Tag Archives: Retail Arbitrage

The 2 Best Retail Arbitrage Sourcing Strategies

RA Sourcing StrategiesRetail arbitrage can be very profitable. The feeling of anticipation when you walk into a retail store is extremely motivating. I always advise other resellers to grab a shopping cart when they first enter a store because they need to be mentally ready for a big haul. Now, the big haul doesn’t always happen, but it’s still good to be prepared in case you do find tons of potentially profitable inventory.

Retail arbitrage is a method of sourcing inventory from retail stores in order to sell it through Amazon. When you’re doing retail arbitrage (or RA, as it’s often abbreviated), you are looking for items you can buy at a low price in retail stores and sell high on Amazon. “Buy low, sell high” is the definition of arbitrage in a nutshell, and retail sources for arbitrage are a staple for many Amazon FBA sellers.

I got my start on Amazon FBA by sourcing at mostly garage sales and thrift stores, and I was able to build up my Amazon disbursements by buying inventory at a ridiculously low price (e.g. books for 25 cents or a dime) and selling it for 1000% return on investment (ROI). After a while, my disbursements were sufficiently large that I didn’t have enough time to spend the entire amount of the disbursement at garage sales and thrift stores – I was starting to have more money than time.

targetstoreThe next step for me was to scale my Amazon FBA business by transitioning to retail arbitrage. Garage sales and thrift stores can provide amazing ROI, but you typically can only buy one-off products at these sources. You can have a great day of sourcing and find 50 items, but you have to enter 50 MSKUs into your inventory as a result.

Retail arbitrage provides the ability to scale the business by buying multiples. It’s possible to find 50 items at one RA stop, and it’s possible to have a much smaller number of MSKUs because of multiples. Fewer MSKUs means less hassle down the road in maintaining your inventory in Seller Central – fewer times to reprice, fewer chances for listing issues, etc.

And the even better thing about finding multiples at a retail source? The potential for replenishing. If you can find a replenishable item through RA sourcing, you automatically know how you can spend part of your capital the next time you have it available. The more replens you can find, the less time it takes you to source each disbursement cycle. Buy a replen, send it in, sell it, get a disbursement, buy that replen again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

walmart-superEvery seller likes to do RA a little differently, and it’s really a matter of trying out different things to see what you prefer. Everyone also has a different schedule, different family commitments, different number of stores available within driving distance. Some sellers like to go out to do RA for a couple of hours every day while their kids are in school. Others can only go on the weekends or evenings when they’re off work from their 9-to-5 job.

For me, I typically spend one full day doing RA every 1 to 2 weeks. I would rather spend all day driving to different stores and get all my sourcing done in one day, instead of breaking it up and doing a little here and there each day.

When I spend a day doing RA, I have two main strategies for how I spend my time:

Store Signs1. Source all the stores in one area

One strategy I use is to choose an area of town where I will focus for the day. The benefit of using this method is that I can hit a large amount of stores in a small amount of time with minimal driving. I use this strategy when I don’t have very much time to spend driving, and I don’t have any good leads on items that I already know I want to buy.

After I decide on the neighborhood, I plan out a route on Google Maps where I go to that neighborhood’s WalMart, Target, Kohl’s, TJMaxx, Marshalls, Walgreens, etc, one after the other. The next time I’m doing RA, I’ll pick a different neighborhood and plan a similar route.

Target Route2. Source multiple locations of one store

The second strategy I use for RA is when I have a good lead on some items to source at one particular retail store. Maybe there’s a big sale going on at a chain of stores, or maybe I have some replens that I need to restock.

In these instances I plan my driving route for the day to cover a larger radius from my home, but I only put one or two stores in the route. For example, I might go to every Target in a 30 mile radius in one day. Depending on where you live, a 30 mile radius might be too many Targets for one day – in that case, using this RA strategy could give you several days worth of work.

I also use this method when I know a chain is doing a big seasonal clearance. I’ll even call ahead to the store branches to make sure that each one in the chain is already doing the clearance before I drive all the way out there.

Walmart ManagerBuilding relationships with managers is a helpful way to plan for sourcing days in this second strategy. I have the names and phone numbers of managers at certain stores in my area, and I give them a call from time to time to see if they know anything about the timing for upcoming sales. If I can be one of the first to know about a clearance event, I can plan my sourcing schedule so that I’m one of the first shoppers to see the clearanced products. I even have managers in some stores who know that I buy a lot of items at a time, and they text me to come clear out their inventory for them!

Using these two strategies doesn’t have to mean that you choose one over the other on any given day. More than once I’ve set out for the day with the goal of using the first strategy, but I found a couple of really awesome deals early on in the day at one store. At that point I rerouted my day to only go to that one chain for the rest of the day. Sometimes you gotta ride the wave and go where the deals take you!

Do you have any retail arbitrage strategies you use that are different from these two? Do you prefer to go to many stores in one area of town for RA or to go to one store in multiple parts of town? Please share your experiences with us in the comments!

