Trash or Treasure?
Entrepreneurs constantly look for ideas, angles and opportunities. Online entrepreneurs are constantly looking for ideas about what to sell. This constant question “What do I sell” must be asked thousands of times a day in front of thousands of different computer screens.
What to sell today, what to sell at Christmas, what to sell next year? I am always looking at margins, leverage and time management. Does it make sense? Does it make sense for me? Most importantly…does it make money? And can I make it make more money? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what are the opportunity costs (time, space, what I could be doing instead?)
I have been scanning Craigslist for eBay and Amazon opportunities lately. Try typing in “eBay business for sale” or “inventory for sale” and you will find listings by folks who have run out of time or energy and have inventory they need to liquidate. You can do this nation-wide at adhuntr.com.
My husband recently found a listing on Craig’s List. A local man is selling his eBay business. Intrigued, I went to his warehouse to check out his inventory. He refurbishes computers and has contracts with schools, libraries and cities to get their old computers. This part of the business he is keeping–I have a feeling he does pretty well. Along with their old computers his gets thousands of media items from the schools and libraries. The media is mostly CDs, DVDs and audiobooks. The condition ranges from mildly used to completely trashed. This part of the business he is tired of–he has hired (and fired) people to manage the media selling and he is so busy with refurbishing the computers (and tired of turnover in his staff) that he wants to pass the media along.
He is trying to sell everything he has listed (3,000 items or so) and the ongoing supply of media for a large amount of money. It may be worth it—especially if the media items come regularly at no additional charge–but I am always careful. So after mulling it over for a while, I decided to offer him $500 for some of the inventory to see if it made sense for me. If I can make it make a reasonable amount of money and it doesn’t infringe on my other businesses, I might consider buying the business or buying the media on an ongoing basis.
I decided to buy one Gaylord of media (confession–I had no clue what a “gaylord” was until I saw one) and see how it goes. A gaylord is approximately 4 feet tall and 4 feet around. Without actually counting, I would guess there to be 2500 media items in my Gaylord. Wow! Not as exciting as you might think…many are damaged and broken. Exciting, nonetheless, because where else can you find that copy of the SIMS game you lost 3 years ago? My kids spent about 2 hours helping me unload the media into my office and do a basic “sort” between obvious trash and potential treasure.
I considered my options.
1.) Sell the items in bulk though liquidation.com or other avenues (eBay, Craigslist, etc.)
2.) Sell the items on Amazon FBA
3.) Sell the items on eBay
I decided to skip, for now, the option of selling in bulk. The most possible money is in selling it myself and I’ve done plenty of selling. The systems are in place and I have the staff and storage to handle it.
Initially, I was hoping to list the majority of items on Amazon FBA. FBA is great for media and I figured it would save me the storage space and the shipping and handling hassle. Once I got a good look at the media, I decided against FBA. The condition of the items is a bit rough…a lot of cracked cases, torn artwork and library markings. Amazon gives sellers the opportunity to list the condition of items–but my experience has been that buyers on Amazon expect new or like new items even when the condition problems are clearly marked. I am leary of sending hundreds of items up to FBA to end up with feedback issues.
I am instead going to have it listed on eBay. I decided to rewrite the description of my store and define ourselves as green, eco-friendly sellers saving media from the trash. I explain in our store description that most of our items are well-loved and priced accordingly. I also created a standard template explaining this again and asking buyers to contact us if the media does not work properly. If you would like to see an example of our listings, my eBay ID is intlpantry.
I explained clearly to my staff that we need to list the items quickly and accurately and price them to move. My staff will keep detailed records on how much time is spent on our new media project. I am listing only this media under this eBay ID so I can see sales and eBay costs clearly and subtract the time spent and the cost of the inventory to see if it makes sense.
We also came up with a basic strategy for storing the items so we can find them when they sell. We do not want to spend a lot of time searching for them once they sell. Not having listed this much similar product at one time, I looked online for ideas. I didn’t find any system that made sense, so we came up with our own and I think it will work well. We are putting a one letter code “A, B, C etc” at the end of the item title. Each listing session/person will use a different code. We will then store the items on the shelf under their own letter code. This will save us from putting stuff in categories or alphabetical order as we go. Each listing session will probably have, at most, 100-150 items. When an item sells, the shipper will see the letter and know which shelf to look at.
Today the listing began! I will keep you updated with our progress.