Sourcing Product: 3 Places to Find Affordable Inventory for a Resale Business

Updated on March 7, 2019
TaggMartensen profile image

Tagg Martensen is a self-employed entrepreneur. He specializes in non-web based business opportunities such as retail and services.

I want to sell. But where do I get the stuff to sell?

This is one of the biggest challenges facing would-be sellers. You can't sell products if you have no products to sell.

AliExpress and AliBaba are two of the most common online sources for products to sell these days. But they can be a bit daunting. For AliBaba, a lack of familiarity with shipping protocol can lead to a financial disaster. You can easily end up in a situation where your order ends up costing significantly more than you anticipated because you failed to get the appropriate information squared away before the supplier ships.

AliExpress takes the guess work out of it all and makes for a transaction not unlike buying products from Amazon. This comes at another cost; lack of variety and bulk pricing. While AE has some bulk pricing discounts you lose the negotiating power as you're dealing with canned ads rather than custom products.

Before I ever made a single online purchase, I sourced my products locally. Here are three possible sources to help you start your business.

1. Craigslist

There are entire websites dedicated to the art of Craigslist Arbitrage, that is, buying stuff on Craigslist low and selling it high. Whether you ultimately sell on Craigslist is the topic of another article. Today, we're focusing on where to get cheap products to turn around and sell for a profit. You might end up selling online or locally in the end.

The Craigslist free section is one of the best places to look first. I have picked up numerous items, often from departing college students, for free and been able to sell them again after holding them for as little as two weeks.

My first free acquisition was an end table. It was in solid condition with a glass top. The problem was that the wood veneer was scratched and dated. I scuffed it up with some sandpaper, spraypainted it black and sold it later that week for $20. Not bad for a free table, about $2 worth of paint and 15 minutes worth of restoration work.

The major disadvantage to the free items is that they will almost certainly need a good cleaning and may need a touchup before any customer will ever consider them.

For sale items can also be a great resource. Just beware that there are resellers out there trying to make a profit as well. You don't want to buy an already marked up item. I find that the best deals are often estate sales or moving sales where someone needs to dump a lot of things very quickly.

Some of the items that sell very quickly include:

  • Tools
  • Appliances
  • Auto Parts
  • Clothes, especially for babies or children
  • Toys

It should go without saying that these items should be in the best possible condition. You should be aware of what the item sells for brand new and have an idea of how you'll price it. In the case of tools and appliances, you should also ensure that they are in working order before taking them unless you are confident you can fix anything wrong with the item cheaply and easily.

I recently bought a whole suite of tools from a man who was moving out of state to retire. Because he was moving into a condo, he had to downsize his entire workshop. I went to buy a band saw and a drill press at a steep discount. He ended up practically giving away a table saw (I already had one!), a scroll saw and a belt sander. I walked out of there paying about $20 for each of the additional tools. I was able to sell the table saw for $80, the scroll saw for $50 and the belt sander for $40.

I spent $60 and ended up bringing back $170. That $110 not only paid for the drill press and the band saw I bought for myself, as well as the gas to get there, but allowed me to turn a profit as I purchased items. That's a grand slam.

2. Flea Markets

Flea markets and swap meets are a great place to unload product if well trafficked. For certain items, you can't beat the margins you'll get when selling face to face. The lack of shipping expenses just sweetens the deal.

But flea markets can also be a great place to buy product. Many resellers, particularly at flea markets with low barriers to entry for vendors (i.e. cheap rental, no wait list etc) simply don't know or care about the true value of the items they have in their inventory. This is good news for you.

The vendors I like to identify are the ones I call the "junk man." Now, this is no reflection on the individual. I simply say this because the vendor is often selling, well, junk. He (it's almost always a man) has tons of stuff, it's dirty and not staged well. Prices are often made up on the spot. Items were likely salvaged from dumpsters and curbs and are being sold to you for whatever he can get for them.

As noted above, tools can be a great product though some of them may require some light maintenance or restoration.

The last time I went to the junk man at my local flea market, he sold me three World War II helmets for $5 each. As I was walking to my car, a vendor who specialized in military memorabilia and antiques saw me carrying the helmets, stopped me and asked if I'd sell him the helmets! He offered me $15 each and wanted to sell them for $25 each at his own booth. I made a profit just because I saw the item first.

Not every flea market purchase will be such an easy day but it's good to know what the local market can handle in terms of sales. One vendor has been selling glassware for over three years. He has a dark blue candy dish that caught my eye the first time I saw him three years ago. It's still there. Meanwhile, the military surplus and collectibles vendor seems to have new stock every week. That tells me that the military inventory sells and, judging by his smile, sells very well.

The things I often look for at flea markets include:

  • Tools
  • Toys
  • Militaria
  • Electronics (especially vintage record players)

3. Bulletin Boards and Thrift Shops

Thrift shops are great because people just dump stuff there without thinking. And the thrift shops aren't in the business of picking through for quality antiques. Items get priced and put up for sale.

Your best bet is to regularly visit these places so you know the sort of stock they tend to carry. Some are very clothing heavy. Others are furniture and appliance heavy. Know your stores! You should also keep an eye out for sales. Because thrift stores are dumping grounds for many people, these stores will often hold big sales just to clear floor space to take on new inventory. This can mean picking up items very cheaply.

High quality graphic T-shirts are a common purchase at thrift stores for me.

I recently discovered bulletin boards. You see them at the grocery store. Sometimes antique stores or thrift stores have them too. People are often selling some pretty impressive things that you can get at a steep discount if you can show up with cash in hand.

Bulletin boards can also be a great source for upcoming estate sales and yard sales so you can get in early.

Be on the look out for these items for the best deals:

Tools (Often non-power, hand tools)

  • Graphic T-Shirts
  • Suits
  • Purses
  • Small kitchen appliances (blenders, toasters, toaster ovens et al)

Happy hunting

These are just some places to get you started. I've also had great success at book sales (bring a book sale app and check prices before you buy anything!), auction houses and store closures. I bought shelving from a closing Bon Ton that I was able to turn around and sell that same week to a local business for nearly five times the price. And the business owner who bought it was thrilled at the great deal that they got from me!

Your true success will come when you begin developing an eye for a deal. As you develop that sense you'll start to find deals everywhere you go.

As with any product you sell, you should keep a close eye on your expenses. Factor in both money spent in acquiring and delivering the product to the marketplace as well as the cost of your time in making these acquisitions. Tracking your expenses will help you determine the best price to ensure a quick sale and profitable margins.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Tagg Martensen

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • bhattuc profile image

        Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

        7 weeks ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

        Useful article for resellers.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://toughnickel.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)