Overcoming Your Fear of Leaving with an Empty Shopping Cart

Empty Shopping CartWe’re well into our second round of blog posts in our series on Overcoming Your Amazon FBA Fears. If you want to catch up on the previous posts, click here to read through them.

Today we’re going to discuss a fear that can strike deep in the heart of anyone who spends time doing retail arbitrage (RA). Sometimes the fear can strike as soon as we walk through the doors of a retail store. Sometimes it takes a few minutes into scanning the clearance aisle before we feel it creeping in. Other times it can mess with our heads after an hour or more spent scanning items, and it can cause us to throw our sourcing parameters out the window and start making ridiculous choices.

It’s the fear of leaving a store with an empty shopping cart.

No one who does RA likes to spend 30 minutes, an hour, two hours in a store scanning items and come up empty. We can feel like the time has been wasted or that we are inadequate as resellers. It’s easy to start thinking that the problem must be with me, that I am not good enough to find something to resell in this store.

While it’s true that the more you scan the more you can find and the longer you’ve been in the business the more quickly you’ll be able to load up a cart, we all need to remember that there are days when the stars just don’t align and we can’t find anything worth buying in a store. Sometimes you hit home runs. Sometimes you strike out. It’s all part of the game.

Everyone has a different business model when it comes to Amazon FBA. When you head into a retail store (or garage sale, thrift store, online store, wholesale marketplace, etc), you should know your business’s unique buying parameters: the categories you’re interested in, your maximum buy price, your minimum sell price, your expected return on investment (ROI), and your maximum sales rank percentage per category. In certain categories you will have other criteria as well, including number of sellers, number of reviews, or number of variations.

You should set up these parameters well before you head into a store so that you can make the best decisions possible for your business and so that you are equipped to handle just such a situation as the empty cart scenario.

Here are 3 truths to remember when you are tempted to buy something, ANYTHING, rather than leave a store with an empty cart:

burning_money11. You don’t want to waste your money.

If you spend your capital on items outside your sourcing parameters, you are using up capital you might need later that day or that week. You don’t want to buy items outside your parameters and then not be able to buy that amazing home run at the next store because you ran out of money.

shutterstock_373325772. You don’t want to waste your time.

It may seem like you’re wasting your time by scanning for an hour and then just leaving the store empty handed, but that’s the short sighted way of looking at this situation. Think about how much more time you will waste by not just walking away. You will waste the time spent arguing with yourself that it’s OK to forget your sourcing parameters. You will waste the time standing in line to check out with your less-than-stellar purchases.

And then for weeks and months you could potentially be wasting time dealing with dead inventory at the FBA warehouse. I’ve found that often times the items I had to convince myself to buy in order not to feel like a failure at RA are the exact items I regret buying 8 months later when no amount of repricing will get those suckers to sell. Then I have to spend more time and mental energy deciding whether to remove the items or destroy them to avoid long term storage fees. Why didn’t I just walk away in the first place?!

IMG_15713. You don’t want to fall into the comparison trap.

If you spend any amount of time in Facebook groups for Amazon sellers (and I recommend you do join some groups for the camaraderie and education; ours is found here), you will see that some sellers like to post pictures of their latest RA haul: a receipt stretched out for yards, multiple shopping carts attached in a train, the back of a van packed to the ceiling with shopping bags. These photos can be inspirational, but they can also come back to haunt us when we we are standing in the store aisle with an empty cart.

comparison-is-the-thief-of-Please, please do not compare yourself to any other FBAer when you are sourcing. You don’t know what their parameters are, you don’t know how far in debt they may be in order to make those purchases, you don’t know if that inventory is going to sit languishing on a warehouse shelf never selling or selling at a loss. Please do not spend one moment comparing yourself to anyone else. Do not be discouraged by walking out of a store with an empty cart. It does not mean you weren’t successful at sourcing. It means you were wise in your choices.

I hope these truths have helped you understand how you can fight the fear of the empty cart. It’s my desire for you to have a successful Amazon FBA business and be prepared with the knowledge you need in various sourcing situations. Next time you’re in a store and can’t find anything to buy, no matter what you scan, know that you need to stick with the sourcing parameters you set up ahead of time. It’s OK to walk away. It’s OK to leave an empty cart. Move on. You have better buys around the corner.

 

Overcoming Your Fear of Buying High Ranked Items

Fear of High Ranked ItemsI’m like any other Amazon FBA seller out there – if I could source and sell only low ranking, fast turning items at 100% ROI (return on investment) or higher, I would choose to do that every day, all day. That’s what we all want to do, right? Maximize our ROI and maximize the speed with which we get that return back in our bank account.

Today I want to share with you 5 times that I don’t shy away from buying high ranked items to resell on Amazon. Through careful research and critical thinking, it is possible to turn high ranked items into big profits on Amazon FBA. In some instances, you don’t have to fear that a high ranked item lacks potential value for resale.

