Guest post by Stephen from Full-Time FBA
Since this is the month where “love is in the air,” let me share something personal with you. I honestly care about you. Sure, I might not know you that well, but the whole reason I create blog posts, ebooks, and videos is that I really enjoy helping people. I want to see you win with your FBA business! I love reading success stories from readers like you, and if you have a story to share, be sure to post it in the Full-Time FBA Facebook group. Ok, back to our regularly scheduled profit building tips for the month of February.
If you’re just now getting started on sourcing for Valentine’s Day for this year, then I’m sorry to say that most likely you are too late to the party. There might be a little time left for you to get some items sold on Amazon, but the ones who will make the most this year selling Valentine’s Day items have sent their items into Amazon in early January, and maybe even as early as December. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you about prepping for Valentine’s Day again in the November chapter.
After Valentine’s Day Sales
Everyone knows that the day after Valentine’s Day is the day when everything related to the holiday goes on sale for 50-90% off retail prices. This is an opportunity for you, but only if you know what to look for. Here are some ideas:
- Valentine’s Day cards for school-age children. These items are good to hold at home and sell for next year, as well as to include in themed bundles for next year. Just be sure that the cards don’t have the current year printed on the actual cards.
- Chocolate candy in non-Valentine’s Day tins. Not every chocolate candy tin will have the words “Valentine’s Day” on the lid. If you find some that are just red or just have hearts on them, then they will most likely sell at other times of the year as well. Think Mother’s Day, anniversary bundles, etc.
- Any other red or pink food item that is usually only sold during Valentine’s Day. I’ve seen items such as red velvet pancake mix and pink colored fortune cookies, which will be hard to find in stores after February, making them a great item to resell online.
- Look at everything on clearance and see if you can “think outside of the Valentine’s Day box.” You might find some great things for reselling in categories such as Arts & Crafts, Home & Kitchen, or Books.
One word of caution: Chocolates and other meltables will need to be sold or removed from FBA warehouses before May 1, or Amazon will destroy them (this rule is to avoid melted chocolates during summer months). If you’re wanting to do Mother’s Day bundles that include chocolate, be sure you sell those Merchant Fulfilled.
But be warned, if you decide to mail chocolates after May 1, you are still risking a negative feedback if the chocolates arrive melted. It’s not worth the risk, in my opinion, but some sellers do find success with this strategy. One other option is to ship the chocolates (or other meltables) with ice packs, but this would most likely eat into your profit margins substantially.
Chinese New Year
Some resellers in the U.S. (and in other parts of the world) might not have Chinese New Year on their radar, but maybe they should. According to the 2010 census (so we know the numbers are probably even higher right now), the population of Americans of Chinese descent numbered approximately 3.8 million. Add to that the number of Chinese customers from all around the world who also buy on Amazon.com, and the number gets even larger. This is a customer base that is not to be ignored.
The Chinese Lunar calendar is different from the calendar we typically use in America, causing Chinese New Year to fall on a different date each year. In 2019, Chinese New Year will be celebrated on February 5. In reality, it will actually be celebrated even earlier, since some people start the new year’s festivities as early as one to three weeks before – and the celebrations can also continue for multiple weeks after the big day!
February 5 of 2019 starts the Year of the Pig, and this holiday celebration can impact your Amazon business in multiple ways:
- If you order wholesale or private label items from China, be aware of a potential delay in shipping while many workers in China take off work to celebrate, visit family, or go on vacation for long periods of time. It would be wise to make your orders well in advance of the Chinese New Year.
- Chinese customers will be buying items related to Chinese New Year, so this gives you a great opportunity to provide quality inventory for them to buy.
Here are some ideas:
- Chinese red festive gift envelopes
- Paper lanterns
- Dragon themed items
- Year of the Pig related items
- Chinese New Year decorations
- Chinese New Year toys
- Chinese New Year books
- Good luck coins
- Good luck candy
- Red items (red being the symbolic color of good luck and happiness in Chinese culture)
Want even more ideas? Click here to see what Chinese New Year items are selling on Amazon right now.
Craigslist Sourcing Strategies for February
Many resellers love sourcing garage sales to find profitable inventory to send to FBA and sell on Amazon, but sometimes the weather during the winter months just doesn’t provide as many opportunities for sourcing garage sales. An excellent alternative for sourcing during the month of February is to source on Craigslist.
