After being involved in the antiques business for years, I started getting curious about other ways that it might be possible to earn income from buying and selling items. Buying at antique auctions is a very hit-or-miss activity, and building a business upon your auction purchases takes a great deal of knowledge and a lot of luck.
Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming popularity of Ebay, the field isn’t anything like it used to be. I originally had a bit of a niche in the antiques business thanks to my Ebay powerseller account and my trusty and rare mobile internet device, and therefore I had a major advantage over the old-school antique dealers. Today, you’ll find that 20-30% of the people attending antique auctions are now Ebay sellers, and these days everyone has mobile internet access.
Because of the growing competition and difficulty to draw out decent profit from those antique purchases, I turned to buying direct from stores going out of business. These are often auctions as well, but they are a whole different breed. With antique auctions, the people attending are usually there for a very select type of item that was advertised, such as Hummels, Steuben art glass or Waterford for example. At auctions where stores are going out of business, it’s a completely different ballgame. Many specific items are not advertised and when you go, you pretty much get what you get. This is still an area where the technically savvy person can create a very sweet niche for themselves. I eventually turned to writing and editing as a primary form of income – but buying up surplus for cheap is definitely a promising money-making venture. So, let’s get to a few online resources and tools that will give you that competitive advantage.
Buy From Business Liquidation Companies
Before you get into this business, it’s important to understand the various forms of inventory cutbacks businesses go through. Before they’ve gone as far as bankruptcy, many businesses try to save the company by turning excess assets into cash so they can pay down debts. This is called liquidating assets, and there’s an entire industry built on helping companies liquidate their assets – including vehicles, electronics, household goods and more. You name it – it’s probably being liquidated somewhere. The way to make money as a reseller (that’s you), is to buy up huge lots of liquidated assets (surplus) at about 30 to 40 percent under retail. Then, turn around and sell them to your customers at retail (or if you really want to do well – offer 10 to 20 percent discounts to your customers on Ebay or your online store).
Where do you find these liquidations? Online, of course. Go to the surplus inventory section of Business.com and you’ll find a long list of liquidation companies where you can buy pallets of goods. Now, keep in mind we’re talking pallets and truckloads here. These businesses are used to dealing with brick-and-mortar stores that will buy a truckload of these surplus items at a time (which can cost tens of thousands of dollars) – so only take this option if you’re very serious about starting such a business. Startup costs are high – but your potential profit is tremendous, especially in the area of surplus electronics. For example, at that Business.com page, I found Discount Wholesalers, where you can buy pallets of surplus electronics at 35% discounts or more.
A downside to the liquidation industry is that there are also scam artists throughout who will send boxes filled with returns or otherwise non-working items. Just check out any online feedback available on them or check with the Better Business Bureau, but when you do find a legit one – hang on to it and run because not many people have the courage (or money) to invest, so if you do, you’ll be rolling in profits.
Buy Your Products From Auctions
Unless you’re a licensed auctioneer or a liquidation firm, the odds of success by contacting a business directly that’s facing bankruptcy in order to purchase their assets directly is slim to none. The bankruptcy or liquidation process usually involves a law firm that contracts out the asset liquidation to large firms or auction companies. This article has already covered the liquidation route, but what about buying those “going-out-of-business” goods at auctions? The biggest problem I had when attending auctions is that you had to go to the location and register to buy so you could sit in the audience and hold up your bidding number. Well, with the Internet the world of auction buying has completely changed. You can now sit in your pajamas, in the luxury of your own home, and take part in these auctions live. I’m going to cover the top four resources you can use to locate and take part in these auctions. These are the most effective resources to purchase going-out-of-business merchandise.
The first, and in my opinion the best, live auction website is BidSpotter.com. When you first go to the site, you’ll see that you can choose from three main auction categories – antiques & collectibles, agriculture & construction and industrial & commercial.
For businesses that are going belly-up, you want to go for industrial & commercial. When you view the listings page, you’ll notice auctions for businesses of all types.
Now, something to keep in mind when you search through these is that just because the auction is for something like a bakery doesn’t mean there won’t be anything useful there. These auctions sell off everything the business used – and many times these are items that are not even related to the particular industry. This is why it’s the best way to get awesome deals – you may be competing with bakery business owners or tool machine shop owners – so when electronics, computers or other items you’re interested in come along, you can bid low and often win. The experience is pretty cool too – it’s like being right there at the auction in person. Here, I am attending a toy auction going on in South Dakota (I live in Maine).
Two tips if you decide to try this. First, call the auction house early and register to bid so you’re ready when the auction starts. Second, don’t take your time when bidding starts – bid fast! There are people sitting around waiting for you, so when you sit there thinking, it gets very annoying for the people who are actually there. Be a courteous online bidder and the auction house will love it when you virtually attend.
There are a couple more sites that also offer live online auctions like this, and by using all of them you’ll increase your chances of finding the going out of business auctions that suit your needs. LiveAuctioneers is the next one, and in my opinion it seems to feature more auction listings than any of the others I’ve seen.
There are a lot of categories and the chances are very good that you’ll find the sort of auction that you’re looking for. All of these are live – just find the scheduled auction and be online when it takes place. Another one of the best live auction sites to locate bankruptcy auctions is definitely iCollector.com. This is another site with a constantly updated stream of upcoming auctions.
What makes this site special is that you can find auctions from all around the world. For example, at the moment there are live auctions scheduled and listed for Spain, Canada and Switzerland as well. While this particular site is weighted a bit more toward antiques and collectibles, you can find closeout auctions here as well.
Have you ever taken part in a live auction online, or have you ever bought liquidated items to resell before? Share your own experiences and insight in the comments section below.