First, let’s talk through a few points related to sales rank so that we can get on the same page for the rest of the conversation:

  • Product DetailsThe sales rank (also known as BSR for “best seller rank”) of a product on Amazon is number that represents a snapshot in time of how recently and how many units an item is selling compared to other products within the same Amazon category.
  • A low sales rank means more sales. A #1 best seller is selling really well.
  • A high sales rank means fewer sales.
  • Low ranking items are more likely to sell faster than high ranking items.
  • Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.20.05 AMSales rank is relative to the number of items in a category. A rank of 1 million in books is in the top 2%, which is very different from 1 million in toys, the top 15 or 20%. (Be sure to subscribe for our free sales rank chart in your email inbox every month, so you can keep track of the sales ranks for each Amazon category.)
  • High sales rank might mean fewer sales, but don’t skip over one crucial piece of information in that statement: An item with a high sales rank has had sales. If something sells once, it could potentially sell again.

So back to our topic for today…here are the 5 times you don’t need to be afraid of buying high ranked items to resell on Amazon:

1. When an item’s sales price is artificially high

Many times when an item on Amazon is priced artificially high,the sales rank also becomes very high. By artificially high, I mean those items that you pick them up, you scan them, and your jaw drops at how incredibly high the sales price is. I know, that’s not a very specific definition.

316

You can get a clearer definition of an artificially high sales price by looking at the CamelCamelCamel or Keepa data for an item. If the historical data for an item shows that the sales rank is much lower when the item is priced much lower, then you know that the current high price is artificially high. Customers aren’t willing to buy it at the higher price, and it may or may not ever sell again at that high price. If I can source the item at a low buy cost and still make a good ROI by lowering the sales price back into a reasonable range, I am not afraid to buy this type of high ranked item.

2. When an item is out of stock on Amazon

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 5.43.57 PMAgain, the longer time passes from an item’s last sale on Amazon, the higher the sales rank of that item will go. If an item is out of stock or “currently unavailable” on Amazon, the sales rank will continue to creep upwards until it might eventually go back to N/A or zero sales rank. If I can source an item with a high rank that is currently unavailable on Amazon and the data on CamelCamelCamel shows that it was once selling at a good rank and price, I will buy that item in a heartbeat!

3. When Q4 is approaching

CCC Q4The closer it gets to Q4, the more I’m willing to expand my sales rank parameters when sourcing for Amazon FBA. Sales velocity during Q4 increases to such an extent that higher ranking items will sell at a faster rate than they will during other times of the year. A toy that sells once a month throughout the rest of the year could sell once a day during Q4. Once again you will want to look at CamelCamelCamel for the historical data in Q4 of previous years to see if you can expect the sales rank to pick up at that time of year.

4. When the product page needs improvement and it’s worth my time to improve it

116_1409831933There are some really crummy product pages in the Amazon catalog. Sometimes the reason an item has a high sales rank is because the picture stinks, the title is awful, the product description is nonexistent, or the keywords are pathetic. One or two little improvements can make a huge difference in how quickly a product will sell on Amazon. For an outstanding resource on creating and improving Amazon product pages, check out Amazon Advantage by Karon Thackston.

The key in making a smart sourcing decision in this situation is to decide if it’s worth your time to attempt to make those improvements. Sometimes a product page can be easy to change, and other times it can take a lot of back and forth with Seller Central to make the change. Sometimes you need to submit multiple photos and screen shots in order to get approval for a change. If you find a high ranked item with an outstanding ROI or you find multiples of an item that will bring you a hefty profit, go for it with making those product page improvements! (If it’s a one-off item with low ROI, I would pass.)

5. When I can source the item for free

If I don’t invest any money in an item and I only have one that item to sell, I will only need to pay pennies per month for storage at the Amazon warehouse. I’m willing to wait it out for these type of items to sell if their rank is high.

Note: I do not send in multiples of high ranked items because I want to avoid long term storage fees.

Hopefully these 5 scenarios have given you some ideas of high ranked items you should not be afraid of finding while you’re out sourcing. I want to emphasize that in general I prefer to source low ranking items; the scenarios above are exceptions to my usual sales rank parameters.

Also, many people ask what I consider to be a “good” sales rank for FBA sourcing and, conversely, what would constitute a “high” sales rank. This is a question that each seller needs to decide for themselves based on their experience, their available capital, how quickly they need to make their money back, and several other factors. Some sellers like to stay in the top 1% of sales rank for a category. Others prefer 3% or 5%.

Do you have any other scenarios you would add to our list above? Are there other times that you would buy a high ranked item to resell? Let us know in the comments!

How to Read & Understand Keepa Graphs

Keepa TutorialHopefully you enjoyed our earlier blog post (with screen capture video) introducing the Amazon price tracker CamelCamelCamel. We use CCC throughout each day as we work on our Amazon FBA business, whether it’s out sourcing retail arbitrage, at home doing online arbitrage or wholesale research, or in repricing our inventory.

