products to sell online - Sourcing Customer Returns - Buying Retail Returns at Wholesale Prices

by Chris Malta

Retail overstocks and customer returns can be an excellent product source for your Internet store or eBay business - as long as you understand what to expect when purchasing this kind of merchandise.

A Mixed Bag of Goods
Often, returns are sold as pallets of assorted, dissimilar items - you'll find everything from snow boots to toy cars to staplers. Most likely, you'll also find some damaged goods among a pallet's wares. A portion of these items were returned because the customer damaged them, or they didn't work in the first place. In spite of the damages, many sellers feel they can make a profit. According to Jacques Stambouli of, a retail-return wholesaler, "The rationale is that, even with disposing of a high percentage of them, you're buying them cheaply enough that you can make a lot of money."

Weigh Your Options
Before passing their unwanted goods on to a return wholesaler like ViaTrading, retail stores normally sort them into two categories - customer returns and overstocks. When purchasing these goods, it's important to consider the positive and negative aspects of both categories:

Customer Returns
These items were purchased, taken home, and brought back. Because they've been opened, they can't be re-shelved.

    • The downside of returns is that a higher percentage of them are dented, have cosmetic damage, or are missing parts. Some of them were defaced by the customer, or just don't work.

    • The upside of returns is they're usually more current, in-demand products - they were purchased for a reason. Many of them are still in perfect condition - they were only returned because the color, size, or model was wrong.
These goods sat on a retailer's shelf too long. In spite of steep discounts, they simply didn't sell.

    • The downside of overstocks is that the retailer couldn't move them, regardless of multiple price cuts - the demand wasn't there.

    Moving them may be a challenge for you as well.

    • The upside of overstocks is that they're mostly clean, new, and probably still in their original packaging. You'll find comparably less damaged goods.

Mix Your Channels
When purchasing returns and overstocked merchandise, it's a good idea to have more than one outlet for reselling. Don't limit yourself to only eBay or only the flea market - not everything you buy will lend itself to a particular market. Some people even throw "pallet parties" - these are like Tupperware parties, only they're selling the contents of their pallets. Confirms Stambouli, "We find that our most successful customers are the ones that know how to combine different channels."