I know, I know, Craigslist has a bad rap at times because buyers and sellers both can flake out on you at the last minute, and you have to be careful of scammers. But if you take the right safety precautions and do the right research, you can find some super sweet deals on Craigslist that you can turn into big profits on Amazon.
Here are my top four items that I love to source on Craigslist to sell on Amazon:
If you live in a college town, you’ll find textbooks sold by the lot on Craigslist at the end of each semester. Even if you don’t live in a college town, some students will bring their books home during the summer to sell on Craigslist. Students know that by selling their books back to the campus bookstore, they might only earn $4 or $5 – and they can sell them on Craigslist for $10. Many of those books could be sold on Amazon for anywhere from $40 to over $100, so keep an eye out for them.
While LEGO is usually a restricted brand for newer sellers, it’s still important for me to let those who are not restricted know that LEGO tends to have amazing sales ranks on Amazon. Whether you list them as new or collectible, they seem to sell almost as soon as they hit the FBA warehouse shelves. Sometimes you can find LEGO lots on Craigslist, but you can also find individual sets.
Maybe a kid had a set that he put together a few years ago, it’s been sitting on his desk collecting dust, and now that he’s grown and leaving the house, the parents are selling that set on Craigslist, complete with box and instructions. Or maybe a kid got a LEGO set for a gift, only opened bag #1, and decided he didn’t want to put the set together after all.
And there are even the rare occasions where you can find new, unopened LEGOs for sale on Craigslist by someone who’s just looking to get rid of stuff. If you want to sell a LEGO set on Amazon as collectible, you need to make sure that each and every piece is included, along with any minifigures and stickers.
You don’t need the original box, but you do need to include instructions, whether it’s the original instructions or a copy you’ve downloaded and printed from online. You must include detailed descriptions in your condition notes telling whether you have the original box or instructions.
Reminder: Some sellers are not approved to sell certain LEGO sets, so be sure you check on Amazon, the Amazon Seller App, or the Scoutify app to make sure you can sell certain LEGO sets. We’ll talk about how to handle restricted items and possibly how to get approved to sell restricted items later on in this chapter.
Bonus tip: LEGO minifigures can sometimes be sold individually in collectible condition for big profits. For example, we are always on the lookout for minifigures from the Harry Potter sets because we’ve made great money from them in the past.
3. Board games
You might know by now that I love board games so much that I wrote a full book and video course about selling them – The Reseller’s Guide to Board Games: How to Turn Play Money into Real Money. One of the places I keep an eye out for board games, new or collectible, is Craigslist.
You can buy an entire lot of board games with the intention of only selling a portion of them on Amazon, and then resell the rest of them at your next garage sale. I have even sold individual board game pieces for profits on eBay to people looking to replace some of their missing board game pieces. Make sure you message the seller ahead of time on Craigslist to find out if all the pieces are included.
4. Ride-on toys Many people sell their children’s ride-on toys on Craigslist once they’re finished playing with them. These toys will be considered oversized on Amazon, but you can definitely make big money selling big items on Amazon. Do a search on your local Craigslist for “ride-on toys,” “ride-on animals,” or “ride-on cars” to find profitable toys you can sell in collectible condition.
We have a favorite ride-on toy that we love to find on Craigslist for $40 or $50 and can sell it on Amazon in collectible condition for $400 to $500, depending on the time of year. It may take a little extra effort to put together a box for shipping it in to FBA, but that effort is worth it for the big ROI.
If you’re worried about shipping these oversized items to Amazon, be sure to read my blog post about overcoming your fear of selling oversized items on Amazon.
Buying the above items on Craigslist is a win-win situation for both you and the seller. They’re getting cash for an item they no longer want, and you’re getting an item to sell on Amazon that will have less competition and less chance of “tanking” prices. The best way to keep an eye out for these items to resell is by setting up automatic searches and notifications through websites like Noticraig and/or IFTTT.
That way you don’t have to constantly repeat your search, but you can just sit back and wait for the notification to come to you. A word of caution about Craigslist: Always arrange to pick up your items in a public place, like a parking lot or even the police station.
If possible, don’t go to pick up the item alone. I’ve done dozens and dozens of Craigslist pickups and have never had an issue with my safety. The only issues I’ve had were a few no-shows, but that’s really it. Overall, Craigslist is a good alternative to garage sale sourcing.