Keepa is another great tool that, when used by itself or in harmony with CamelCamelCamel, can provide you with the information you need to make smart sourcing decisions. Toward the end of this blog post I’ll show you a video walking through how to understand these graphs directly on the Keepa website.

Take a look at a Keepa graph for a product on Amazon.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.36.58 PM

At first this graph can look like nonsense – just a lot of blue and green squigglies with some orange and white shading, and then a few black lines and dots thrown in for good measure. But all of these colors and lines will make sense to us shortly.

If you look to the right of the graph, you’ll see a box with a key to the colors on the graph:

  • Amazon = orange
  • Marketplace New = blue
  • Marketplace Used = black
  • Sales Rank = green

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.39.53 PMBelow this key, there’s a list of date ranges where you can select the period of time you wish to look at: day, week, month, 3 months, or all the data Keepa has ever tracked on this item.

Along the left side of the graph are dollar amounts, with the lowest amount at the bottom and the highest at the top. Along the bottom of the graph are the dates you have selected for the graph, with the most recent date on the right and the oldest date to the left. Along the right side of the graph are the sales rank numbers, with the lowest at the bottom and the highest at the top.

You can click to remove each of the sets of data in the color-coded key to the right of the graph. If you click Amazon, Marketplace New, Marketplace Used, and Sales Rank, you’re left with a plain white graph with no lines or shading.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.43.55 PMIf you click to add back the Amazon data, now you will see orange shading that indicates when Amazon has had the item in stock. If the area is orange, Amazon is in stock. Wherever you see white gaps on the graph, Amazon is out of stock. Watch what happens to the graph when you click on the different date ranges to show the bigger picture of how often Amazon is in or out of stock on the item.

If you move your cursor over the orange shading, the graph will have a small box that pops up at the top of the graph to tell you Amazon’s price and a box that pops up at the bottom to tell you the date. As you slide your cursor across the graph, you can see where the price goes down or up over time.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.41.58 PMIf you click to take all of the pricing data off the graph, you’ll see a green line come up on the graph to show the changes in sales rank over time. This data is presented the opposite of CamelCamelCamel – notice that the higher sales rank number is at the top of the graph, lower number at the bottom. Instead of an uptick in the graph to indicate a sale (like on CCC), the Keepa graph has a dip in the graph to indicate that the sales rank has lowered when a sale occurs. Be sure you make the mental shift on the sales rank graph when you go back and forth between CamelCamelCamel and Keepa.

Be sure to check out this screen capture video we made to show a basic walk-through of how Keepa works. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the Full-Time FBA YouTube channel for notifications when we add new videos (1-2 times a week).

I want to encourage you today if you’re making sourcing decisions without using historical sales rank and pricing data from Keepa or CamelCamelCamel — there is a better way to buy Amazon FBA inventory! You can make smarter sourcing decisions. Your business will hugely benefit if you take the time to learn how to use both Keepa and CamelCamelCamel.

Book & DesktopThis blog post is just scratching the surface on what I can teach you about Keepa. To find out everything there is to know about using Keepa to make smart sourcing decisions, be sure to check out our brand new course, The Reseller’s Guide to How to Keepa Camel: Using Amazon Sales History to Make Smart Sourcing Decisions. This course is a combo ebook and video course where I walk you through everything you need to know to make sense of both CamelCamelCamel and Keepa in ways you’ve never thought of.

How about you? Do you use Keepa? What is your favorite thing about Keepa? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

The Most Harmful Amazon FBA Sourcing Decision You Could Ever Make

Harmful Sourcing Decision
Did you know that a book on Amazon ranked 10 million yesterday could be ranked 500,000 today?
All it takes is one sale. Just one. One sale of that book on Amazon could change the sales rank drastically overnight.

Would you buy a book ranked 10 million on Amazon to resell? Would you buy a book ranked 500,000 to resell?

I know there are lots of other factors at play in how you might answer that question, but my point in asking it is to get you to look at the sales rank. You view a book ranked 10 million much differently than one ranked 500,000, right?

Yet every day many, many Amazon FBA sellers are making their sourcing decisions based on today’s sales ranks and low prices. They find a book ranked 500,000 and snatch it up, without checking to see that it was ranked 10 million yesterday. Or maybe it’s a toy ranked 100,000 that was ranked 1.5 million yesterday.

There are two main reasons why you shouldn’t base your sourcing decisions on today’s sales rank and pricing data:

  1. Amazon changes their prices often.

LC_OFF_Body_NLPAmazon is known to change their prices across their website 2.5 million times per day. That’s just Amazon’s prices – that doesn’t include 3rd Party seller prices, which are also being changed constantly throughout the day with repricers. Now, Amazon has hundreds of millions of products, and they’re changing those prices 2.5 million times per day, which is mind blowing if you try to think about what that means. The low price on items also change throughout the day when a seller sells out of an item and the low price bumps up to the next seller. If prices are changing constantly on Amazon, why would you make a sourcing decision based solely on this one snapshot in time of the current low price?

