We’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:
1. 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.
2. 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?!
3. 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.
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.
Stacy Covitz says
Always always such great information Stephen!! Thank you. 🙂
John E Middleton says
Hi Stephen, new subscriber, long time seller of yard sale items on FBA and eBay. Side job sort of stuff. I want to ramp it up now, and I’ve never even considered RA. Is there a nuts and bolts 101 on starting RA? Thank you for your help!
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” That’s the second time this week I have seen that quote. The universe must be trying to tell me something. 🙂 I often fall prey to getting discouraged from looking at those “look at my big haul” pictures on Facebook. I try to stay off of Facebook for that very reason. I only skim it once or twice a day to see if someone has posted a question or answer that is helpful to me, or to post something helpful myself. All of this reminds me of one of the kids I heard this year talking about competing in the national spelling bee. Someone asked them how they dealt with competing with other great spellers. The kid said, “I’m not competing against other people. My only competitor is the dictionary.” 🙂 So thanks for the encouragement that we are only competing with our own goals. I appreciate your positive attitude in your posts and emails.
This made me think of one more tip: “Don’t write off a certain source just because there’s nothing worth buying today.” I’ve had Walmart or Staples runs that turned up nothing within my parameters, and others, sometimes just a few days later, or at a different location, with plenty of inventory to buy.
Especially when you’re getting started, I think there’s a real urgency to get some workable inventory into Amazon. Patience and persistence definitely pay off in better parameters and quicker selling items!
Thanks again for a great post, Stephen! I am always encouraged by your level-headed perspective on this business.
I find Staples not to have the best inventory vs. time spent.
I literally just had this exact conversation with Hubby like 15 minutes ago! When your sourcing time is so precious, you find yourself wanting to buy more so it’s “worth your time”… Thanks for the pep talk! Needed it today.