Where to Find Merchandise
eBay Sellers find merchandise everywhere, literally. Here are five of the most common sources.
Wholesale lots and liquidations. Wholesale lots and liquidations are bulk sales of similar or related items — for example, a laptop manufacturer selling a lot of 200 of last year's model. You can find many online sources for lots, including liquidation specialists such as Liquidation.com or Surplus.net, retailers seeking to liquidate overstocks such as CompUSA, or manufacturers unloading excess merchandise such as Nokia. Even eBay has gotten into the game with its Wholesale Lots, where you can bid on odd lots of merchandise in various categories.
Local and regional sources. It may seem obvious, but bargains are still found in garage and yard sales, church rummage sales, estate sales, moving sales, charity fundraisers, local auctions, municipal and federal auctions, flea markets, and similar sources. As you're probably aware, the key is efficiency, reviewing ads for sales and events and getting there early (though you should respect those "No Early Birds" warnings). You may also find that it pays to run an ad for the merchandise you're seeking in a local paper.
Manufacturers and trade shows. If you can establish a relationship directly with a manufacturer, you'll often get the best deals possible, because you cut out middlemen — distributors and wholesalers. (Many manufacturers, however, are wary of eBay sellers unless they can generate consistently large orders.) You may find the right match for your types of goods by checking the Thomas Register, a website with extensive manufacturing data, or by visiting industry trade shows — TSNN is a popular online trade show directory — where manufacturing reps are sometimes eager to create new relationships.
Wholesalers and distributors. You can try buying, as a regular retail store would, from wholesalers, but many wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors have a bias against selling to eBay members. That could be for several reasons -- for example, they may favor an eBay distributor and don't wish to lose it to accommodate your business; they prefer to supply to brick-and-mortar stores and don't want to be undercut online; or it could be because the supplier has its own auction businesses and doesn't want the eBay competition.
Drop-shipping. If you've established a selling relationship with a manufacturer or a manufacturer's representative, you may want to find out whether they will drop-ship some of the bulkier or expensive items in their line for you. As a general rule, however, we recommend against starting out with a drop-shipper because basically they're middlemen, marking up merchandise to sell to you. In addition, there are numerous horror stories about flakey and fraudulent drop-shippers. We discuss drop-shipping in more detail in Chapter 17, Shipping and Returns.