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The Hunt for eBay Inventory

If you're not sure what you want to sell for profit on eBay — but you're a shop-till-you-drop person by nature — you have an edge. Incorporate your advanced shopping techniques into your daily routine. If you find a bargain that interests you, chances are you have a knack for spotting stuff that other shoppers would love to get their hands on.

The goods are out there

When you shop to sell on eBay, don't rule out any shopping venue. From the trendiest boutique to the smallest second-hand store, from garage sales to Saks Outlet, keep your eye out for eBay inventory. The items people look for on eBay are out there; you just have to find them.

Check your favorite eBay category and see what the hot-selling items are. Better yet, go to your favorite store and make friends with the manager. Store managers are often privy to this type of information a couple of months in advance of a product release. If you ask, they'll tell you what's going to be the hot new item next month.

After you're armed with the information you need, seek out that item for the lowest price you can, and then you can give it a shot on eBay.

Keep these shopping locales in mind when you go on the eBay hunt:

  • Upscale department stores, trendy boutiques, outlet stores, or flagship designer stores are good places to do some market research. Check out the newest items — and then head to the clearance area or outlet store and scrutinize the bargain racks for brand-name items.

  • Tour some of the discount and dollar stores in your area. Many of the items these places carry are overruns (too many of something that didn't sell), small runs (too little of something that the big guys weren't interested in stocking), or out-of-date fad items that need a good home on eBay.

  • Garage sales, tag sales, and moving sales offer some of the biggest bargains you'll ever come across. Check for vintage kitchen pieces, designer goods, and old toys, and make 'em an offer they can't refuse.

  • Thrift stores are packed with used but usually good-quality items. And you can feel good knowing that the money you spend in a nonprofit thrift shop is going to a good cause. (Look out for vintage Hawaiian shirts.)

  • Find going-out-of-business sales. You can pick up bargains by the case if a shopkeeper just wants to empty the shelves so the store can close.

  • Take advantage of any flea markets or swap meets in your area.

  • Gift shops at museums, monuments, national parks, and theme parks can provide eBay inventory — but think about where to sell the items. Part of your selling success on eBay is access. People who can't get to the Kennedy Space Center may pay handsomely for a baseball cap with the official NASA logo on the box. Consider sports venues and theme parks as well.

  • Hang on to the freebies you get. If you receive handouts (lapel pins, pencils, pamphlets, books, interesting napkins, flashlights, towels, stuffed toys) from a sporting event, premiere, or historic event — or even a collectible freebie from a fast-food restaurant — any of them could be your ticket to some eBay sales.

Tips for the modest investor

If you're interested in making money in your eBay ventures but you're starting with limited cash, follow this list of eBay inventory do's and don'ts:

  • Don't spend more than you can afford to lose. If you shop at boutiques and expensive department stores, buy things that you like to wear yourself (or give as gifts) in case they don't sell.

  • Do try to find something local that's unavailable in a wider area. For example, if you live in an out-of-the-way place that has a local specialty, try selling that on eBay.

  • Don't go overboard and buy something really cheap just because it's cheap. Figure out who would want the item first.

  • Do consider buying in bulk, especially if you know that the item sells well on eBay or if the item is inexpensive. Chances are good that if you buy one and it sells well on eBay, by the time you try to buy more, the item's sold out.

    If an item is inexpensive (say, 99 cents), buy at least five. If no one bids on the item when you hold your auction, you're only out $5.

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