eCommerce businesses of all shapes, sizes and niches have two things in common: the need for quick capital to jump on big opportunities and unsold inventory that they are looking to get off their hands. The bigger your eCommerce business gets, the more excess inventory you are likely to have. But, what do you do with all of it? Due to the rising costs of warehousing, FBA fees, and storage, it often doesn’t make sense to hold on to unsold or seemingly unsellable inventory (i.e. items that have been returned, opened, tags removed, damaged, regulated, etc.).
When faced with what to do with these items, the ideal scenario is to do what you do best — sell them at a profit. However, if for some reason you can’t turn a profit on your excess inventory, the next best thing is to get the most you can for your unsold inventory freeing up much-needed space for your next round of inventory. Often when you’re in the process of finding the right marketplace and/or strategy to sell your excess inventory, you come across certain items that consistently sell really well on these channels and discover a new stream of income.
Below we will explore some key places eCommerce businesses have successfully sold their excess inventory. While some of these channels are best for high volume businesses with lots of excess inventory, others are great for certain niches, or may even allow you to move open or damaged inventory.
Tophatter is an ideal marketplace to sell excess inventory. Volume is king at Tophatter. Due to their unique auction model, products don’t get buried in searches and can sell thousands of times a day. A broad mix of categories perform well, from home to health and beauty to electronics to consumables, the list goes on. What matters most is that customers feel as if they are getting value or found a bargain. That feeling of value doesn’t have to hurt seller margins though; Tophatter has a suite of tools and a team of specialists to help sellers get the most out of the auctions.
Tophatter is a discovery marketplace that provides a shopping experience similar to national discount chains like TJ Maxx, where customers browse and shop for deals as entertainment rather than shopping for something specific. While you can sell one off items successfully on Tophatter, it’s best for high volume. As sellers who list higher volumes of inventory on the platform tend to get the most out of the platform. Payability Instant Access (next-day payouts) and Instant Advance (lump sum of growth capital based on future sales) are both available on Tophatter and serve as tools you can use to increase your selling volume even more.
In addition to Tophatter being ideal to sell excess inventory in bulk with its unique auction model, it is also unique in that it is an open marketplace that allows heavily regulated and often banned verticals such as CBD. They also have fewer regulations on personal health, wellness and sanitation items that marketplaces are currently limiting to a small number of select sellers. So if you are having issues selling inventory in categories that are highly regulated or completely banned on other marketplaces, Tophatter could be the place to sell them.
To get started, simply sign up, follow the registration flow, and you could have your first sale today. Fees are a flat 9% across all categories plus a small fee to get your products a slot in the auction—think of it like shelf space—these are called Scheduling Fee Bids (SFBs) in Tophatter lingo. Let them know you heard about Tophatter from Payability and receive your first $100 in fees for free!
To learn more about discovery marketplaces, be sure to check out our post on discovery shopping and what sells best on discovery marketplaces.
Consignment Marketplaces (Tradesy, Poshmark, and Mercari)
If you sell clothing, shoes, home goods, toys, or anything remotely in those categories, consignment marketplaces such as Tradesy, Poshmark, and Mercari are huge selling opportunities both for your excess inventory or even as an additional selling channel depending what you sell. The channels are open to both new and used items. So if you have a toy, for example, that was returned with the packaging open or damaged, shoes that are missing the box or clothing that’s missing the tags, they are fair game to list on these marketplaces. Just be honest about the condition the items are in when you list them, price them accordingly, and watch the sales roll in. New items selling below retail prices do very well on Tradesy, Poshmark, and Mercari too. Just be sure to make it clear that the item is new so buyers immediately recognize the value they are getting.
Instead of having your own yard or rummage sale that is limited only to the people in your community, consignment marketplaces take your garage sale nationwide. While all orders are self-fulfilled, they make it super easy. When a sale is made, the seller is automatically emailed a prepaid shipping label that you can print out, place on the package, and drop off at USPS, UPS, FedEx or the corresponding location. You could also schedule a pickup. So there is no waiting in line to pay for shipping. Plus the buyer pays for the shipping, so you don’t have to worry about shipping costs.
