Buy high-profit goods wholesale on eBay…

PLUS: Good-till-cancelled listings: when they are always a major waste of money

PLUS: Selling topographical collectibles on eBay: the major problem of place names

It may surprise you to know that eBay is one of the best places to buy goods wholesale, without ever leaving home in the process.

For a personal example, an American wholesaler operating on eBay charges the equivalent of about £32.50, including postage, for 20 decorative pins (we call them ‘badges’), which I sell at £10 to £20 each on the UK site.

I can’t give his contact details because I don’t want to jeopardise my own profits. But he’s easy to find if you search for ‘wholesale’ on and work your way through the listings.

You’ll find hundreds of people selling wholesale goods on eBay, which are listed on one country site and not always obvious to potential buyers elsewhere.

As in my business, for example, where I find US sellers listing wholesale lots of Masonic rings on the US site which are not listed on the UK site, and they are well worth importing to sell individually on eBay UK.

You’ll find your own potential wholesale suppliers by studying the relevant-country eBay site and asking sellers if they will sell to you, even though they don’t normally sell outside their own country. Most will oblige buyers likely to become regular customers.

The beauty of buying bulk lots from the US and other non-UK eBay sites is that many buyers in the UK prefer buying on the domestic site, usually because they feel better protected against scams or non-delivery, and they expect Trading Standards and other consumer watchdogs to help if they are cheated.

Additionally, they’ll pay less postage and won’t wait so long for goods to arrive from UK sellers and there are no import taxes to inflate their costs.

It’s important to order just one item to test-market on your chosen-country eBay site, or ask the seller if he’ll let you use his product images and descriptions.

Once you know you have a bestseller, it’s time to buy your goods in bulk, preferably from the same supplier, and possibly paying lower prices for products bought in bulk.

Good-till-cancelled listings: when they are always a major waste of money

Good-till-cancelled listings are those a seller initiates and leaves to continue, sometimes for months and frequently years, often forever, or until the product sells or the seller removes the listing.

That can mean paying listing fees over an indefinite period and potentially exceeding the price asked for the product.

You might think no one would be silly enough to let this sort of thing happen, but I have done it and still do it thousands of times every month. Yes, truly, but I have never claimed to be the world’s most organised seller.

That’s why it’s vital for sellers to make regular checks on their good-till-cancelled (GTC) listings and remove any that haven’t attracted recent visitors or viewers.

If a listing hasn’t been visited in two or three months, it’s possible it may never be visited, and all that listing will do is deplete its seller’s eBay profits in wasted listing fees.

But there’s another major reason why GTC listings left to run unchecked can be detrimental to sellers…

It has to do with listings achieving a sales history that can help them rise higher in search returns.

But rising high in search returns is based on how well a listing and its product is performing on eBay, so a GTC multiple-product listing for a product selling several times every month will probably sit higher in search returns than a similar listing with no recent sales. The longer a GTC listing goes without sales the lower it will fall in search returns.

That’s why experts suggest letting new fixed-price listings run for 30 days maximum and to subsequently analyse sales figures, as well as visitor and viewer numbers. No sales, no visitors, no viewers is the sign of a listing likely to waste money for the seller.

Several ways to approach the problem:

  • Let new listings run 30 days maximum and subsequently delete the poorest-performing listings.
  • Let top-performing listings run GTC, but with regular two or three-monthly checks on their performance.
  • Let all mediocre listings run 30 days only and relist each one manually. This helps prevent listings falling lower in search returns with each subsequent 30-day listing. A new listing begins its search history afresh and even a tiny increase in sales can benefit search placement in the short term.

Other ways to boost your listings in search returns:

  • Offer free delivery for domestic buyers.
  • Provide several delivery options.
  • Offer an extended return period.
  • Charge marginally less than other people selling the same product, which can make your listing rank top of search returns. Even asking one penny less can lift your product higher than other sellers. Obviously, this idea only works where profit margins are acceptable after the price cut.

Selling topographical collectibles on eBay: the major problem of place names

Among collectors, one of the most important features is items focussing on a particular topographical area, such as where the collector lives, where he was born, or where his ancestors came from.

But selling topographical place names presents its own specific problem, being that place names change and the topographical location reflected on an old collectable item might be quite unlike what people call the place today, as well as the name they will key into eBay’s search engines.

One high-profile example is what today is spelled ‘Middlesbrough’, which in the past was frequently spelled ‘Middlesborough’.

Now I happen to know that a great many people still call the town ‘Middlesborough’, in speech and in writing. So it follows that if you use ‘Middlesbrough’ in your product listing title, and potential buyers key ‘Middlesborough’ into eBay’s search engine, your listing might be missed by a large chunk of your target audience.

And that is why my listings for collectibles featuring the town begin: ‘MIDDLESBROUGH / MIDDLESBOROUGH’.

Note I also leave a gap between the names and the slash symbol, as otherwise eBay’s search engine will view ‘MIDDLESBROUGH/MIDDLESBOROUGH’ as one word and might ignore it in searches for all versions of the town name.

More things to know about place names:

  • For really small topographical areas, like tiny villages, and also places that no longer exist, it’s best to locate the nearest main town and add that to your title alongside the less well-known area depicted in the postcard, book, or other item. This is because collectors know that few collectibles featuring a really small collecting area are likely to exist, so most choose to search using nearby place names.
  • Additionally, most very small villages were actually identified as part and parcel of a nearby main town, and may even share its name with another slightly larger village.

For example, the village where I live, High Hesleden, was classed as part of Castle Eden or Monk Hesleden in Victorian and Edwardian times, so a search for ‘High Hesleden’ is likely to miss some postcards and other collectibles I’d desperately like to have.

I hope today’s tips will help you grow your profits on eBay. Until next week, Happy eBaying!

This article first appeared on Auction Genie. Read more and comment here