by Mic Burns (Customer Success Manager at Volo)
So you've used all the tools in your ecommerce arsenal to source new products, but what are some more traditional methods that can work well too?
Trade Shows & Exhibitions
Once you have a good idea of what you’re looking for, have a quick search for local trade shows where you can make connections with new suppliers (or see what current suppliers are pushing). Here, you can physically touch the product to quality test it, be sure the build quality is satisfactory, and check for items with may moving parts (generally a good idea to steer clear if you’re looking for a high volume scalable product with minimum returns).
10times is a site I’ve recently found, which has a huge list of business conferences and trade shows in the UK, which you can filter by category and location.
As always, there are endless resources. A quick google search of “*product category* trade show” will bring back dozens, but 10times will give you a good start and save some time.
Just being at a trade show will usually see you coming away with a handful of new contacts. Sometimes you'll come away with a completely new category for your business.
Wholesale & Import
There is also a plentiful supply of wholesalers across the EU, US and far east, which could get you access to something your competitors don’t have. Alibaba is the obvious standout marketplace for B2B wholesale. Be warned though, if you’re a first time importer, there are lots of grey areas and hidden fees which can turn that amazing buy price into a costly venture.
Consider import tax, customs fee, import duty, security surcharges, docking fees, fuel surcharges, etc. and be sure you research these costs before committing. An easier entrance point is to use a freight forwarder. These companies specialise in getting your product into the UK, to your doorstep, and taking away the paper work. They generally let you get on with the business in the meantime. Obviously there’s a charge to this, but I’d suggest speaking to a few of these companies to get ball park figures, and take it from there.
Another way to lower the risk in term of the product you’re committing to buy, is to first find the item on Aliexpress. This is a low cost, low risk way to buy that item (or something very similar to it) without an MOQ (minimum order quantity). For example, you could buy a quantity of 10 which will be shipped to you directly without any complications. You can then test the market and if they don’t sell, you’ve just saved yourself a lot of heartache and time.
Auctions, returns, graded stock and clearance lines
From personal experience, there was good money to be made here around 5-10 years ago. But most of these large clearance sites now bulk up valuable high ticket items with other product that are generally difficult to sell online. One horror story I had was trying to shift hundreds of large heavy bowl sets, which you could buy on eBay at £4.99, but cost £6.95 to ship! Be sure to look at the “filler” products and weigh those in in terms of risk (would you still make money if you couldn’t shift those, or had to flog them off to a market trader at cost?)
There are lots of auction sites specialising in graded products, but the few I’d suggest looking into are iforce auctions and i-bidder. These are auction aggregators which will allow you to see what’s on offer, and find potential new suppliers via the info listed.
The last point to make is on data quality. My experience was to have containers of stock delivered and a physical bundle of paper with 2-3 word titles, ie “kitchen bowl set”.
Nowadays, the data is in much better shape (in electronic format for a start!). Do bear in mind though that you’ll have to optimise this data, which could mean somebody sitting in front of google typing in product codes, and copy/pasting this info into a spreadsheet ready for import. Argosclearance give minimal data, but simply copy and pasting the product SKU into their website will bring back a detailed item page which you can then use as a starting point.
There are plenty of ways to get access to new product, spot trends, and remove some of the guess work. Hopefully these overviews have given you just a few ideas.
We’d love to hear what’s your main challenge when it comes to sourcing new product lines, contact us here.