Buying wholesale merchandise to sell on Amazon can bring in high profits, but it can also lead to some disappointing margins. If wholesale sourcing gives you the heebie jeebies, rest assured: the Insider presents your no-nonsense, zero-angst survival guide to navigating the muddy marketplace waters!
New to wholesale product sourcing for reselling on Amazon? Well, it’s easy to be intimidated by talking to other vendors. Truth be told, you may be disappointed by lower margins at first. If you’re coming from a retail arbitrage or thrifting background, it can take a while to adjust to sourcing wholesale to sell on Amazon. The biggest reason many retail or online arbitrage enthusiasts struggle in wholesale sourcing is that the wholesale process takes longer and is more labor-intensive at the beginning of the process.
Believe it or not, there are many companies that offer products with 100% or more ROI after Amazon fees. Here’s how you can overcome your fear and master the art of selling wholesale merchandise on Amazon Marketplace!
Get Started With Vendors, and Stay Savvy
For those of you just getting started in wholesale, make sure you keep in mind these few simple tricks for finding the best products to fit your niche and your budget. We’ve found the best success by partnering with newer brands. There are still plenty of opportunities with established brands, however, depending on your business model.
Looking for on-trend, high-margin wholesale products for your Amazon shop? Get your free ticket here to ASD Market Week here.
For those of you who are new to wholesale, we recommend you start off at least $500 – $1000 in working capital. Wholesale accounts are usually a bigger investment as opposed to other avenues. Items usually come case-packed and with minimum orders. Typically smaller companies = smaller minimums (but not always). Instead of asking, “What is the least amount I can order?” I recommend phrasing it like this: “What does your minimum opening order look like?”
Vendors work with all kinds of different accounts. Don’t start off by thinking you’re too small to visit the larger companies, or even too big to approach some of the smaller vendors. It’s always good to remember — especially with smaller vendors — that they could have a lot of personal money riding on the success of their product.
If a vendor is hesitant about you selling on Amazon, you can alleviate their fears by telling them you comply with MAP (minimum advertised pricing), thereby helping them to enhance their Amazon listing — or by offering to run Amazon Sponsored Product ads to help increase your sales velocity and brand awareness for their product.
The other question we get asked frequently is: should you tell the vendor that you are going to sell on Amazon? Yes, honesty really is the best policy! We also feel like if a vendor asks where you sell, that means they probably care, so be always truthful when working with vendors.
Trade shows are the quickest way to get line/price sheets, they create an automatic level of credibility, and they’re a great chance to build relationships with manufacturers. Oh, and by the way: many vendors offer free shipping at the show!
Every business owner knows how unpredictable (read: costly) the shipping portion of our business can be. Before you start running the numbers on any potential wholesale line, make sure you ask the vendor how the company ships and, if possible, get an estimate of the cost up front. You should also double check where will the items be shipping from — the farther the shipment has to travel, the greater the shipping cost will be (and the longer it’ll take to get there!).
Sometimes it feels like the wholesale marketplace uses its own language. Don’t sweat it. The terms may be hard to understand, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be conversing like a pro. Here are some of the shipping terms we use to determine who pays for what:
- FFA = Free Freight Allowance (ahem, this means free shipping!).
- FOB = Free on Board or Freight on Board. This determines who is responsible for shipping. In general, FOB means you will pay the shipping.
- FOB (+City Name) means the items will be shipped from a particular city.
- A commercial shipping address can help in getting approved for wholesale vendors. You may find that in some categories this will be more important than others. For example, there are many grocery distributors that will only open accounts to businesses with a commercial address.
- If you don’t have access to a commercial address, start with smaller companies and smaller orders so your items are shipped via Fedex or UPS — not freight.
- If a company wants to ship to you via freight (i.e., a pallet of items), make sure you know the extra costs to ship to a residential address. Also, find out what the extra cost for lift gate service is if you don’t have access to a forklift or dock.
(Psst: Check out some more need-to-know Wholesale Vocabulary here!)
Attend a Trade Show
If you’re looking to start sourcing wholesale, you don’t have to attend a trade show. But if you’re in it for the long haul, trade shows like ASD Market Week are indispensable. In my experience, trade shows are the quickest way to get line/price sheets, they create an automatic level of credibility, and they’re a great chance to build relationships with manufacturers.
Oh, and by the way: many vendors offer free shipping at the show!
A general show like ASD is an excellent opportunity to talk to vendors in many specialties. Of course, it’s a show best experienced live: each year there is a wide variety of vendors in attendance, and it’s the perfect place to network with other e-commerce sellers.
ASD’s educational track for internet merchants ensures your travel dollar goes much farther: you’ll learn tips to broaden your social media skills, communicate with a wider audience, and thus grow your client base and your business. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Just for fun, here’s our packing list of items to bring to ASD Market Week:
- Lots of business cards
- Cross-body purses and RFID-blocking wallets (that means radio-frequency identification!)
- Cheat Sheets of questions to ask vendors (until you have practice)
- Mini stapler
- Comfortable shoes
- Rolling bag (not allowed at all shows)
- Expandable duffel bag to make sure you have room to bring home all the catalogs
- Fujitsu ScanSnap and X-Acto knife to scan catalogs and price sheets to VAs
- Laptop or tablet for running numbers
And here are the questions we make sure we ask every vendor:
- Are there any show specials?
- How do you ship (UPS, Fedex, freight, etc.)?
- What is the minimum opening order? Minimum re-order?
- Is the product ready to ship?
- Are orders by the piece, case, or master carton?
- What is the shelf life (if perishable)?
If you’re a bit shy (we understand!), here are some other questions to get the conversation going:
- How long have they been in business?
- What are your best selling lines?
- What do you see on a typical re-order?
- What are you doing to market the product?
- Do you expect to be in specialty or big-box stores?
- What are your newest items to market?
- Do you have any overstock you’re looking to clearance out?
Check out our expert post, “Why Trade Shows Are the New Internet” to learn even more.
Remember, adjusting to the world of wholesale sourcing can be intimidating. Give yourself time to find the right deals for your business and to develop long-lasting, financially fruitful relationships.
Ready to build your Amazon business and find the right wholesale products to sell? Get your free ticket here to ASD Market Week in Las Vegas! ASD is a merchandise trade show and retail education conference in one, with free e-commerce and Amazon selling strategy sessions each day!
By Robyn Johnson
Robyn has been heralded as one of the country’s foremost leaders on the topic of selling and marketing products on Amazon. She is the author of the best-selling book, “The Unlikely Entrepreneur – How I Transformed $100 into a seven-figure business,” and is also on the Internet Merchants Association’s Board of Directors. Learn more about her expert coaching, courses, consulting and her popular podcast, “The Unstoppable Entrepreneur Show with Robyn Johnson,” at http://www.bestfromthenest.com/