Running a High-Volume, Low-Profit eBay Store

Right now almost all of my time has been dedicated to my eBay store.

I’d rather not post a link to it just yet, but I’ve been successfully doing business on there for over a year and a half.  My techniques have continually been adjusted as I’ve been learning from mistakes and learning how to do business better.

My store is a cliche with used clothing and basically “thrift store flipping” that so many people jump to when it comes to online selling.  Selling clothing is fiercely competitive.  It’s also critical to get the items as clean as possible as well as having great photos and accurate measurements.

On top of that, you also need to have low enough prices to encourage people to purchase from you.  I’m pretty sure that some of my prices were actually so low that people bought from me and then re-listed the items in their own eBay store for higher prices.

One of my problems is that I have a limited area where I can store my clothing once it’s been cleaned, photographed and measured.  Because of that, I’m listing and selling items for extremely low prices to keep my inventory moving.  This creates a high-volume but low-profit environment.  But it’s still income, and my business model works as I’ve got a source where I can purchase my inventory for ridiculously low prices.  I can still make profits selling items as low as $1.99, and that’s including deducting the item cost, the PayPal fee, and eBay’s fee at the end of the month.

But that comes at a cost —– time.

It takes time to acquire the items, clean the items, clean the items a second time (if necessary), photograph and measure the items, list the items on eBay, and then package and mail the items when they sell.  I’m a detailed-oriented kind of guy, so it takes even longer for me to go through some of those steps.  After all, in this industry, mistakes literally cost you loss of money as well as having customers not trusting you.  I’ve made enough mistakes in the past to know what kind of attention to detail is necessary to continue to survive as a seller of used (and sometimes new) clothing.

A rather painful example was in March of 2016 when I had to cancel a few orders because I caught problems in the items while getting them ready to ship.  eBay doesn’t like it when you have to cancel because of something on your end, and I ended up losing my status as being a “Top Rated Seller.”  When you’re “top rated,” there’s a special icon that goes next to your screen name, and it tells ebay shoppers that you’re a very reliable vendor.  You also receive a percentage discount on the monthly fees for doing business on eBay.  It literally took me a year to do enough business to recover and earn back my “top rated” status, all because I missed spotting some issues and was honest enough to alert the buyers before the items were shipped.  There’s no telling how many more customers I could have had if I had that “top rated” status for the past year, or how much money I could have saved from eBay’s fees.

I learned from those mistakes, slightly changed my business model, and my sales have been steadily increasing.  March of 2017 was my best month yet selling on eBay.

In the future I’ll go into more details about surviving and succeeding in this industry.  Maybe I’ll even write a “how to” guide and publish it as an ebook.  There are plenty of stories to share as well as tips about how to help sell the items.

Yes, a “how to” guide is another cliche.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t do my own version of that and still not be successful.  All it takes is figuring out a way to stand out from the crowd.

That’ll be a challenge for another day.