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Need Last-Minute Holiday Inventory?

It's not too late to restock with profitable merchandise. Here's where to look.

Trying to keep up with the holiday selling frenzy can be tough. Between carefully packing items, printing shipping labels and making multiple trips to the post office, time goes by quick and, before you know it, you might discover you’re running low on inventory.

In case this happens, we have a few suggestions for where to pick up last-minute holiday merchandise, quickly and inexpensively, to prevent a major interruption in your sales, and help make this holiday a very merry one for you.

Rebecca Miller, an eBay seller of more than 12 years, has been counting down the days to Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving and the kickoff of the holiday selling season—since mid-June. Miller knows where to find items she can flip.

The key, she says, is to look for items that will sell for a good profit and won’t cost you a lot. Her first suggestion: Visit your local grocery or discount store.

Grocery and discount stores

Miller reminds us that grocery and discount stores often carry high-end items at good prices. These can range from collectible ornaments to holiday décor for the home, or even gift sets of items like perfumes or slippers.

She recalls a recent craze over collectible Hallmark ornaments. Many shoppers were willing to pay more than twice the retail price to complete their collections. However, resellers didn’t have to visit Hallmark stores to buy these ornaments; they could pick them up at discount stores and even in the checkout aisles at grocery stores.

You see, every retailer, including grocery stores, tries to get in on the holiday selling frenzy, so you might see a few additional items at your local grocery store in the coming weeks.

Always, if you source items at a local retail store, be sure to keep your receipts. If they don’t sell, you can return them

Places like TJ Maxx and Big Lots carry a wider range of well-known products at discounted prices, and that’s key to finding a good sourcing opportunity, Miller adds. She recently found a well-known brand of body lotion that typically sells for about $20 a bottle for just $8 at Grocery Outlet. She sold the bottles of lotion on eBay for $25 each.

Stephanie Inge, an eBay education specialist and registered eBay trading assistant, adds that Walmart is another good place to shop for last-minute finds. It’s one of her favorite places to source toys.

“They have a great selection and good prices,” the online seller of more than 13 years explains. Toys are always at the top of buyers’ shopping lists, so they make a good item to source. However, if you specialize in other niches, you can see what the top products for that niche are by visiting eBay Pulse and checking out Amazon’s “hot lists.”

Inge tells us her sister once made $29,000 in two weeks by focusing on selling four of top toys on the eBay and Amazon lists.

“Tailor [your purchases] to what people want, and you’ll have a lot better chance of selling your items, not ending up with a lot of leftover inventory,” she notes.

And always, Inge reminds us, if you source items at a local retail store, be sure to keep your receipts.

“The advantage of buying retail is they have a generous return policy, so if you have a stock of toys that didn’t sell, you have every right to return it,” she explains.

Your local dollar store

Dollar stores can be another place to score, Miller notes. These stores buy the closeout merchandise from other, more expensive retailers, so they often end up with good items at a very reasonable price. A big plus for resellers is that a shopping spree at one of these locales won’t leave you broke.

However, you will need to visit these stores with a few sourcing tactics in mind. First, Miller says, be selective of what you pick up for resale. Look for items that will sell so you don’t just end up with a lot of random inventory. Sure, it might not cost you much, but you might be left having to store a lot of leftovers or donating them later if products don’t sell.

Miller suggests first scoping out what these stores have to offer, then taking a minute to think about the inventory available before pulling the trigger and buying goods.

As you look around, if something catches your eye, or makes you say, “What, this is just a dollar?” take a moment to write down the brand name, and a brief description of the item so you can research its value later at home. Better yet, if you have your smartphone with you, look it up while you’re at the store, Miller suggests.

“Remember that dollar stores carry ornaments, plush Christmas stockings, garlands, small holiday figures and more,” she says. “All of these sell during the holidays.”

The small items might be attractive to buyers, and their size makes them easy to ship, Miller continues. But don’t just focus on holiday-themed items, explore a little.

Go down most of the store’s aisles to see what else they have to offer. Dollar stores carry a wide section of items, and inventory constantly changes so you might find something good in the tools section or even the small clothing section, for instance, scarves, handbags and gloves—all great gift ideas, and just the type of items people might be looking for.

But don’t settle for “cheap” just because an item is priced for a bargain, Miller warns. Your buyers still expect quality. If they don’t get it, they’ll likely go elsewhere.

“Quality typically comes at a price. Since you’re just paying a buck, you should really look carefully at items,” she says. This means inspecting seams, buttons, embellishments and other features.

Keep your eyes peeled for ugly Christmas sweaters. They’re a hot commodity this time of year

Thrift stores

You can also find great inventory at thrift shops. They’re a goldmine for vintage Christmas decorations, especially vintage Christmas lights—which happen to be very collectible, Miller adds.

Why are these a good source of inventory? Because they’re loaded with holiday items people have donated throughout the year, which can add up to a lot of inventory.

“When people are trying to make room in their homes—or in my case in my storage locker—they often see this big box marked ‘Christmas’ and they think of the space the box is taking up, not the items inside it,” she says. “I end up donating items every year.”

Someone else’s clutter might be your resale treasure. Be on the lookout for ornaments, vintage holiday figurines, collectible Christmas village items and other holiday-themed items.

“Remember to keep your eyes peeled for the ugly Christmas sweaters, too,” she adds.

Ugly sweater parties are popular, and the holidays lend themselves to plenty of ugly holiday sweater parties, making ugly sweaters a hot commodity, she notes.

Liquidation sites and drop-shippers

Inge adds that liquidation sites and drop-shippers can also be good places to pick up last-minute holiday inventory. However, you should be careful that items will get to you—and your buyers—in time for the holidays, she adds.

“People, at Christmas, have to know they’re going to receive items by the holiday,” she explains. They need that assurance and won’t put up with delays.

She suggests checking sites like to see what they have to offer, and where their warehouses are located. If they’re in your city or nearby, see if you can source at the warehouse to avoid the shipping cost, and to ensure your items will arrive in time to get them prepped and listed.

If you decide to use a drop-shipper, talk to the supplier and ensure they will be able to meet your deadlines and won’t run out of stock, she adds.

So if you need to do some last-minute restocking of holiday inventory, now you have a few potential sources to investigate. As Inge reminds us, holiday shoppers will be busy buying well into December, and you don’t want to miss out on the fun.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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