what to sell on ebay

What to Sell on eBay (and How COVID-19 has Changed Shoppers’ Priorities)

Danna Crawford
April 14, 2020

Until a few weeks ago, 2020 was on track to be a prosperous year for eBay sellers. After all, online sales overall continue to grow steadily year over year, and last year’s increase was the largest since this statistic began to be tracked in 2000: a total spend of $601.75 billion in 2019, almost 15% more than in 2018. Furthermore, eCommerce’s share of total retail sales worldwide has nearly tripled over the past decade, jumping to 16% in 2019.

Following a somewhat lackluster holiday selling season, the first quarter of 2020 began on a promising note. In fact, the top-selling items on eBay in the Business & Industrial category are eBay-branded shipping supplies, which says something about (1) how popular these have become with sellers; and (2) how many packages sellers are shipping nowadays.

what to sell on ebay

As for other major categories, electronic devices and their accessories continue to be the best selling items on eBay. In fact, together they comprise 16.4% of all items sold on eBay, with smartphones and smartphone accessories topping the list. 

Smartphone adoption continues to rise worldwide, thus driving this trend, but the market for smartphone accessories is actually bigger than the market for the phones themselves.

smartphone selling on ebay statistic

What does that mean for my business? What should I sell on eBay?

Here’s what you need to know. Smartphone covers and cases continue to be in demand, but that market is saturated and ultra-competitive, with razor-thin margins. 

Try these instead:

  • Wireless phone chargers
  • Smartphone camera lenses
  • Car phone holders
  • Bluetooth and wi-fi speakers
  • Wireless headphones

That last item segues us into apparel via wearable tech. Sparked by the popularity of Fitbits and Apple smartwatches, the global wearables market shows an impressive year-over-year growth rate of 7.3%. 

The devices themselves are costly, but they too require accessories. Think: 

  • Watchbands
  • Cases
  • Cleaners 
  • Cables and chargers
  • Docking stations 

Smaller sellers should keep in mind that electronic devices don’t have to be the latest and greatest in order to sell. Liquidation goods such as those sold through BULQ and other sources may include last year’s versions, which are still very saleable. Some older items are in demand, too; even seemingly obsolete technology, such as VCRs, still sells on eBay! 

Speaking of apparel, what are the best things to sell on eBay in Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories? One word: Athleisure. That’s activewear designed to be worn every day instead of only to the gym or yoga studio, including:

  • Leggings
  • Sweatpants
  • Sports bras
  • T-shirts
  • Sneakers
Athleisure is the best thing to sell on ebay

Both new and pre-owned brand-name clothing also sells reliably at price points ranging from bargain basement to designer and couture. What sells best depends to some extent on current fashion trends, but certain brands — including Levi’s, Coach, Old Navy, Converse, and Nike — are perennially popular. According to eBay, new Converse Chuck Taylor All Star lowtop sneakers (for men or women) are currently the #1 bestseller.

Major brands tend to dominate the market, of course, but some smaller brands may be even more sought after, with discontinued styles often selling for more than their original retail price. LuLaRoe’s “unicorns” (rare, limited edition legging designs) are one such product; quirky, handpainted Blue Fish clothing is another.

Hard-to-find plus and petite sizes in almost any brand sell well, as do very large, small, wide, or narrow shoe sizes. Lots of gently worn infant and toddler apparel are also top sellers on eBay.

One surprising eBay bestseller: novelty socks. They’re inexpensive, easily found in a size that fits, and make great gifts. Hitting biggest in 2020 are socks featuring photos of people or their pets.   

Moving on to Health & Wellness, look for these trendy beauty products:

  • Anything made with coconut oil (healthy) or charcoal (detoxifying)
  • Male hygiene items, such as beard oil, mustache wax, “manscaping” tools, and “dude wipes”

Because such items need to be purchased regularly, there’s huge potential for return customers.

Certain items for smaller consumers are also eBay bestsellers:

  • Baby monitors
  • Forward-facing baby carriers
  • Baby nail trimmers

Most Americans consider pets to be members of the family, so it’s no surprise to find trending products for dogs and cats: 

  • De-shedding gloves
  • Inflatable collars (replacing the uncomfortable Cone of Shame)
  • Wall-mounted cat massage combs
  • GPS pet trackers

Green and sustainable products are trending stronger than ever as well. Think:

  • Bamboo toothbrushes (biodegradable and better for your teeth)
  • Reusable shopping bags

Getting back to sexy tech products, virtual and augmented reality are coming of age in a big way. Keep an eye on toy and gaming categories in particular for new eBay bestsellers utilizing VR and AR.

The market for drones is also growing as they morph from military mission facilitator to consumer hobby and business tool. Watch for:

  • Auto-follow drones
  • Underwater drones
  • Drone accessories 

Another item has likewise evolved from science fiction to affordable reality: 3D printing equipment. This formerly futuristic phenomenon has become an everyday reality, with 3D printers trending on eBay and starting at under $150. 

3d priting accessories are trending on ebay

This sums up Q1’s initial outlook for 2020’s top-selling items on eBay. 

Meanwhile, a global COVID-19 pandemic was brewing.. 

