The internet’s best kept product-sourcing secret

  1. Man using tablet for online buying and selling.
    Tien Nguyen

    Tien Nguyen Full Member

    101 1
    8 |
    In association with

    Are you in search of a second income or a ‘side hustle’? The idea of buying and selling on eBay is a popular one these days and even has its own buzz word – ‘flipping’. This just means buying stock and selling at a higher price in order to make a profit.

    Selling is easy – you just need an eBay account, a PayPal account, some money to invest in stock, and a few hours per day to dedicate to your new venture.

    We won’t go into the mechanics of selling on eBay as there are literally hundreds of blogs and tutorials around on how to make your listing miraculously appear at the top of every search. What we can do, however, is tell you how to source stock that sells, and on which you can make a profit.

    Sourcing stock that sells

    Traditional schools of thought suggest you need to really research your market, while others argue you should find products based around your own passions and interests.

    Without doubt researching and understanding your potential customers is important but what we believe is that it’s best not to get too personal, or too attached to the product. Although it’s a side hustle, this is still a business, and you’ll want to focus on what sells – not just what interests you.

    Another pitfall can be to end up selling what everyone else is selling – how realistic is it to rely entirely on your unique approach to differentiate your offering? This is especially true with e-commerce where it’s difficult to convey that personal touch.

    On the other hand, finding a specific product or category to make your own can be difficult.

    Why most eBayers fail

    Most eBayers fail because of two things.
    First, competition is extremely high and margins in some categories can be non-existent. It’s an over-saturated market consisting mainly of China-based sellers happy to make extremely slim margins, and eBayers who base their e-commerce business on dropshipping the same products from the same Chinese suppliers. When this happens it’s simply a race to the bottom – a competition to see who can scrape by on the smallest margins.

    Secondly, many eBayers make the task of product sourcing far too complicated. Usually they get bogged down and spend too much time looking for clever products and ideas that are distinct from what is already available. Let me save you the time and effort: there is no miracle product to sell.

    So how do you find out what sells? Well, that information is surprisingly easy to find: on eBay, simply search for completed listings to find the last selling price of any given item.

    Best kept secret

    To find out what works best – and I don’t just mean what you can sell but also what returns the best profit – you need to revisit the past.

    A lot of eBayers started out by selling their unwanted items. The idea behind the used goods concept is pretty simple – listing unwanted/undervalued items on eBay and selling them at a healthy profit.

    The operative word here is ‘undervalued’. Sourcing a product that is undervalued by one person, and then selling at a higher resale value to another person on a different platform is the happy dynamic. Therein lies the margin.

    But what are these ‘undervalued’ products? And where do you acquire them? Surely you can’t source on eBay and ‘flip’ or resell them on the same platform? Well, maybe in the past, but less so now – damn you Cassini! (That’s the name of eBay’s improved search engine.)

    The secret is finding a stock source independent to eBay or Amazon and then reselling through those platforms to reach a different audience.

    No magic lists

    After the usual google search for ‘stock to sell on eBay’ you will come across hundreds of ‘sources’ many of which are drop shippers used by dozens of other eBayers.

    The other is the dreaded ‘magical’ list of surplus stockists that come at a cost, normally a meagre amount under £5. Do not fall for this trick! There’s a reason the asking price is so low: by the time you receive this list, usually by email, and realise it contains info you could find freely on the internet, you’re out of pocket.

    The nominal cost means it’s usually written off, and thus those sellers go unchallenged and linger on.

    Nobody has a magical list, and even if they did, they wouldn’t be selling it over email for less than the price of a pint of premium lager.

    So does undervalued stock exist? And can you buy it and sell at a higher price on the likes of eBay and Amazon? The answer is, yes, and finding it is more straightforward than you might think.

    Where to find undervalued stock

    ‘Surplus’, ‘customer returns’ and ‘excess retail product’ are the key phrases to zone in on. These are normally brand name products that have either been sold to a customer and returned, or excess end-of-season stock that is brand new and unused. In the eyes of retailers, the stock has reduced in ‘value’ but sold on a different platform, to a different audience, it may find a new home.