Weather-Related Sourcing Ideas
Weather-related items can be a potential gold mine of profits if you know what to look for. For example, during the month of February, space heaters are on clearance in Texas, but they are still very much needed in northern states. I could buy a space heater at 75% off, sell it around the retail price on Amazon, and make a nice profit from the guy in Boston who needs it right now.
When you are sourcing inventory, you need to turn off the part of your brain that thinks, “Why would anyone want to buy this online right now?” Making assumptions will cost you money, literally! You need to scan everything and see what the demand actually is on Amazon, not just the demand you assume is happening.
Feed the Beast
No matter what you source, it’s always a good idea to keep feeding the Amazon beast. The more often you send items in, the more sales you will get, and the more often you’ll get the Buy Box! I’ll talk about it more below, but there will be times when people are iced in because of really brutal weather, and while you’re working on your FBA business, your customers will be getting cabin fever and heading to Amazon to buy your stuff!
Long-Term Storage Fees
As mentioned in the January chapter, on the 15th of every month, Amazon will be charging you long-term storage fees for any of your items that have been in an FBA warehouse for over 12 months as of that 15th day of the month. As a reminder, the month of February 2019 is the first month where Amazon will no longer charge you the 6-month long-term storage fee, only the 12-month long-term storage fee.
Full details of long-term storage fees (and how to potentially avoid them) are in the January chapter, so if you have not read it already, I highly recommend you go back and read those sections. Really, there have been a lot of changes in recent months, so go read those sections if you have not already.
This will be the last chapter where I remind you about the rolling long-term storage fees, but I wanted to mention them one more time, just in case you’re not yet in the habit of checking on your potential long-term storage fees each month. It should become a monthly habit to check whether you’re going to be charged long-term storage fees or not each month, and then to follow the steps found in the January chapter to see if you can avoid them.
Times When it’s a Good Idea to Pay Long-Term Storage Fees
When you have tried all of the strategies (found in the January chapter) to avoid long-term storage fees and still have not sold your item, then it’s time to decide if paying the long-term storage fees are worth the cost for another 30 days of long-term storage. Sometimes, it’s totally worth the cost.
Say you have some warm-weather related items in stock and see that on February 15, you’ll be charged a long-term storage fee of $0.94 per item in order to keep storing that item in a FBA warehouse another month. It’s cold outside now, but warmer weather is coming soon.
You’ve looked at the Keepa graphs for your item and see that once the winter months are over, the price of this item usually recovers to where you’ll still make a nice profit. Come March and April, your spring-related item will be selling like hotcakes again, and at a $15 profit!
You’re OK with paying the $0.94 long-term storage fee for possibly a couple more months, because you feel confident the fee will be worth paying compared to the profits you’ll make in a few months. This is just one example of when paying long-term storage fees is actually a good idea and will end up making you more profits.
There are plenty of other situations (when specific holidays are coming, when certain sporting seasons/events are coming, when the holiday toy selling season is coming, and more) when it might be a good idea to pay the long-term storage fees. Always check the Keepa graphs on items you’re potentially paying long-term storage fees on to see if the fee is worth paying.
For a free training video on how to use and understand a Keepa graph to predict future sales and profits, then check out our blog post on How to Read and Understand a Keepa Graph.
Removal Order Decisions (Added 2019)
When all other strategies to avoid long-term storage fees have failed and you don’t see any wisdom in paying the fee for your effected item, then it’s time to remove your inventory from Amazon by creating a removal order. Since long-term storage fees are calculated on the 15th of each month, then it’s best to create the removal order a few days ahead of the fee calculation to make 100% sure your item will not be charged the fee.
When you create a removal order, you have three options. You can have the inventory item returned to you, you can have the item destroyed, and in some cases, you can request to liquidate the items to Amazon. If you have the item returned to you, then the cost will be $0.50 for a standard sized item and $0.60 for an oversized item.
No, those are not typos. Amazon is very generous in their fees to have items returned to you. If you decide to have the item destroyed, then the cost is $0.15 for standard sized items and $0.30 for oversized. If you decide to request to liquidate your inventory, then Amazon will spend some time looking for a buyer.
