Sellers who want to be successful flipping thrift store finds to the online marketplaces must understand arbitrage and how to use it to earn premium profits. The word arbitrage may seem fancy or complicated, but really it’s just another word for buying low and selling high by transferring marketplaces to meet buyer demand. For example, when you purchase a cookbook at your local thrift store for a quarter, then flipping it to the Amazon marketplace for $10, you are practicing arbitrage. Because the book is not a hot seller in the local market, but is in demand or perhaps not available in another person’s local market or online either, until you bring it for sale there. The key to success is of course knowledge, both about the product itself, it’s availability on the marketplace you intend to flip, and it’s potential selling price, so that you can make a good buy. Thrift stores can be a great source for profitable treasures, if you know what to look for and what to avoid.
New sellers are seeking the obvious items, new and sealed or commonly know name brands, more relevant to retail arbitrage than thrift store shopping. Experienced thrift store shoppers know that one may need to dig through a lot of garbage in order to find real treasures worth buying. Savvy buyers need to be able to walk away without buying anything at times.
Certain products and especially when selling previously-owned items, condition is extremely important. No matter how much I may wish for a Timothy Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek (excellent book, by the way), if your copy is wet, torn or smelling of smoke, I’m not interested in buying it. Unless you want it for yourself, pass on it, even if it’s dirt cheap.
Likewise with apparel, if you do not excel at identifying and grading the condition of brand-name clothing, do not attempt to buy and sell it. You may get stuck with a handbag that is a fake – and if you try to pass it along to a buyer as real, you could find your marketplace seller status in jeopardy. Bottom line, stick with what you know or what you can find out about relatively easily. If you are in the least bit unsure, it’s always better to walk away because there is stuff for sale everywhere and treasures elsewhere waiting to be found.
Back to condition, if you are flipping thrift store finds, you are mostly dealing in used goods. That’s fine, there is a substantial market for second-hand goods in some categories. The key is to know the grade and condition of your item as well as it’s relative demand, before making your buying purchase. The very best way to target thrift stores for flipping items online, is to think in terms of “lots.” From your buyer’s perspective, he or she is already taking a chance on a used item that may or may not work out for her, if you throw in a second and third item, either similar or related to the first, she will be more likely to bid up your auction. It’s a win-win because you move multiple items and she saves money on shipping and gets more than just a single item.
Succeed in creating perceived value – using multiples and bundles and by providing great photographs, and you will be a seller that ends up on a lot of favorite seller lists. For this reason, flipping thrift store finds is more suited to the auction-style marketplaces such as eBay.