld Scene It Comparison

Seinfeld Scene It Comparison

1. See if that item has another product page.

If you come across an item with a zero (or N/A) sales rank, search Amazon to see if the item is being sold on another product page. Many times the exact same item will have multiple product pages. As I write this blog, the board game “Seinfeld Scene It – Deluxe Edition” has SIX product pages. Those pages are offering the exact same game at prices that range from $14.69 to $324.99. As you might assume, the page that is offering this game at the cheapest price has the best sales rank, while the page offering the game for $324.99 has a ZERO sales rank. Even though Amazon is trying to combine all of the products with multiple pages, they’re still a long way off from completing that task.

2. Check out product reviews.

If an item sells often, then it most likely will have plenty of current 5-star Amazon product reviews. Be sure you check to see if the reviews are current. Just because an item has 500+ 5-star reviews from 2007 doesn’t mean that it will sell now.

3. Make an educated guess based on your experience.

If you’ve been selling on Amazon for a while, then you’ve started to get a feel for what a good reselling item looks like. You know what you’ve sold before and what might sell in the future. You know what brand names are stable and provide consistent sales. You know what knock-off brands are not good for sales. If sales rank was pulled, or you are out without your scouting tools, you can use your experience to make an educated guess on the buy. If you get home and are wrong, you could always return the item.

One thing I hear often (when listening to FBA podcasts or reading FBA blogs) is that sales rank is never promised by Amazon. It could be pulled at any time if Amazon decides. There may come a day when we don’t have sales rank data to depend on to make product purchases. If this happens, you now have some tools to help you make decisions in your buying.

So what about you? What do you do when you see a sales rank of zero? What are the methods you use to decide if a product is a quality resell item? I’d love to hear your thoughts!