  1. Amazon updates sales rank often.

Seinfeld Scene It RankAmazon recalculates their sales ranks every hour. That’s 24 times a day that sales ranks change on Amazon! If I’m looking at an item to resell, it’s too much of a gamble to base my buying decision on what the sales rank looks like on this one hour of this one day. The current sales rank is just a snapshot in time of how this item has recently sold. I need to make my decisions based on broader information than this one snapshot.

Whether you are in a store doing retail arbitrage or you are at your desk doing online arbitrage or looking at a wholesale catalog, you need more information than this one snapshot in time. You need more than just the current low price and the current sales rank in order to decide if you want to buy 1 of an item, 10 of an item, or 100 of an item. Your hard-earned inventory money is at stake here! You want to make your decision based on the best information available.

Making this type of decision on how to spend your sourcing money without using historical data from CamelCamelCamel or Keepa is the most harmful sourcing decision many Amazon FBA sellers are making.

I would be willing to go so far as to say that making sourcing decisions without CCC or Keepa is one of the top reasons Amazon FBA sellers quit their business. They spend all their sourcing money on inventory without looking at the historical data, the prices tank, the inventory never sells, and they throw their hands up in despair and say, “I quit! I tried Amazon, and it just didn’t work for me.” Now, there may be other factors at play, but for many resellers using CCC and Keepa could be a huge game changer in their business. They could find profitable inventory that will sell in a reasonable amount of time and won’t lower quickly in price.

I’m especially disheartened when I hear resellers saying they want to quit Amazon FBA over these types of inventory problems because this problem is so easily fixable. You can learn to read and interpret CamelCamelCamel and Keepa. The graphs can make sense, and you can use them to make smarter sourcing decisions.

CamelCamelCamel & KeepaBoth Camel and Keepa are free, easy-to-access programs that you can use on your computer or your mobile device, either in a web browser or from your 3rd party scouting app like Scoutify, ScanPower, or Profit Bandit (Amazon Seller app does not have links to CCC and Keepa, however). It only takes an extra 20 to 30 seconds (if even that!) to look at the sales rank and sales price history of an item when you’re sourcing. You can take a quick look at how often this item has sold and how it’s been priced in the past, and you can make an educated prediction about how it will behave in the future.

I want to encourage you today if you’re making sourcing decisions without using historical sales rank and pricing data from CamelCamelCamel and Keepa — there is a better way to buy Amazon FBA inventory! You can make smarter sourcing decisions. Your business will hugely benefit if you take the time to learn how to use these powerful free resources.

Book & DesktopTo find out how to use both CamelCamelCamel and Keepa to make smart sourcing decisions, be sure to check out our brand new course, The Reseller’s Guide to How to Keepa Camel: Using Amazon Sales History to Make Smart Sourcing Decisions. This course is a combo ebook and video course where I walk you through everything you need to know to make sense of both Camel and Keepa in ways you’ve never thought of.

How about you? Do you use CamelCamelCamel or Keepa? Do you have a favorite? What are you favorite things about Camel or Keepa? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Find Better, Faster Selling Amazon FBA Inventory

keepacamel-ipad800Has this ever happened to you? You go sourcing for inventory to sell on Amazon and find some good stuff… I mean, the prices are good, the sales rank is good, but once you finally get these items to Amazon, the prices for many have either tanked, or they just never sell. You check in with these items later and see that the sales rank is now horrible, and if you decide to match the lowest price you might actually lose money. What’s going on here?

Today, I’m excited to share with you how I’m able to find inventory that not only sells quickly, but sells at the high prices I expect it to sell for. No matter if it’s retail arbitrage, online arbitrage, or even wholesale, when I’m sourcing for inventory, I’m confident that the prices will hold strong and sell soon.

How do I do it? Here’s a hint… I use the data from two free services: CamelCamelCamel and Keepa. If you’ve heard of these services then you know just how important they can be to making smart sourcing decisions. Most people only know the basics of Keepa and/or Camel, but I think it’s time that everyone knows just how powerful these two free tools can be. If used correctly, they can revolutionize your Amazon business.

Book & DesktopWith this in mind, I’m excited to announce that my brand new course, The Reseller’s Guide to How to Keepa Camel: Using Amazon Sales History to Make Smart Sourcing Decisions is now available!

The course is a 130+ page ebook and 30+ module video course that walks you through both the basics and advanced strategies to use both CamelCamelCamel and Keepa. To find out more about the book and to read the testimonials of those who have already read/watched the course, then click here.

 

 

Our Favorite Amazon FBA Sourcing App

Favorit eSourcing App

Like we said in our last blog post, there seems to be a huge debate among Amazon FBA sellers about whether to use the Amazon Seller app for sourcing inventory or whether to pay for a third-party scanning app. Check out the comments on that post to see that some people feel pretty strongly about the Amazon Seller app’s benefits.

maxresdefaultIf you’ve heard us here at Full-Time FBA talk on Periscope or YouTube in the past, you know that we prefer not to use the Amazon Seller app for sourcing. Today we’re going to share with you the reasons why we love using our favorite sourcing app: Scoutify by the makers of Inventory Lab. (Read to the end of this post to see which app is our second favorite.)

