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10 Ways to fail at Retail Arbitrage

Retail arbitrage (buying products from local stores to resell online) has gotten tougher (=more competitive). Significantly more so than 2+ years ago.

Thus, I'm seeing many Amazon/eBay sellers running for the hills. I love quitters because they clear the deck for me (and other persistent online sellers who are in it for the long haul)

I know you're not a quitter. But if you know a quitter, hand them this list on how to fail fast at retail arbitrage:

1.) Scout at only 1 big-box store, once a month.

2.) Ignore mom and pop (independent) stores. They never have clearance

3.) Only look for big 'clearance' signs. (Don't bother looking in every aisle)

4.) Beg the thrift store manager (without paying him/her a token amount) to tip you off when great products come in

5.) Visit only Goodwill thrift stores.

6.) Stay sexy: Don't source products in a an embarrassing environment (or one that makes your nose turn up.)

7.) Spend thousands on sourcing training/"coaching". Ignore the incredibly cheap, instantly downloadable training from experts

8.) Pay top price for retail products. Money-saving apps and discounted gift cards are a complete waste of time.

9.) Stay sexy part II: Scout for only products you like. Toys are for kids, groceries have expiration dates. Impress your friends with your fancy, low margin electronics (you know, the category fraught with fraud and returns.) "Cool factor" first, profits second!

10.) Source holiday-themed products right before the holiday, and then expect them to sell out. (Ignore my strategy, where I buy items right after the holiday at 90% off, and sell them for full retail+ almost a year later when they're 'hot' again).

Want to add anything here? C'mon!


{ 23 comments… add one }
  • William Wanderer September 24, 2017, 12:38 am

    I tried this last year. I found huge discounts on Christmas products at Rite Aid, waited till this month, listed them and subsequently got a notice from Amazon that I was guilty of intellectual property infringement, and if I get one more complaint from any of my listings I may lose my account. Getting next to impossible to do retail arbitrage without major issues like this happening!

    • Jordan Malik September 24, 2017, 3:13 pm

      If you do any retail/online arbitrage, reduce your chances of picking restricted products by following my advice under “2.) What to do from now on, part II” on this page: https://jordanmalik.com/blog/amazon-brand-restrictions/

      If retail arbitrage makes you nervous, reduce those intellectualy property infringment risks by (say) sourcing wholesale or private label. Wholesale: Try this $20 starter course from my trusted partner here). Private Label: $37 ebook available near the bottom left of this page here)

  • Keoki Emond April 15, 2017, 2:36 pm

    I like the comment about quitters make it easier for us so true thats whatni telling everyone and itll get hard thus thinning out the field even more.

  • Susan wowe April 11, 2017, 7:25 am

    Just started RA very recently, so many unknown yet. Feels lucky to find this great list today. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  • Michele November 7, 2015, 8:44 am

    Hi Jordan,

    Yes I fell prey to “coaching” what a waste of $600. Where can I find out more about oa. I love doing ra but time consuming



  • Teri October 21, 2015, 10:30 am

    I start all my items at .99 cents and watch the the bids go up. Is this the right think to do? I have sold some items really high. Thoughts?

    • Jordan Malik October 21, 2015, 10:43 am

      I think you’re referring to eBay – Sure $0.99 auctions can work well (versus ‘buy it now’ pricing) but the success depends on a number of things, including demand for your item overall, how saturated your product is (=how many other sellers are selling the same item), time of day, length of auction, how well your title and descriptions are, etc. Many eBay sellers do just fine with buy it now pricing.

  • Rose'lani Kane August 5, 2015, 9:51 pm

    Question: the podcast with Sam Cohen mentioned a phone app where he was scanning UPC codes. Do you have any idea what that app might be?

    • Jordan Malik August 6, 2015, 7:40 am

      I dont know what app he uses but popular ones are Profit Bandit and ASellerTool

  • siva August 3, 2015, 12:53 am

    Jordan, What are the other thrift stores you recommend apart from goodwill. I have on GW, my cellular reception wont work to scout books. Also what are the other items we can scout at books. I am newbie. plz advise.

    • Jordan Malik August 3, 2015, 9:49 am

      Thrift store quality will vary from one physical store to the other, so a goodwill in your town might be terrible but another goodwill one or two towns over might be great. Other chains you might want to look at is Savers and Salvation Army. Also check out reviews at thethriftshopper.com and/or yelp.com

      Also, some of the independent thrift stores can be great to or they can be hit and miss…

  • Patricia June 24, 2015, 6:31 am

    Thank you Jordan. I have learned a lot from you.

  • Gloria June 21, 2015, 5:19 pm

    I love you Jordan….you’re just like a big brother.

  • Frances May 20, 2015, 1:17 pm

    Hi Jordan! Thank you for all you for us! My question today is as follows. I bought 6 no-brand-name baby dolls from a local drug store at a 75% discount. One doll is ranked 18,000 in toys but the other doll is ranked 800,000!! The only difference is the clothes they are wearing. Its the EXACT same doll with the exact same acessories but like, one’s wearing yellow the other’s wearing lavender. I want to list both under the same highly ranked listing, with the difference that the I will add pictures clearing showing the diference in wardrobe and make the same distinction known in the ‘condition! box. Is this acceptable? I’d rather return the doll than use the 800,000 rank listing with no reviews on it either. Thanks Jordan!

    • David Meyer July 31, 2015, 2:42 pm

      Totally unacceptable. Dont do it. It is against policy and customers often do not look at your notes and will be angry.

  • Sean Smith April 27, 2015, 8:57 pm

    Great Post Jordan! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I am just starting to do Retail Arbitrage on Amazon and am very excited.

  • Stephanie April 7, 2015, 2:56 pm

    Thank you for the informative post and your tips shared on the podcast.

  • Dan L March 20, 2015, 11:40 am

    Jordan, Here’s another one. 11.) NEVER spend spare time researching areas/products about which you know little. It’s amazing how much just a bit of research can open up new avenues of viable, sourceable products. It might help you hit the occasional “home run”.

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