Every time I talk to a re-seller, we always end up discussing where we buy our inventory. The three most accessible options are Thrift Stores, Garage/Yard Sales, and Flea Markets. Craigslist, Newspaper Ads, and Storage Units are also available, but these aren’t as common.
- Open all year round
- Indoors – doesn’t close for weather
- Rotating sales – Some thrift stores such as the Salvation Army have either a “Family Day” where the entire store is 25% off or a rotating weekly discount on certain colored tags. This helps move inventory.
- Charities – Most thrift stores have an associated charity which benefits people in need.
- Some thrift stores’ inventory stagnates. Try to find the ones in your area that keep their stuff moving
- Quality can vary a ton. You really need to make sure to double and triple check what your buying for any wear/tear/holes etc.
- LOTS of clothes. If that’s not your thing, over 50% of the store is a waste. This can help you if you’re on a short time limit though!
A great resource for finding local thrift shops is The Thrift Shopper. You can search by zip code and find a huge list which includes store hours and reviews. Very helpful for finding a bunch of different thrift store options in your area!
Also, there’s going to be a new TV show starting on January 18th with the guys from Thrifting with the Boys. It will be featured on Spike TV and is called Thrift Hunters. Jason and Bryan have a TON of knowledge/experience and have written some good articles in the past over at Worthpoint.
- HUGE Variety. You literally never know what you’re going to find.
- Generally priced to get rid of clutter around your house.
- Negotiating prices –
- You don’t have to buy in bulk! If you don’t have a large storage area, garage sales are a good source for smaller quantities
- Having to drive around adds hidden costs of gas. Getting in and out of your car can be a pain too.
- People over-value their stuff because they remember how much they paid for it…. 10 years ago. Sorry sir, but I don’t really care if you paid $60 for that game.
- People also over-value their stuff because of all the associated memories. You’ll try to buy some mug but great aunt so-and-so gave me that mug for graduation! It’s got to be worth more than $1!
- People think they can sell the item for the same price it is listed for on eBay, Amazon, etc. My response for the all too common “that’s going for $50 on eBay!” is A – Did you search completed listings on eBay? Are you sure it’s selling at that price? and B – Have you tried selling it yourself? You’re going to have to wait for someone to actually pay, then you have to pay eBay a 10% fee, Paypal a 2.9% fee plus $0.30 per transaction, then you have to buy the shipping materials, pack it yourself, pay for shipping, drop it off at the post office, wait for the money transfer to hit your account before you can use it, pay the eBay fee a month later, and finally cross your fingers that someone doesn’t return it because then you’ll be out the shipping cost and have to repeat the whole process! Try to make it sound as hard as possible. So yeah, it may be going for $50 on eBay, but you’re not willing to put in the effort to get that. So, just take the $10 hard cash now and don’t worry about the headache.
- Easier to buy large quantities of items
- Most tables/areas are categorized, so you can skip the car parts guy if that’s not your thing
- Great exercise! Flea markets are usually pretty big, so if it’s a nice weather day, you can get a lot of sun and walking in
- If you can find a section of new or temporary tables, you’ll get better deals.
- These guys know their stuff. They use online tools such as eBay, Amazon, etc. to price their inventory. They’re not going to charge you the same price as you can find online, but they’re not going to discount their prices like a garage sale.
- Sure, it’s easier to buy larger quantities and get a good deal, but if you’re trying to keep your business small, then this may not work for you
To find flea markets, you’ll have to be pretty resourceful. I swear they’re mostly advertised by word of mouth. The large ones are mostly set up for a good portion of the year.
The Rest of Them
I’ve never had much luck with Craigslist deals. You have to drive to one spot for one deal. Garage sales and Flea Markets let you purchase a bigger quantity at once, cutting down on wasted travel time. On top of that, people are always leery about Craigslist since it’s a little on the shady side.
These ads have similar issues to Craigslist. Limited selection, and plus, not too many people still get newspapers. You can search the classifieds online though, and its nice because they’re most likely local.
I have not touched these yet! I think it’s really interesting and a viable option, but there’s a lot of start-up costs involved. You need to clear out the entire storage unit right away, and you’re absolutely going to get stuck with furniture. To sell furnirure successfully, you either need to have the space to hold it while you list it on Craigslist or something similar, or you have to use a consignment shop which will cut into your profits but save you from doing a lot of the legwork.
What works best for you?
In the end, it all comes down to what option fits your needs. Do you have busy weekends? Maybe you won’t be able to look at garage sales but can check out thrift stores throughout the week. Do you have a van that’s great and a big garage to hold large items? Check out storage units. Can you buy in volume and don’t mind getting some good exercise? Flea markets! Either way, one of these options will help you find some great inventory to flip!