Benefits of the Scoutify sourcing app for Amazon FBA:

  • Photo Apr 06, 4 00 52 PMGives an easy-to-read summary of the basic info you need to make your sourcing decisions: name of item, picture, category, size tier, sales rank, number of offers, and pricing for new and used offers by Amazon, FBA, and Merchant Fulfilled sellers.
  • Links to Amazon sales rank and pricing history graphs (CamelCamelCamel and Keepa). I cannot stress enough that one of the biggest factors for us in using a third-party scanning app is the ability to quickly and efficiently access sales rank and pricing history while we’re sourcing. We desire to always make smart sourcing decisions when doing retail arbitrage, and the only way we can avoid buying inventory that is destined to have plummeting prices and skyrocketing sales ranks is to do the research on sites like CamelCamelCamel and Keepa while sourcing. The Amazon Seller app does not provide those quick links, which is a deal breaker for us as a scouting app.
  • Links to pricing info on Amazon and other websites. In addition to a quick link to each item’s product page on Amazon, Scoutify includes quick links to the Amazon Prime offers to compare FBA prices, to BookScouter.com, to eBay, and to Google. It’s super quick and easy to do a little extra research on how an item is priced across multiple e-commerce platforms before making a buying decision.
  • Allows you to see both gross and net profit on items you’re scanning. Scoutify will show you the gross profit of an item based on shipping fees and FBA costs deducted by Amazon. You can then enter more information about your cost of goods and other costs associated with prepping, packing, and sales tax, giving you your net profit. Again, the more information like this you can see up front, the better sourcing decisions you can make while out doing retail arbitrage.
  • Photo Apr 06, 4 10 05 PMAllows you to create a buy list with your buy cost for each item, supplier (if you have more than one person sourcing for your business), and date purchased. You can then use this information in Inventory Lab to keep track of how quickly items sell, how much commission to pay your sourcers, how much wiggle room you have for repricing and still maintaining a sufficient return on investment.
  • Comes priced in a package with Inventory Lab listing software. We’ll talk more in a future blog post about why we use Inventory Lab to list our products for sale on Amazon. We really love the fact that Scoutify and Inventory Lab come together for one package price of $49/month. When you sign up for Inventory Lab you can get your first month free.
  • Available for iPhone and Android. You can download the Scoutify app for free for both iPhone and Android smart phone platforms, but you will need to log in to use it with your Inventory Lab account info.
  • Has bluetooth capabilities if you use your smart phone with a device like a Scanfob. We don’t use this feature, but we know some Amazon sellers swear by using bluetooth scanners.
  • Super fast bar-code scanning. Out of all the sourcing apps I’ve used, Scoutify scans the barcode the fastest. We all know every second counts and this one is a big deal to me.

Profit Bandit AppOur second favorite sourcing app is Profit Bandit.

We love using Profit Bandit for many of the same reasons we love Scoutify:

  • Links to CamelCamelCamel, Keepa, eBay, Google, etc
  • Shows all FBA offers
  • Highlights who has the BuyBox and highlights Amazon’s offer
  • Calculates your profit based on 15 factors
  • Has a buy list feature
  • Has bluetooth capabilities

Profit Bandit is powered by SellerEngine. You can download the Profit Bandit app for free for iPhone or Android, but to use the app for more than 5 or 10 test scans you will need to sign up for a subscription of $10/month. The main reason we switched from using Profit Bandit on a regular basis is the fact that Scoutify and Inventory Lab come together as a package for $49/month. We like the fact that we can get our scanning app and listing software for one package price.

A big part of scaling an Amazon FBA business is the ability to reduce the number of times you touch your inventory and to reduce the amount of time you spend on each item while sourcing. Every second counts when you’re standing in an aisle of a retail store with hundreds of items to scan. We love how quick and easy Scoutify and Profit Bandit are to use for doing solid research before buying inventory.

What is your favorite app to use while you’re sourcing? What makes it your favorite? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below.

Overcoming Your Fear of Going Deep on Inventory Items

Going Deep“Should I go deep on this item?”
“How deep should I go on this item?”
“What does it mean to ‘go deep’ on an item?”

These are all questions we get on a regular basis, whether in blog comments, in Facebook groups, or on Periscope. One of the universal fears of being an online seller is going too deep on an item and having it bust.

If you were to summarize the risk involved with being an Amazon FBA seller in a nutshell, it would come down to this: knowing how much money to invest in which items.

I have some good news and bad news about the fear we’re covering today in our blog series. Which news do you want first? Never mind, let’s get the bad news out of the way first…

We can’t make a perfect decision every time. We all make mistakes. And sometimes we learn best through trial and error. Even when it comes to deciding how deep to go on an item.

risk_reductionThe good news is really great news, though. We have the ability to refine your decision-making process and reduce the risk of going deeper than we should. Notice I said reduce, not eliminate. There will always be variables out of our control and ways that we can’t predict future sales. But if we focus on the factors we do know and we can control, then we can increase the likelihood of making profitable decisions concerning how much inventory to buy.

