We’ve all heard the saying: buy low and sell high. You can actually use this tactic to make money on items you bought from a store.
This is called retail arbitrage, and it can make you a small fortune if your profit margins are right.
The idea is to find bargains and resell them for a higher price on a site like eBay or Amazon. You can pocket the profit from items bought online and in-person.
In This Article
- Retail Arbitrage Apps
- Where to Get Items for Retail Arbitrage
- 1. Your own closet
- 2. Craigslist
- 3. Local yard sales
- 4. Thrift stores
- 5. Department store clearance racks
- 6. Tuesday Morning
- 7. Video game stores
- 8. Bookstores
- 9. Libraries
- 10. Grocery stores
- 11. Store closing or moving sales
- 12. Walmart and Target clearance sales
- 13. Costco and Sam’s Club
- 14. eBay
- 15. Used cars
- 16. Ikea
- 17. Toy stores
- 18. Flea markets
- 19. Dollar stores
Retail Arbitrage Apps
Before you begin buying and selling, you need to do some research. Look for items you think may be bargains and may be quick to sell. Then find out what the same item is selling for online.
Some resellers create their own ecommerce by finding a local item then reselling with a private label.
Sourcing products that are best sellers may take some time but there may be local stores near you with an opportunity for you to set up your own retail arbitrage business model.
The elephant in the room is Amazon. If you can’t sell it for less than Amazon, you need to find another item.
These apps can help research current selling prices:
- Profit Bandit by Seller Engine
Profit Bandit costs $9.99 per month. You use it to scan barcodes and access resale information in seconds.
If you are serious about retail arbitrage, this is a great investment. Beginners can succeed with the free retail apps too.
If you plan to be an Amazon seller, check out the Amazon FBA program. It will show you how to set up an Amazon seller account. All you need to do is buy the product and send it to the Amazon fulfillment center (warehouse). They will ship it to the buyer when you make a sale.
There is a couple, Cliff and Jessica, who are known as The Selling Family, that have been making a full-time living with their Amazon business since 2012.
If you need more of a tutorial on how it all works to flip items on Amazon using the FBA program, check out this Retail Arbitrage 101 post which will give you the full rundown of how Retail Arbitrage works.
Where to Get Items for Retail Arbitrage
There are several places you can find products to buy low and sell high. Here are the most common places to find items to do retail arbitrage.
1. Your own closet
You could have a garage sale and sell your stuff for pennies on the dollar. Or you could sell your valuable items online and increase your profit. You can use sites like Craigslist, eBay, or Amazon.
Be thoughtful about what you try to sell. For example, people might not want your 20-year-old rock band t-shirts. However, they may have interest in your jewelry, designer clothing, or collectibles.
In addition to being a place to sell, Craigslist is also an excellent place to buy items for cheap. Start by browsing the free section to find items that can sell for money.
You may find people getting rid of things because they don’t want the hassle of selling. They’d rather give the item away than haggle with buyers. In other instances, they might be giving away items that need a few small repairs.
The repairs may only take a few minutes if you have the right tools and skills.
3. Local yard sales
Your neighbors might not be aware of the benefits of retail arbitrage. You can find good deals by visiting local yard sales and estate sales.
Using a yard sale app can help you locate sales with featured items. It can also help you plan your route.
Do some research before you go to the yard sale. Many people will advertise some of the items they’re selling. Knowing what those items will sell for online will help you more easily spot a deal.
With yard sales, you can find just about anything. It pays to keep an eye open for overlooked treasures.
Using your smartphone can help too, as it can help you research an item’s market value. This tactic can give you a better idea of how to negotiate with the seller. The lower your buying price, the higher your earning potential.
4. Thrift stores
You will find the best deals at thrift stores when you can buy the specials. Each store does specials differently. Some might put one department on sale at a time. Tuesdays might offer discounted clothing. Thursdays might offer discounted housewares.
Other stores might offer anything with a green or purple dot at a discount.
If you buy on sale days you could increase your profit potential. Look for good deals on designer items that can sell for a few dollars in profit.
If you live in a large city, you should see if your local thrift store chain has a clearance warehouse. These warehouses are full of unsorted merchandise. They are items that couldn’t be sorted at the actual store because there wasn’t enough room.
These warehouses often let customers sift through the bins of clothing and home goods. They’ll sell the items for cheaper prices in order to get them off their hands.
Visiting a clearance warehouse can take a little more time because the clothing isn’t organized. However, the deals can make it worth your time.
Most items are still untouched and you will be able to find name-brand items.
5. Department store clearance racks
At the end of each season, your local brick-and-mortar retail stores will clearance all the seasonal merchandise. For instance, in autumn you can expect super low prices on any remaining summer items.
Clothing, outdoor patio furniture and summer toys will be on clearance. This is because stores need to clear the items out in order to make space for the fall items.
You can take advantage of clearance deals by shopping at retailers’ online stores too. Some of the deals might not be offered in-store. If you can meet the free shipping requirements you can save even more. The cheaper your items, the higher your profit when you sell.
Want even more cash back when you shop online? Begin your shopping session with Rakuten to get some additional cash back on your purchases.
6. Tuesday Morning
Tuesday Morning gets its own section because it is one of my favorite places to find designer and name-brand products. They’re often sold at low prices and sometimes in bulk.
