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Sourcing Hot Products for the Holidays

10 strategies to discover the 'it' item for your market niche.

The “it” products—every holiday season has them! What products will your buyers snap up this year?

When it comes to holiday product sourcing, there’s no doubt about it, the more prepared you are, the more you’ll profit. While you may think of “hot holiday products” as toys or the latest video games, holiday sales happen in many product categories.

But before answering the question of how to source hot holiday products, we first need to look at what the “holiday selling season” really means.

When are ‘the holidays?’

When most people think of the “holiday season,” they usually think of the bulk of the shopping that happens in November and December. While it’s true that the Christmas season is the peak sales time, if you only consider the period from November through December as the holiday selling season, you’re missing out on several other seasonal selling opportunities along the way.

The holiday selling season is not just a short period from November to December

Beginning in August and running through the end of January, shoppers are in varying stages of holiday shopping mode. Take a look at the list below, and you’ll never look at holiday selling season the same way again!

Here are 11 different selling seasons for you to capitalize on:

  • Back to school shopping
  • “Falloween” (Fall-themed products that carry into Halloween)
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Gift-giving season (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.)
  • Gift certificate redemption season (late December through January)
  • Post-gift-giving trade in/trade up purchases (late December through January)
  • New Year’s
  • Fitness (January)
  • Organization (January)
  • “Fresh Start” products (January)

Now you can clearly see why the holiday selling season is not just a short period from November to December, and the many opportunities there are to source inventory.

So let’s get to it!

What follows are 10 holiday product sourcing strategies that work for every online merchant. Whether your business is big or small, these strategies will lead you directly to the hot-selling holiday products.

1. Review your sales data from last holiday season

The first place to start when figuring out what holiday products to sell this year is to look at your best-sellers from last year—as well as your current best-sellers. Once you’ve identified these products, it’s time to…

2. Source new versions of proven best-sellers

After identifying your previous and current best sellers, the next step is to research new versions, styles, models, colors and brands of these products. A few years ago, Tickle Me Elmo was the hottest Christmas toy on the market. Every year since, the makers of Tickle Me Elmo have released a new toy with a different spin. All of them have landed on the holiday toy best-sellers lists!Leverage your suppliers’ research and knowledge in your own holiday sourcing

Stocking your store with updated versions of what your customers are already buying is one of the easiest ways to stock your store with the next in-demand products.

3. Ask suppliers for a holiday preview

Some suppliers will send out holiday preview hot lists with the latest holiday inventory, but don’t rely on the supplier to contact you first. Call your suppliers early and find out what new merchandise is on-deck for the holidays.

4. Ask your suppliers for their recommendations

Suppliers are excellent sources for finding out what’s hot for the holidays. Not only should you contact suppliers to find out what’s new, you should also leverage their research and knowledge in your own holiday product sourcing. Your suppliers know their product lines better than anyone else. They’ve manufactured or imported products based on their holiday sales research. To find out what they know, all you need to do is ask.

5. Track trends in your product category throughout the year

There are trends in every product category. No matter what you sell, you need to be on top of the latest product trends in your category. Learn more about tracking trends and figuring out what your customers want to buy here and here. My Hot Trend Alerts newsletter will keep you updated on the latest hot product trends. Without staying on top of the trends in your category, you’re leaving your holiday sourcing to chance.

Here are a few examples:

  • Sell men’s watches? What are the trends? Read the industry trade publications to see what the hot new styles are. Are stylish fashion watches all the rage this year, or are gift-givers looking for rugged GPS-enhanced watches?
  • Sell rain boots? What colors and designs are selling now? Are people buying short ankle boots or tall boots? What new brands and styles are on the scene? Consumer fashion magazines, trend Web sites and fashion news in the media all provide clues and insights as to what the hot holiday sellers will be.
  • Sell home décor products? What will people be decorating their homes with during the holidays? Holiday rugs, Christmas-themed dishware, inflatable Santas or mantle trees? Many product categories now offer seasonal décor. But keep in mind that traditional products like a white tablecloth or new fireplace set can also be hot sellers during the holidays.

6. Identify the latest and greatest

What are the new products that have been released in your product category? Again, this is critical information you must know to determine what will be hot this year. If you can’t name the top five to 10 products new to the marketplace in your category, you’ll miss the mark on holiday sales.

7. Attend pre-holiday tradeshows

Back-to-school sales are a preview of the hot holiday sellers

Tradeshows are the best way to view the hot new products in your industry, all in one place. And they happen throughout the year. To find a tradeshow in your industry, go to Trade Show News Network. Keep in mind that to source holiday products, you’ll want to attend a tradeshow earlier in the year rather than later.

8. Ferret out the hits with Google Insights

Google Insights will show you what products trended up and down in the previous holiday seasons. If you sell bicycles and accessories, Google Insights will show you how those products trended for the previous year. Combining this data with all the information you’ve gleaned from the steps above will give you the information you need to make informed inventory purchases.

9. Pay close attention to the back-to-school hit list

Back-to-school sales are a preview of the hot holiday sellers. Check the store ads, scan the hot lists and pay attention to what sells at this time of year!

10. Tap into Idea Hotspots™

Blogs, toy sites, newsletters, online magazines and media articles are all what I call Idea Hotspots™. These will keep you in tune with what’s happening in the season’s biggest categories. Also look to the major marketplaces to find out what’s on their hot lists. eBay Pulse will show you what’s hot on eBay. Amazon also displays lists of what’s hot, most frequently gifted and most wished for on the site.

When it comes to buying hot products for the holidays, the prep work takes the guesswork out of holiday product sourcing! The earlier you start the better.

An early start also gives you the opportunity to bring in new products for test marketing, as well as plenty of time to place orders with suppliers before the best holiday products are sold out! By the time the holiday selling season arrives, your store will be stocked and ready for profitable holiday sales.

About the author

Lisa Suttora
Lisa Suttora is an internationally known e-commerce expert, internet marketing strategist and veteran trend spotter. As founder and CEO of, Suttora has helped thousands of enterprising entrepreneurs build successful, niche-based online businesses. Since 2004, has provided premier education and a global community for online retailers. To get the latest on hot product niches and trends, subscribe to Suttora's free trend sheet Hot Trend Alerts. Suttora also has a 15-day e-course to help sellers make money on today's eBay. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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