As we’re handling our fear today of going deep on inventory items, here’s a set of questions to ask ourselves in the buying process:

#1 How much capital do I have to invest?

CDKVGS1WIAERLcvThis first question may seem too basic, but you would be surprised how many people don’t know their numbers in their business. It’s impossible, however, to make solid buying decisions if you aren’t aware of 1) how much money you have available to invest and 2) how much you have tied up already in inventory. Once you know those numbers, you can look at the buy cost of the item you’re considering and come up with a good idea of how much money you’re willing to tie up in this new inventory.

Also, look at the percentage of your inventory that will be tied up in this investment. Even if something looks to be a sure deal, it’s super risky to have too great a percentage of your total inventory tied up in one product.

#2 What is the sales rank of the item on Amazon? Better questions: What is the sales rank history? What is the current sales velocity?

salesrank-camelchart-locale-usasin-b0011457neforce-1zero-0w-725h-440legend-1ilt-1tp-allfo-0lang-en2014-12-0903_37_29Yes, look at the rank of the item and where it falls in the top-selling items in its Amazon category, absolutely. But you have to do your due diligence to follow through and see if today’s sales rank is a fluke (i.e. a spike from a recent sale in an otherwise slow-selling item) or if it’s the typical rank. Check out the item on camelcamelcamel.com and keepa.com to see how it usually fares compared to today’s rank.

Another important factor to consider is the time of year that you’ll be selling this item. Sales velocity during Q4 can make a 100,000-ranked toy a different bet than in, say, July. If you buy deep in this item now, will you be able to sell it quickly? Or will you need to be patient to sell out over a longer period of time?

#3 How many sellers are on this item?

competitionYou need to know and consider your competition. Looking at the number of sellers and the sales velocity, how likely is it that you will lose profit margin on this item if other sellers drop their prices and you try to stay competitive? Along with the number of sellers, you should also consider how much your competition has in stock (see this blog post to learn how to see your competition’s amount of stock).

For example, a while back we had an item that we were selling and replenishing at a regular pace for several weeks, and suddenly we had an opportunity to buy it in a greater quantity at a lower price. At first this seemed like a great opportunity for us, but after a few calculations based on the number of items we’d been selling per day and the amount of competitors’ stock at the same price, we decided against making a larger purchase. The trend we saw in the numbers indicated that the price was going down faster than our sales would be able to keep up. We sold out of the item a couple of weeks later, and when I checked on this item today it was priced 30% lower than when we were selling it. We made the right decision.

#4 What is the buy cost of the item and the expected sale price?

Will it cost $5 to buy one of this item? $20? $50? $100? Let’s say the ROI is equal, 100% for all these items. If I buy 20 of an item at $5, it takes the same amount of financial investment as buying 1 of a $100 item. The higher my buy cost, the fewer number of items I’ll be able to buy — and the more risk involved in selling that one item if the selling price falls out from underneath me. Now, there is less time and fewer resources invested in prepping and shipping 1 item than in 20, so that’s a consideration also.

I’m not trying to say that you should only buy $5 items or only buy $100 items. I’m saying you should consider all these factors, and that “going deep” can mean only 1 item if it’s a $100 item.

#5 What is my source for this item?

targetstoreIs this a retail or online source at full price that anybody and everybody can find? Will other people be able to stack coupons, cash back, or other discounts to get a better ROI than me, meaning it’s possible that I might have to sacrifice profit margin to stay competitively priced?

Or is this a clearance or discontinued item at a unique location that other people can’t find? If so, it’s less likely that my competition will increase, and I have a better shot at selling at the price I want. Also, I can consider whether this is an item I can buy a few of (whether that’s 1, 2, 5, or 10 depends on your answers to all of the above questions and more) to test out and come back for more if needed. Here you’ll need to consider the distance you’ll have to travel to pick up the items on a return trip, or whether it will sell out at that location before you have time to test.

When it comes down to it, there’s no tried-and-true formula to guarantee that you’ll always know exactly how deep to go on any one particular item of inventory. We all have stories about “the one that got away” (the item we wish we’d gone deeper on, but now we can’t find it again), as well as stories of items that we wouldn’t touch again with a 10-foot pole. Hindsight is 20/20. But we can make smart sourcing decisions if we ask ourselves the right questions.

Are we leaving out any factors that you consider before going deep on an item? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear your input!

Overcoming Your Fear of Selling Oversize or Add-on Items

Raise your hand if this has happened to you before (don’t worry, none of us can see you sitting there at your computer).