Tuesday Morning has over 800 locations across the nation. Step inside one if you live nearby and see what savings you can discover.
7. Video game stores
If a video game store has a game or package deal on clearance, you might be able to find some arbitrage deals. Selling video games can be lucrative because a sizable portion of the population enjoys this hobby.
One area to consider is retro video games. These are games that are no longer made but often make a comeback. Parents introduce their favorite childhood games to their children and the games become popular again.
Books are another great arbitrage item since you can ship them at the discounted media mail rate. You can look for discounts and bargain bin specials at your local bookstores. Thrift stores and garage sales might sell books for cheap, too.
As with any item you plan to flip, your profit potential increases if you can buy large quantities.
Some merchants will give you a larger discount when you buy more items. Buying more items requires a larger initial investment.
However, you can recoup your money with increased sales volume. Just be sure to price your books for profit.
If you plan on selling textbooks online check out this article: 26 Best Places to Sell Books and Textbooks Online for Money.
In addition to checking used bookstores, you should also visit your local library book sale. At least once each year, libraries hold an annual sale to sell books donated by fellow neighbors.
They want to clean their shelves of books that haven’t been checked out recently. Prices are usually reasonable for most books.
You might want to join your local Friends of the Library group to get early access to the sale.
10. Grocery stores
You may be able to score exciting deals at grocery stores. If you can find a store that is clearing out non-perishable items you may be able to get a deal. Another option for finding deals would be a grocery store that is going out of business.
Each grocery store has a clearance section. You might find your best deals in the middle of the week when stores restock their shelves.
Weekends can result in cleared out shelves. You may have better luck on Mondays and Tuesdays. It can also pay to visit several stores across towns. This is because some areas tend to discount more products than others.
11. Store closing or moving sales
Retail stores go out of business for a variety of reasons. Visit in the last days to find products at extremely low prices. Many times you can find items at 75% to 90% off the normal retail price.
If a store is relocating to a larger building, it’s common to hold a “moving sale.” It’s cheaper for stores to sell the products than load them on a truck and unload them a second time.
12. Walmart and Target clearance sales
These stores already offer low prices, but you’ll need to find clearance items if you want to turn much profit. Other similar choices are Big Lots, Marshall’s Ross, TJ Maxx. Home Depot is a good spot to find popular items, too.
It isn’t a discount retailer but may have some good deals on clearance.
13. Costco and Sam’s Club
Warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club good places to look for arbitrage deals. Profits can be even better if you can acquire coupons or sale items.
You might consider looking at eBay for deals. Your best chances might be finding items available for local pickup. Local items might sell for a higher amount on a different selling platform. Note that they might need some slight refurbishing.
Bidding in low-price auctions can be advantageous too.
When you’re ready to resell the item, you can list it on eBay, Amazon or Craigslist. Or you could choose another online or physical store.
15. Used cars
You might not think that a used car is an investment. After all, it will depreciate in value. However, it is possible to make money by buying a “fixer-upper” and selling it for a small profit.
You do need the knowledge, tools and time to make any necessary repairs. A good interior detailing can add curb appeal as well.
Two starting places include Craigslist and vehicle auctions. These two options allow you to avoid dealership fees that add to the buying costs.
You should become familiar with your state’s vehicle resale laws if you’re reselling cars. Most states have limits on how many vehicles a private person can sell each year. If you go over the limit you’ll be an official auto dealer.
Many people rave over Ikea products. However, if you don’t live near a store you have to pay for shipping. You can buy items from Ikea and offer free Amazon Prime 2-day shipping.
This will be cheaper than Ikea’s shipping costs, and you could make a profit. You can even offer Ikea products on eBay with free shipping. This will allow for additional product exposure.
17. Toy stores
You can visit the clearance section of toy stores for timeless toys like Legos and Barbie. Choose toys that are always in demand.
Maybe you even played with some of these toys as a child. Toys based on the latest movie or game might be profitable too. However, these toys can be a bigger risk because their demand usually decreases over time.
18. Flea markets
Some vendors at flea markets will give you a deal if you can buy in bulk. If so, you can raise the price and sell each item online to individual buyers.
It’s possible to find treasures from other vendors. They purchase items from storage locker sales or yard sales. They might even under-price items for quick sale. Or, perhaps they don’t know the actual market value.
Avoid year-round flea markets as they are akin to consignment sales. Instead, choose flea markets that are open for one day.
You’ll find vendors there who are looking to clear their inventory. That way they can replenish and move on to the next market.
19. Dollar stores
You might also have success at online dollar stores. Receive a discount by buying in bulk and charge retail prices. You could sell online or at your own local sale.
Sometimes dollar stores sell products for $1 that are selling for the normal retail price on Amazon. Buy what you can and sell it online to pocket the difference as profit.
You could find deals by buying from wholesalers, too. Some that sell to brick-and-mortar dollar stores will also sell to you.
Many people only shop when they need to buy something for themselves. They don’t realize there are times they can buy a product at a fraction of full price then sell it for a profit.
Retail arbitrage does have a learning curve and requires a time investment. However, it can be a great way to earn some money. You could even start a business as a teen.
Have you made money using retail arbitrage? If so tell us about it on our Facebook page!