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Late-to-the-Game Holiday Product Sourcing

Learn 5 ways you can still pick up great seasonal inventory.

If you haven’t yet done your holiday product sourcing, you’re probably wondering if you’re already too late to the game. Even if you did stock up early, it’s common to find your store running out of stock early in the season, or you may realize you bypassed purchasing some of the season’s hottest items.

While it’s too late to start sourcing this season’s hot holiday products from wholesale suppliers, it’s not too late to pick up some great holiday inventory with some creative product sourcing techniques. Here are five:

1. Restock your best-selling inventory

One of the biggest mistakes sellers make when sourcing holiday inventory is thinking that their holiday inventory must be made up only of hot holiday products.

With more people shopping online during the holiday season, people are buying more of everything! In fact, a recent survey released by the National Retail Federation revealed that 52 percent of online shoppers will buy something for themselves this holiday season.

Contact your existing suppliers and see which of your best sellers they have in stock right now. Inquire about new colors and styles and have those shipped to you immediately.

Note: Make sure you confirm with your supplier that merchandise is in stock and coming from a regional warehouse. Don’t gamble on inventory that is due to arrive from overseas.

2. Visit a Merchandise Mart

Merchandise Marts are permanent wholesale trade exhibits located in cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles and Dallas. Merchandise Marts often host end-of-season sample sales and cash-and-carry shows during the holiday selling season. This is a great way to pick up holiday inventory and test market new products for the coming year!

3. Attend a cash-and-carry show

In essence, you are acting as a personal shopper, bringing the season’s most in-demand products to a global marketplace

Wholesale cash-and-carry shows are an easy way to stock up on last-minute gift items, collectibles, jewelry and home furnishings for your store. While these shows are only held in certain areas of the country, they can be a great resource for last-minute holiday sourcing.

To locate a cash-and-carry show in your area, do an online search for the keywords “wholesale cash and carry show,” or visit one of the Merchandise Mart Web sites above.

4. Leverage retail resale

One of the best ways to pick up the “it” toys and products of the season is through a process I call retail resale. Retail resale, also known as arbitrage, is the process of buying consumer goods in one market for the purpose of reselling them in another.

For example, you can’t purchase this season’s hot new “Nerf N-Strike Stampede” toy or the latest American Girl Doll accessories from a wholesale supplier at this point in the season, but if you shop early you can purchase them while retail supplies are still plentiful.

Retail resale is a great way to source holiday inventory if you’re just getting started, or a way to supplement your holiday income if you’re an established merchant.

Use the retail resale method for product sourcing, online or offline. In essence, you are acting as a personal shopper, bringing the season’s most in-demand products to a global marketplace, through your online shop or Web site.

When sourcing via retail resale, it’s important to keep in mind that you must treat this like any other inventory buy. Pay close attention to the trends, make informed sourcing decisions and don’t overbuy.

Also, choose your marketplace carefully. Some products will sell better on Amazon. Others will sell better on eBay or from your own Web site.

Tip: To keep updated on the latest hot selling holiday products, make sure you’re receiving a copy of my weekly Hot Trend Alerts hot sheet.

5. Think ‘different’

One of the hottest trends in holiday gift giving is that of gifting unique collectibles

Don’t overlook one-of-a-kind items or pre-owned goods. One of the hottest trends in holiday gift giving is that of gifting unique collectibles in place of new consumer goods. A great holiday gift doesn’t have to be a brand new consumer item.

Shoppers are realizing they can get a lot more for their money when selecting a high quality collectible or a refurbished product, than they would if they spent the same amount of money on a new item.

Another benefit is the “green” component. With the increased interest in giving eco-friendly gifts, a well maintained, pre-owned gift brings with it better value, and fits the eco-friendly bill.

One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was a used high-end cordless drill kit. A friend of mine purchased the set (which would have been hundreds of dollars new) from eBay. It was in perfect condition, and I still use it to this day.

Showcase your inventory with holiday gift lists

Once you’ve sourced your new holiday inventory, don’t wait for your customers to realize that you sell the perfect gift (or gift for themselves). Visitors to your store shouldn’t have to think for a moment about what to buy this holiday season!

It’s up to you to present your inventory in the form of holiday gift suggestions. Create a “Gift Center” or a “Top 10 Gift List,” and feature it in your store or Web site. Showcase your new inventory and market the products you’ve just sourced.

For example, a bathrobe can be a great holiday present or the perfect way for buyers to treat themselves to a warm, snuggly Christmas morning. Use gift lists to help your customers see the possibilities in the products you sell.

With some creative product sourcing and a little creative marketing, there’s still plenty of time to make this your best holiday selling season ever.

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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