You’re out doing some sourcing, and you scan an item with your Amazon Seller app. The rank is good, and the return on investment (ROI) is decent. You buy the item (or even multiples of the item), bring home your find, and start to list and pack your next shipment. But when you list the item, it’s assigned to a separate fulfillment center from the rest of your shipment. You double check, and sure enough — that great item turns out to be oversized. There goes your ROI, you think to yourself. All the profits will be eaten up in shipping and fees.

Or this…

add-on-1-haznYou find a smaller sized item that you can buy for next to nothing. You’ve got access to a large number of these items, so it would be possible to make profits off this item over and over again. There’s just one liiiiiittle problem, when you look a bit closer at the Amazon product page:  The lowest offer is for $9.49, and the item is an add-on (meaning it cannot be purchased separately, but must be included in a total order of $25 or more shipped from Amazon). Will the item really sell? Is it worth it to invest in a product that is an Amazon add-on item?

Today’s installment of our blog series “Overcoming Your Amazon FBA Fears” will cover these two situations and their implications: selling oversize and add-on items. If handled incorrectly, these big or small items can cause problems for your shipments or lower your ROI. But if given the correct forethought, these types of items can mean big profits for your FBA business.

Let’s dive right in and address these fears!

1197095556709556181Leomarc_caution_overload.svg.hiFear of Selling Oversize Items: I’m afraid that selling oversize items will eat into my profits — the FBA fees are too high, and the shipping costs can be outrageous.

Truth: There are huge profits to be made in selling oversize items! If you’re doing the right research and handling your shipments correctly, you can minimize your fees and shipping costs and make a ton of money back on your investment. Even better, because a lot of inexperienced sellers have this same fear, your competition will be reduced, and you’ll get more sales for taking the time to learn how to best handle oversize items.

We love to sell oversize items. This year alone we’ve sold dozens of a particular oversize item that we purchased for $3-$7 a piece, and we’re selling it for $40-$50. We end up averaging $20-$28 of profit per item — and who doesn’t like that kind of ROI?

mmIcDKXuAPVMZ4_wCJEaEnQWe’ve also sold two of an item that measures 21″L x 44″W x 28″H. It required some extra work and about an hour of time apiece to make boxes big enough to ship them to Amazon, but we sold them quickly and made $450 profit from the two of them. That is $450 in our pockets after we took out our cost for buying the items, the Amazon fees, and the cost of shipping them to FBA. You tell me — is $450 profit worth that two hours of time? For us, the answer was yes.

So how do you make sure you’re getting big profits out of these big oversize items? The key is making sure you’re being strategic at two points in your process: when you’re scanning and when you’re putting your shipment together.

Profit Bandit AppFor scanning, you must make sure you’re not depending on the Amazon Seller app for finding oversize items. The free Amazon Seller app does not tell you if an item is oversize; nor can you tell from just looking at the product page. But if you’re using a third party scanning app like Profit Bandit, Scoutify, or ScanPower, you will see a note stating the item is oversize and you will see the extra FBA fees included in the profit calculations. Just like with any other item in these apps, you can see right away if you will be able to get a good ROI. No need to fear!

When you’re putting your shipment together, the best way to reduce your shipping costs is to ship multiple oversize items at one time. Shipping one oversize item individually can be a big drain on your profits because that item will be sent to a separate fulfillment center. Shipping several oversize items together gives you a better overall shipping rate and spreads the cost across several items. If we’re putting together a shipment that only has one oversize item, we leave that item off the shipment and hold it until we’ve got a few more to send in. Since we love sourcing oversize products, it usually doesn’t take us very long to find more oversize items to add to the next shipment.

Fear of Selling Add-on Items: I’m afraid add-on items won’t sell. I’m afraid they won’t bring me enough profits to make it worth the investment.

add-on-itemTruth: Honestly, we agree that the profits don’t make it worth the investment to sell add-ons. We don’t intentionally buy items to sell as add-ons, but only sell items this way when another seller drops the price below $10 and we have no choice in it becoming an add-on. In this situation, we just make the best of things and do what we can to sell our items.

There is a way, however, to make big money off small items: sell them as multi-packs or as bundles. We found a grocery item at a liquidation store that was small, light weight, and inexpensive — all the criteria of add-on items. We created a 12-pack of it and sold dozens (this was before Amazon decided that only the manufacturer is allowed to create multi-packs). Since creating a multi-pack listing is no longer an option, you can instead search on Amazon for one that has already been created. Take a few extra seconds to enter the text title of your item into the search field instead of scanning the bar code UPC — you may find that a profitable multi-pack already exists, just under a different UPC. Be sure to include out of stock items in your search so as not to miss those.

If a multi-pack is not an option, then creating bundles might be your answer. Creating bundles takes a little more time and some creativity, but the payoff can be huge. If you’re hesitant about creating a listing for a bundle, be sure to check the blog for an upcoming post on Overcoming Your Fear of Creating Listings.

Today we want to challenge you to do some sourcing outside your normal comfort zone. If you’re sourcing today, try to look at the bigger items or smaller items that you normally skip. See if you can find a profitable multi-pack or an oversize item with oversized ROI. Let us know in the comments what you find!