    Since retailers are looking to clear this stock, there is a real opportunity to purchase much lower than RRP. If you can set your selling price point higher than you can buy it for but less than it is otherwise currently available for online, you will capture an audience of interested buyers.

    Where can you find the largest source of retail customer returns? You can’t simply knock on Mr. John Lewis’s door and ask for his ‘undervalued’ product. You need to know where these retailers sell much of their excess stock.

    The answer is at auction. Given the nature of this product – that is, written-off – there is often no expectation or understanding of recovery value and so sale through an auction house is a popular method. Through competitive bidding, the market determines the end sale price and guarantees the stock gets sold to the highest bidder.

    Now, you might not have time to travel from town to town, attending auctions in person, but the good news is, you don’t have to. There is a well-established online marketplace called, founded in 2007, which connects online bidders with the commercial auction rooms of the UK.

    The website is fully responsive so you can search, browse and bid at both live and timed auctions, using any device, any browser, anywhere. Each year it attracts 2 million unique users, offers more than 2 million lots, and lists 5,000+ auctions from over 150 auction houses.

    It’s free to sign up, to browse auction lots, and register to bid. Crucially, since retailers are essentially looking for an avenue to clear excess inventory quickly, you can often find products at up to 95% off RRP. This is the kind of markdown which will make your online store profitable.

    So now you know the internet’s best kept stock sourcing secret, what are you waiting for? There are hundreds of auctions taking place every day throughout the UK and i-bidder gives you free, live access from the comfort of your living room.

    Browse some catalogues, compare the products to what sells on eBay, and see if there is margin to be had.

    If you can win a bid at a price lower than it sells on eBay or Amazon, or your retail platform of choice, then there’s profit in it for you. Repeat that process and there you go, you’ve got a successful business.

    Tien Nguyen is i-bidder's Business Development Manager.

  2. Countrymun

    Countrymun UKBF Contributor

    153 17
    I signed up to this about a month ago but found the auction process a little worrying so didn't buy anything. I couldn't figure out how much shipping/fees I would pay on an item. There was some info to say that prices for these would depend on whether there is VAT, the auction room itself and postage seemed a nightmare to figure out. It would be great if you could include an article on ibidder with some more detailed info on this. If there already is such an article, could you let me have a link so I can try again? Thanks
    Posted: Jan 24, 2019 By: Countrymun Member since: Sep 13, 2014
  3. Tien Nguyen

    Tien Nguyen Full Member

    101 1
    Hi CountryMun,

    Thanks for your post and feedback. You might find our help centre useful - it has a range of articles such as 'how to buy' which provides an overview of how to find products, register, bid and win on i-bidder. We also provide tips on bidding and there is a jargon buster which is useful for anyone who hasn't bought at auction before:

    If you prefer to speak to someone, you can always call our Customer Service team who are open 7 days a week and are always happy to help!

    With regard to shipping, this is dependent on the auctioneer and the lot. Shipping information including costs can be found in the 'Shipping' tab on each lot. If any of the lot information is not clear then we recommend you use the ‘Ask a Question’ button which connects you directly to the auctioneer for all lot queries.

    We have some amazing direct from retailer stock on i-bidder at the moment - so we do hope you give us another go!


    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2019
    Posted: Jan 29, 2019 By: Tien Nguyen Member since: Jan 23, 2019
    James_M likes this.
  4. jules1970

    jules1970 UKBF Newcomer

    64 1
    I find the only best items to buy and flip or sell on is gold. The auctions are best way especially eBay. Find old Victorian pieces the best. I learnt a lot and will still do it hear and there
    Posted: Feb 1, 2019 By: jules1970 Member since: Jan 7, 2014
  5. Tigris

    Tigris UKBF Contributor

    422 14
    Currently debating on trying i-bidder.

    Shipping and auction fees definitely need to be considered. I usually just add 50% onto my bid to cover VAT/buyers premium. I know it's usually closer to 40% but I know I'm not going to lose out and different auction houses vary slightly.
    Posted: Jun 13, 2020 By: Tigris Member since: Apr 30, 2018