WebRetailer just posted a long, in-depth interview with online mega-retailer CostumeBliss.com's owner Jason Sanchez. I learned 9 new things I did not realize (or I didn't think were important) before. (This will help you whether you're starting out or in a growth phase.)
Bold text is a point summary from the article. Italics are my observations.
1.) If you decide to grow into any operation beyond 'just you/your family', good employees are hard to find and harder to keep. This is why I'm reluctant to grow my 'physical' operations and instead send everything to Amazon FBA and/or fulfillment centers. Before I quit my 'real' job in 2010, I was in charge of departments from 2 to 20 employees. Managing folks is not my gig. So thank God for fulfillment centers.
2.) Selling kids' costumes is 'recession proof'; costumes in general are great year-round sellers. When kids want costumes, they get them regardless of the economic situation. Separately, the boon of 'cosplay' (folks of all ages getting dressed up for, say, Star Trek conventions) represents a huge demand segment for costumes year-round.
3.) Most 3rd-party marketplaces don't matter. If you sell physical products, Amazon and eBay and your own web sites are where you should 'play'. The other 3rd-party marketplaces like Rakuten, Sears, etc. are almost a waste of time right now.
4.) eBay has a segment of loyal shoppers. eBay is still a profitable, viable sales channel for many product types (not just the 'antiques, collectibles, broken products and and one-offs' that I've always alluded to.)
5.) e-commerce software is never one-size-fits-all. If you're doing any significant multi-channel sales (or poised to grow that way), off-the-shelf inventory management software will never be 'just right' for your business. Sanchez had to build his own, which requires IT staff and expertise ($$$) to manage sales and inventory the best way for his own business.
6.) If your eBay item isn't selling, eBay will decrease your item's visibility. I had no idea about this one. This forces the seller to 1.) compete on price and/or 2.) ensure their listings are optimized for maximum visibility and/or 3.) ensure he/she is selling stuff that buyers actually want.
7.) Terapeak is ideal for identifying buying trends. I thought Terapeak was only useful for researching products to sell. I had no idea savvy retailers like CostumeBliss use it to identify a growing trend they can capitalize on. (Free trial here)
8.) Don't reinvent the (product) wheel. Instead, watch what your competitors are selling on Amazon/eBay, then 'take' their idea and improve upon it. Many sellers try focus too much on finding a product that's 'all their own', and that can be a huge risk and/or time suck.
9.) eBay is a leader in making global shipping easy. Their program takes a lot of the headache away from U.S.-based sellers who want to ship to non-U.S. buyers. eBay is crushing their competition in that regard.
The full WebRetailer article is here.