Pro Tip: Consignment marketplaces like Poshmark and Mercari allow buyers to make you an offer for less than the amount you asked for. You then have 24 hours to accept the offer, reject it, or counteroffer. While you don’t have to accept a lower price, this is a common practice. These platforms also have a social component. You can also make lower offers to “Likers” or people who have liked your listings that also expire in 24 hours. So you may want to set your prices a little higher expecting that you will get lower offers or give lower offers.
There are no monthly fees and it doesn’t cost you anything to list your items on consignment marketplaces until they sell. For more on fees, items that work best, and how to succeed on consignment marketplaces, check out our post on eCommerce selling tips for Tradesy, Poshmark and Mercari.
Thrift and Consignment Stores
Thrift and consignment stores range from high end to low end. While some are exclusive to clothing and accessories, others primarily carry furniture and home goods. Before you consider selling your excess inventory through a thrift store, look at what they carry first and see if your items are a good fit. If you’re a good fit, the next step is usually to bring your items to the shop in person for them to look at and decide what they want. Keep in mind that they are often looking for something specific that they think is going to sell fast.
If they decide to take any of your items, they will either pay you for them upfront or pay you a percentage after the item they accepted sells. If they pay you upfront, you may only get 10-20% of what they plan to try to sell your items for. If they pay after the sale, they will likely pay you 30-50% of what the item sold for. With fees on consignment marketplaces often capping out at 20% with the seller netting 80% of the sale, you do take home less if you sell your unsold inventory to a consignment store. However, they will take the inventory off your hands right away.
Unlike consignment marketplaces where you can list just about anything and the buyer decides to buy it or not, consignment stores may not take all or any of your inventory. Like consignment marketplaces, new and used items are usually both accepted (depending on the store of course) and priced accordingly.
If you have a local flea or farmers market in your area where you could get a physical storefront cheaply, you may want to consider setting up shop. While this may not be for everyone and can be a significant time commitment as you have to physically be there selling often over the weekend, many sellers actually love it. Selling at a flea market gives online sellers the chance to get out from behind their computers and actually talk to the people buying their products. This is often a welcome break from the isolation that can come from running a business out of your home.
On top of the social aspect, local flea markets give online sellers, they also give sellers the opportunity to unload unsold inventory free of marketplace fees and buyers pay upfront in cash. So there is no waiting to get paid for what you sell. Unlike selling online where anyone can see your listing regardless of where they live, local flea markets only allow you to sell to people in your area who show up at the flea market. So you are at the mercy of foot traffic and the overall popularity of the flea market. If you’re selling at a popular flea market on a beautiful afternoon, you may clear out a lot of your excess inventory and come home with cash, but if the market isn’t well-attended or gets rained out, you may have to haul all of your unsold inventory home again.
Local Marketplaces (Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and Letgo)
Many online sellers clear out their excess inventory on local marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and Letgo — just to name a few. These marketplaces allow you to sell inventory online to people in your local area. While the marketplaces connect you to a buyer, they do not charge fees for this service or intermediate payment.
While you won’t pay marketplace fees on these sales, selling on local marketplaces can be a significant time commitment. Sellers on local marketplaces really have to hustle to get their items sold which often means numerous back and forth messages, meeting up with buyers and making the final sale in person. For your safety, always meet with buyers in a public place like a coffee shop or shopping mall. Try to select a place close to your home that you can get to and from quickly so you don’t have to go so far out of your way should a buyer decide not to buy at the last minute or fails to show up.
Like with flea markets, buyers pay upfront and in cash, but you are limited to only selling to people in your area.
Now that you have a few ideas of places to sell your unsold inventory it’s time to weigh the pros and cons of each and decide which works best for you and your inventory. While flea markets and local marketplaces come free of marketplace fees and buyers pay in cash upfront, they also come with a larger time commitment and sales are limited to the people in your area. While discovery and consignment marketplaces like Tophatter and Poshmark charge less in fees than thrift shops, they require you to manage your own listings, take your own pictures and fulfill your own orders.
If you’re not sure what works best for you or your inventory, but have a bunch of excess items you are looking to move, give two or more of these a try until you find what works for you.