ebay product sourcing

eBay Product Sourcing & Selling Mindset

Neil Shapiro
September 11, 2019

For many of us, eBay product sourcing starts by looking around the house for things we will never wear or use and decide to sell them on eBay. The realization of making extra money is fun. Nothing sounds better when the cash register ringtone notification goes off on your phone letting you know you made another sale.  

After you run out of stuff to sell around the house, the question arises, “How do I find items that actually increase my profit?” Unfortunately, too many people act on impulse and end up buying items that they think will make a profit. In the long run, this mindset is how you wind up losing money.


So how do you develop the mindset to be a successful seller on eBay?  

First, you need to realize that it takes patience and time. You need both in order to do your research and figure out if an item is even worth selling. Then, you need to put in the effort in sourcing, listing and waiting for your items to sell, which will take time.  

Start looking at the stuff in your life that you like to collect, wear, or simply interests you and your friends. Remember that eBay is a global marketplace so what can be popular and easy to purchase locally might not be easy to buy everywhere else in the world. Understanding current trends can create opportunities to grow your business.

The Selling Mindset

As a long time eBay seller and a digital marketing analyst, catching a trend can be profitable. From about 2009 - 2014, Starbucks Global Icon Collector Series Coffee Mugs were very popular and were considered collectibles (just google them!). From time to time I find them in thrift stores and I still sell them for a profit to collectors worldwide.  

I read an article about how popular they were and simply decided to test it out. I purchased two New York City Mugs, listed them on eBay. In two days they were sold!

They were shipped to cities outside the United States and I quickly made a nice profit. However, there were times I could not source them quickly enough. Eventually, the eBay marketplace for Starbucks Mug became oversaturated and that trend came to an end.

From years of experiencing sourcing products to sell, here’s what I’m happy to share with other eBay sellers

  • Become your own marketing researcher, while you are sourcing.  
  • Use the tools that eBay has.  
  • Always ask yourself this question, “Can I make a profit if I acquire this item?”  
  • Research completed items and sold items from the eBay mobile app or on the desktop.  
  • Look at the product you are considering to purchase for resale and check how many of it already for sale as “Buy it Now”. Make sure to check the price range. Are they also listed for auctions? What’s the highest bid price? Look at your acquisition price and based on the information you acquire, you’ll have a better idea of whether or not you’ll be able to sell this product for a profit.

Now, let’s say you’ve done all the research and you decide to acquire the item. Let's say it was a "good deal" and your cost is practically nothing. Then, you can ask yourself if you’re willing to gamble a little in order to increase your profit and sell your item quickly.   

In my experience, auctions do work! Remember, buyers tend to search for the lowest price first and auctions usually appear at the top of the search results because they usually start at a very low price. For example, if I purchase a pair of running shoes with a known brand name for a very low cost, I check its current price range and the price for a pair that has sold. Doing this research validates my logic to list the shoes at auction or buy it now.  

My auctions run for 10 days because listings do take time to gain traction in eBay search. I start all my auctions at 99 cents.  A pair of running shoes I paid $5 for sold at auction for $60! Here is a real example of taking a small gamble for a larger profit.  

10-day auctions do cost extra but I recommend them because once you list an item it of can take at least 7 days before it gains traction visibility in eBay search.

The Sourcing Mindset - eBay Product Sourcing

How do you find great stuff to sell on eBay?  The word that comes to mind is patience.  From experience (and I’m sure many sourcers out there will agree with me), there are going to be days you find great items and there are days where you come home with nothing.  

Start with the fact that garage sales and tag sales, but keep in mind that they are seasonal. There are sources online that will notify you of local sales and auctions  Two are GarageSaleFinder.com and EstateSales.org. For some reason, my local sales usually involve glassware (I’m located in Islip, New York).

Unfortunately for me, there is already too much of it on eBay and so there isn’t a lot of profit to be made from it. Next year, I plan to deploy more patience when it comes to local sourcing by researching what other types of collectibles that are popular.  

My eBay product sourcing success starts with thrift stores. Depending on where you live and the organizations running the store quality of merchandise will vary. Remember, when you purchase at a thrift store, you’re also supporting an organization that helps your local community.  

man product sourcing at a thrift store

Here’s my tip to sourcing success when it comes to thrift stores - know which are the best days to go and their discount program in order to improve your profit margins.

If a thrift store that has a discount card or club membership, signup the first time you are there. Any time you can get a discount it will improve your profit margin.  In simple terms, you buy a shirt for $10 and you know you can sell it for $25. That means you stand to make $15. Now you go to the thrift store on a members only sale day and all clothing is 50% off.  That same shirt is now $5 and you can make $20.

When you are in the stores, try to get to know the employees. Nicely ask them when the best days of the week are to come in. The consensus is that the weekends are the best time.  The reason for that is due to the fact that during the week, the items are being processed and pricing actually takes place with the goal of getting everything out to the sales floor by the weekend.  

Now some of the larger thrift stores, which are managed by large corporate organizations run sales around holidays. Usually, there will be a members-only sale on one day and only the next day this sale is available for the general public. The smart strategy is to get to the store on a members-only sale when it opens because that will give you the best chance of finding great items.  

Let's say you cannot make the sale because of your schedule. One of the larger thrift store organizations awards you a discount of 20% when you spend over $100.  What I will do is save those discounts for when I cannot make a members-only sale. The majority of those sales occur on the weekends. What I do, is go to the store on a Friday because I know by Friday the racks and shelves are usually full and I use my 20% discount then!  

In 2017 Gary Vaynerchuk posted a video that went viral showing the world how they could make extra on eBay and he started with what became the 2017 Flip Challenge contest. It is still popular and effective now!

When I see someone with a cart full of stuff and they are doing their marketing research on their smartphone, I still approach them with a smile and ask, "Do you follow Gary Vaynerchuk?" 

A few times I have had people come up to me with carts full of items because they have noticed me on my iPhone doing research. The difference is I know what I am looking to acquire. I am checking to see if the item is worth purchasing for a quick flip.

One time, I spent an hour with someone showing him how to do the research the correct way. Additionally, there were items he thought he could make money on but after a careful examination, they were damaged. I ended up saving him about $100 that day!

Remember to always check your items before you purchase them! In regards to clothes, always check for rips, holes, and stains. For shoes, check the inside and the soles. Collectibles items should never have any chips and cracks.  

To be a successful seller on eBay, you have to deploy time, patience and sometimes take risks for higher profits. eBay always gives you the tools, all you have to do is put in the hard work and of course, don’t forget to have fun doing it!

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