If approved, you’ll probably only get 10 cents on the dollar for your inventory, but at least those items will be gone. If the liquidation request is not approved (meaning Amazon was not able to find a buyer for the inventory you want to remove) then you’ll need to go ahead and set up an alternate removal order.
I always try to see the positive side of things when creating removal orders for items that are not selling. My favorite perk of creating removal orders is that Amazon usually ships my items back in a nice sized, reusable box, and it’s usually filled with those inflatable air-pocket box fillers. I keep these air-pockets for when I need to use them as box filler in my next box headed to FBA.
Amazon Fee Increases
With any type of service you use, eventually, the fees will go up. This is a natural part of business and should be expected. Most of the time, when Amazon increases their fees, the fee increase is very small, but can add up for the seller who has more inventory sold from or stored in an Amazon warehouse.
Amazon almost always announces a few months ahead of time that fees will go up. For example, in December Amazon might send out a notice that storage and shipping fees would increase starting in February of the following year. In this case, they made the announcement well over two months ahead of time.
Amazon always gives plenty of lead time when they announce their fee changes. This gives you the opportunity to adjust your business model if necessary. Also, be sure to read the entire email from Amazon concerning fee increases. You don’t want to miss out on a valuable piece of information. Sometimes, Amazon will offer free removals for a short time right before fees change. If ever they do offer free removals, you want to be sure to know about it and take advantage of those offers.
When Amazon notifies you of upcoming fee increases, be sure you read the announcement carefully enough to thoroughly understand the changes. Remember that with these fee changes, Amazon is not out to get you. It surprises me how often I see other Amazon sellers complain on social media about fee changes as if Amazon were out to destroy them as a seller. No, Amazon does not want to put you out of business. The truth is that Amazon loves you doing the work of supplying inventory for their customers, but as with everything in life, as the cost of living goes up, so does the cost of everything else. It’s a natural part of business and should be expected.
The bottom line is this: If the fee increases (which are usually just pennies per item) hurt your business in a detrimental or devastating way, then maybe you need to be sourcing inventory with better profit margins.
For more information on the most recent fee changes go to www.fulltimefba.com/feechanges.
Slower Sales & Lower Sales
February is one of the slowest sales months for Amazon sellers. The reasons are many, but I’ll highlight the biggest ones so you can be prepared.
- The Q4 spending spree is over. People buy a lot during the months of November and December… and continue to buy a lot thanks to gift cards come January. But once February hits, the reasons to buy have dwindled down, resulting in slower sales.
- It’s a shorter month. Yes, losing even two or three days of sales can make February seem like a really low sales month.
- Thrift stores don’t get as many donations in February. In the January chapter, I told you how most thrift stores are overrun with tons of fresh inventory because of the huge number of people organizing their homes and donating their unwanted items to thrift stores. Well, come February, those people are not donating as often and the number of possible items to source from thrift stores is much lower than usual.
- It’s rare that retail or online stores put items on clearance come February. Most stores will have big post-Christmas clearance sales in December and January, but by the time February comes, good clearance sales are pretty rare. When it’s harder to find good clearance items on sale, then it can be harder to send large quantities of inventory to Amazon. Less inventory to send to Amazon can lead to slower sales.
March/April Dates to Prepare For
Do you feel lucky? If you want to have a successful St. Patrick’s Day, be sure that all your lucky green items are all ready to be sent to Amazon. You may have some St. Patrick’s Day bundles, four-leaf clover necklaces, or “Kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirts, but if they are not listed on Amazon right now, you might miss out on the sale. Get those items to an FBA warehouse as soon as possible.
The sooner you have them in stock, the luckier you’ll be to get the next sale! Another event that occurs in March that you need to prepare for is Spring Break. Many people who live in cold weather states like to travel to warmer areas of the world for spring break. Maybe they’ll visit the beaches of Florida, cruise the Caribbean, or venture to any other warm-weather destination.
They’ll need to buy some items that might not be available in their local retail stores when there’s still snow on the ground. This is where you come in. You can have exactly what they need waiting for them to buy on Amazon.
Easter is another holiday that you can be getting ready for. There are many ideas for Easter basket bundles, as well as other Easter-themed items. Easter usually occurs late March or April. Again, be sure you have your items listed before the holiday even gets close.
Iced in? Do this when you can’t get out to source!
