Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My Tips For Selling on Amazon

Although I've only recently started selling things through Amazon, I think it's been a productive week. In this post, I'd like to pass on a few more tips.

First up, a quick status report. In less than one week, I've posted 134 items. Of those, 47 have now sold. This leads to the first tip on this post (which is an obvious one, but may be useful for new sellers).

Tip #1: If you are going to sell more than 40 items per month, sign up as a Pro Seller. Normally Amazon will charge an extra 99 cents per sale - paying 39.99 per month waives this fee. If you aren't sure, you can wait and play it safe - but if you're going for volume, go Pro.

I attribute most of my success to the quality of my collection (my CDs are all in very good condition), and to my method for listing. As mentioned earlier, I only list items where I can profitably list at the new lowest price. This keeps items which are worthless from cluttering up my store, and makes sure that people looking for used CDs will find mine first.

The interesting thing is that I'm not the only one doing this (naturally). After about a day, almost 30% of my inventory is no longer listed at the lowest price. The marketplace is actually more dynamic than it might seem from just browsing the Amazon site - there's a fair amount of competition driving prices down. If you want a used CD, but aren't in a rush, wait a few days and it might be cheaper. On the other hand, cheap items sell fast, so you may risk losing an item by waiting.

Tip #2: Review your inventory regularly to make sure your listings are competitive. In my case, I do so about once a day. Generally I'm perfectly happy to drop a few cents or a nickel to get the lowest price. For a high proft item, I'll gladly drop a buck. On the other hand, when I see someone competing with a price too low for my preferences, I'll review other offers, and sometimes bring my price up - once the competitor sells this puts me in a good position for the next customer.

I'd also like to note that Amazon has really excellent support for their sellers. Just push a button on the web site, and you will get a phone call from their support immediately. This bypasses the usual security questions since you are logged in to your account to initiate the call. All the support people I have talked to were very friendly and helpful. So, kudos to Amazon. If you have any questions, feel free to call them.

If you're interested in buying quality used CD's, please check out my store front.

Finally, I've found a new outlet for those CDs which I just can't get any value for no matter what - promotional CDs, overstocked junk, whatever. These are going to go to a local artist, and be recycled into various art projects. If I get a chance to see any interesting pieces created out of the donations, I'll try and post pictures.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Economics of Selling CDs

Hopefully someone out there is interested in these numbers - my hope is these details may be useful for anyone thinking about selling their own CD collection. With that in mind, here are some concrete numbers after my first batch of CDs was processed. This post will focus mainly on the associated overhead - at the moment, I'm only shipping in the US, so these numbers are all limited to that context.

When you sell merchandise through Amazon, you receive a credit to help cover the shipping costs. These are fixed by Amazon, so will not necessarily correspond directly to your own costs. At the moment, I'm getting a credit of $2.98 for each CD I sell, regardless of the CD.

My costs depend on the supplies I buy to ship, and the postage. In my first batch, I picked up the supplies from the post office. To ship a double CD set costs me $1.99 for a small box and $2.70 for postage - that means I'm losing $1.71 against my selling price. In other words, I want to make sure I'm charging more than $1.71 on those sets, or I'm losing money.

For a regular single CD in a jewel case, I pay $1.09 for a card sleeve, 16 cents for bubble wrap, and $2.02 for shipping. That's a total of $3.27 for a loss of 29 cents. On the cheaper side, for CDs which come in cardboard sleeves, shipping drops to $1.85.

After running the numbers, I decided to get some cheaper supplies. At Target, I can buy CD-sized padded envelopes for 65 cents each. This means I will actually be making a small profit against the shipping credit for most CDs, and only losing on the larger disc sets - which tend to have higher selling prices anyways.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Selling CDs Online

This is a follow up to my previous post, with some notes on my experience so far selling off some of my music collection. First off, it's amazing how many CDs you can buy on Amazon for 1 cent. Of course, there's shipping involved, which is where the margin is - but that's pretty much rock bottom for physical media. So competing in that arena is not something I'm interested in.

At the moment, I've gone through one legal box full of CDs. This is about 150 CDs. Of those, 35 were worth listing on Amazon at the new lowest current offer price. Withing 24 hours, 5 of those CDs have already sold, at an average selling price of $10 per disk. Of course those were some of the more collectible disks, but it's still a good start.

Of the remaining 115, I've decided to add another option to my process: SecondSpin. They are willing to buy most of my CDs, ranging from (so far) 5 cents to 5 dollars. Of the 18 CDs I've checked so far, I've decided 5 of them are worth going this route, which is a pretty decent percentage - getting me on average 2 bucks per CD.

I may post a list of whatever's left here on my blog - $2 each + whatever shipping is appropriate for the set. I wonder if that would get any traction?

One other point: a lot of these disks have upwards of 18 tracks. At 99 cents a track for a digital copy, that's 18 dollars to buy lossy digital copies versus 1 buck to get the physical media which can be ripped to get perfect, DRM-free copies of all 18 tracks. If I were a record label, I think I'd be all over the digital model in this marketplace.