At first it was just a trickle of stories about a mysterious new virus. Next came ominous headlines: The new virus was potentially lethal and seemingly unstoppable, spreading rapidly to other countries. Then suddenly it was everywhere, with nation after nation — including our own — fighting to contain it.

Now, as Q1 draws to a close, people in much of Asia, most of the European Union, and the entire United States are at least to some degree in quarantine. The effect on brick-and-mortar businesses around the world has been catastrophic. Online businesses are faring somewhat better; eCommerce is even becoming a lifeline for those living under a shelter-in-place order. Given the current state of the market, the best selling items on eBay have changed almost overnight. 

best things to sell on ebay during coronavirus image of vitamins and over the counter medicine

For the most part, an unprecedented number of people are stuck at home. So what are the best things to sell on eBay right now? First of all, quarantined Americans need household essentials, including over-the-counter medications and vitamins. Remember: What’s available at your local pharmacy may be scarce or even unavailable in other parts of the country.

If you choose to list OTC medications or vitamins, be sure your listings are compliant with eBay’s Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs Policy.

Due to regulatory restrictions, however, certain items you might expect would be no-brainers right now have been banned from eBay, namely:

  • Health care masks, including N95/N100 and surgical masks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant wipes

Also banned is any listing (except books) that mentions COVID-19, coronavirus, or 2019nCoV in the title or description. Read the entire eBay announcement for details.

Another major no-no: Price gouging. eBay’s official policy states, in part:

  • Items that are considered essential must be offered at a reasonable price 
  • Inflating the price of goods in response to an emergency or disaster is not allowed 
  • eBay may restrict the sale of items that are susceptible to price gouging

Violating this policy will result in removal of the offending listing(s) as well as additional penalties up to and including account suspension. Again, read the entire policy for details. Finally, price gouging may also negatively affect customer loyalty and thus long term profits of eBay sellers.

Luckily, you can’t go wrong with many other items currently in higher-than-usual demand, such as educational and entertainment items for kids as well as adults. Parents are suddenly in need of homeschooling necessities, while families spending most of their time together desperately need activities that are fun for all ages!

family playing janga

Think jigsaw puzzles, board games, video games, and DVDs. Got a boxed set of a TV or movie series? Now is the time to list it. 

Don’t forget books, especially paperbacks. Try bundling them by series or genre for an even faster and/or higher sell-through rate. In addition to fiction and nonfiction, coloring books are available in children’s and adult versions. Consider listing the latter along with sets of markers or colored pencils to stand out in search results. Also for all ages: books of crossword puzzles and other brain teasers.  

Another popular pastime for coronavirus shut-ins is crafting. eBay has always been an excellent resource for crafters — especially for supplies you can’t readily find elsewhere, such as vintage sewing patterns and needlework kits of all kinds. Scrapbooking items are also eBay top sellers right now, because people have enough time on their hands to actually get around to showcasing their boxes of treasured photos.

Enlist your kids’ help: Have them save up items that would normally be considered household detritus, such as egg cartons, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, glass jars (carefully washed), plastic pill bottles (ditto), and wine corks, then list them as lots. The experience will be educational for them in many ways, as well as entertaining! 

By the way, this is also an ideal time to teach your children how to pack and ship. For example, even very young children can learn to pick out the right size box or envelope. 3M’s new Scotch Flex & Seal Shipping Roll in particular is ideal for shipping small to medium-size, non-fragile items, and it’s easy for little hands to master; even if you don’t yet trust them with scissors and have to cut it to size yourself, your child can fold a piece of Flex & Seal over the item and press around the edges to seal them.

So where can you go to easily figure out the top selling items on eBay?

eBay Store subscriptions include free access to Terapeak, a popular marketplace research tool. Another terrific place to research sold items, especially antiques and collectibles, is WorthPoint.com, which aggregates 10 years’ worth of eBay data. WorthPoint also offers a huge library of digitized reference materials along with an impressive database known as MAPS, which stands for Marks, Autographs, Patterns, & Symbols. This is a fantastic resource if you need to identify jewelry, tableware, signed items, etc. The site even boasts an image recognition feature.

But for up-to-the-minute info about the best selling items on eBay, there’s no substitute for going straight to the source: explore.ebay.com. There you can click on the appropriate tab to find out what’s Trending Now; learn What It’s Worth using eBay’s own appraisal tool; and see Best Sellers  — either Sold Items or Viewed Items — by category for the last seven days, yesterday, or in the last hour. 

best selling items on eBay on explore.ebay.com - screenshot

For example, from March 19-26, the top-selling item in the Lifestyle category was Fart Spray (yes, really! LOL). 

What’s even more impressive is the fact that explore.ebay.com lets you toggle to check out all of the above data by country, too: Choose from USA, Australia, Germany, or the UK.

For quarantined eBay sellers, now is the ideal time to comb through unlisted inventory — a.k.a. “death piles” — and get it listed, starting with items currently in high demand. In addition, many part-time eBay sellers who have been laid off or are on hiatus from their full-time jobs  seeking to ramp up their listings and expanding their business on eBay.

No one knows how long the coronavirus crisis will continue, but eBay entrepreneurs have made it through 9/11, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods. They will survive this storm, too. Meanwhile, sellers should keep a weather eye on what’s selling best on eBay!

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