Some Amazon FBA sellers might get iced in this time of year. The roads are far too dangerous to get out and source, or it might even be completely impossible for you to get out of your home. Regardless of the case, you still have some things you can do to help improve your FBA business. Here are some ideas for when you can’t get out to source:
- Online Arbitrage: Buy online and (once the weather clears up) they’ll ship it to you so you can process it and send it to Amazon. For some quality training on online arbitrage, check out Chris Green’s book Online Arbitrage, The Selling Family’s course The ABCs of Online Sourcing, or our blog post The Perfect Starter Kit for the Online Arbitrage Beginner.
- Online Arbitrage + MyPrepCenter: You can also source online and then ship your items to an Amazon prep center called MyPrepCenter. They can receive your inventory, prep it (poly bagging, FBA labels, etc), and ship it to Amazon for you. There is a fee, but tons of FBA sellers use their service to skip the processing side of the business. We use MyPrepCenter and wholeheartedly recommend them. They have the fastest turnaround (from receiving shipments to shipping prepped inventory out to Amazon) that I’ve ever experienced. They are not only fast, but very thorough and professional. I can’t recommend them enough.
- Reprice: As long as your ice storm hasn’t knocked out your internet, you can still reprice your items. Click here for my step-by-step guide to repricing and here for my top six repricing strategies (number 3 increases my payout big time).
- Removal Orders: While you are repricing, you might come across some items that you’ve decided probably won’t ever sell. Maybe it’s a book that was a 400,000 rank when you bought it, but now is a rank of 7 million. Based on your competition, maybe you think this book might not ever sell. Open up a removal order and either have the item removed or destroyed. Note: I have had books sell that ranked over 7 million. It’s super rare, but still happens. Just do whatever you feel is best for your business.
- Learn: There are so many great books out there that can help you improve your FBA business. To see a blog post with the books I recommend most, click here. You can also spend time learning more about selling on Amazon by listening to podcasts, watching videos, taking online courses, etc. There are hours and hours of content you can consume to help you improve all aspects of your online business. You can also look into investing in one of our Full-Time FBA courses. Just be sure to reference the final pages of this book where you’ll find many coupon codes to use on our resources.
- Deal with Returns: If you’re like me, then sometimes you’ll have a stack of Amazon returns in your garage or closet (or both) that you need to deal with. Maybe there are some returns that can be sent back in to Amazon (either still new or maybe to try to sell in a used/collectible condition). Maybe you have some returns that the customer says were defective that you realize were not defective at all – and you want to make sure Amazon knows you were not selling a defective item. Or maybe you have a return where a customer returned an item that is not the actual item you sold, but a used version that the customer thought they could return in the place of a new item (yes, that happens, and it’s not-so-affectionately called the switcheroo). No matter the case, now is a good time to go through your returned items to see how to best respond.If you need help with some of these instances, then check out these blog posts:
- How to Handle Amazon FBA Returns & Minimize Loss
- 6 Steps to Take When an Item is Returned to Amazon
- How to Get an FBA Refund for Returned Items That Were Never Returned
- Rest: Really! Sometimes we entrepreneurs are so focused on our business passions that we forget to take care of ourselves. Taking regularly scheduled time off is so important to our physical, emotional, and even spiritual survival. To read more about the power of resting and to see how Rebecca and I schedule our rest times, click here.
Most FBA sellers will be happy when February is over. It’s usually one of the slowest months when it comes to sales and profits, but you can still find many ways to make February profitable. Work hard, try new things, read new books, reprice older inventory, and be sure you avoid those long-term storage fees. Don’t worry… spring is around the corner, and increased sales are starting to bud!
Get A Year in FBA
This is just a sample of one chapter in Stephen’s Year in FBA book which is an invaluable resource for Amazon sellers. You can buy the book now from Full-Time FBA.
There’s never been a better time to give Amazon repricing software a go. With a free 15-day trial, 30-second sign-up process, no commission and no long-term contracts, there is no reason not to at least give it a try. And as an extra sweetener, if you use promo code “FBA10”, you’ll receive 10% off your first month’s bill.
About the author:
My name is Stephen, and I love my job! I get the honour of working for myself, at home. I’ve been using Amazon FBA since 2011 and have been able to completely support myself and my family almost from the beginning.
On my FBA blog, we talk about what it takes to make FBA a full-time job. http://www.fulltimefba.com
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