What is Retail Arbitrage? How to Source & Sell in 2024

By Christopher Grant

Updated December 8, 2023

If you're looking for a way to make some extra money on the side, arbitrage with Amazon FBA is one of the best ways to start.

There's two different ways you can arbitrage goods on Amazon FBA and I previously wrote about my favorite way, online arbitrage, but today we're going to talk about retail arbitrage.

Retail arbitrage is the process of buying products at a low price and selling them for a higher price online, so the principles are the same as online arbitrage except with retail arbitrage you're buying from physical retail stores.

There's no reason you can't do both. In fact I recommend you do both online and retail arbitrage. If you're out doing buying gifts or just cruising the mall, why not keep your eye out for any bargains and pick up some stock?

Of course you'll need to know how retail arbitrage works and you'll have to do some quick due diligence if you stumble across a potential product out in the wild!

By the end of this article you'll be armed with plenty of info to get started with retail arbitrage and Amazon FBA, so let's get started.

What is Retail Arbitrage?

You may have seen the "picker" craze on social media over the past few years, which involves going to garage sales and thrift stores to find hidden gems to re-sell on platforms like eBay. Whilst the concept and strategies are similar, retail arbitrage has greater potential when it comes to sales volume and consistent, predictable revenue.

When sourcing products for retail arbitrage we're looking for brand new, unused items from retail stores, rather than sifting through other people's junk at garage sales or thrift shops.

Purchasing goods from retail stores to flip on Amazon might be a spontaneous purchase, or we may also strategically target stores that are having advertised sales or closing down clearances.

There's a lot of different ways to source goods and with the tips and tricks Im going to share with you, you'll be able to source products with confidence and start making money with retail arbitrage very soon!

How Does Amazon Retail Arbitrage Work?

The process of Amazon retail arbitrage is simple. First, find a low-priced product that you think you can sell for a profit. Next, list the item on Amazon at a higher price. When someone buys the item from you, Amazon will send you the difference between the two prices.

For example, if you sell an item $60 that you bought for $20, Amazon will pay you the difference after they take their fees. We'll discuss fees later in this article.

It's important to keep in mind that there's some costs associated with selling on Amazon, especially with FBA. There's also specific requirements you need to adhere to when selling products with Amazon FBA.

What is Amazon FBA?

This is an entire learning experience in itself, which I've actually written about in this Amazon FBA guide.

But to describe Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) in a nutshell, this handy graphic explains it perfectly!

How Amazon FBA Works

When you first find your products in a retail store, you'll need to prepare then before sending them to an Amazon warehouse. You can either ship to Amazon yourself or you can use an Amazon prep center.

You'll need to have an Amazon seller account with FBA setup, and once you have your products prepped you can send them to Amazon and create your listings.

Then once you start making sales, Amazon will pick, pack and ship your items from their warehouse directly to your customer.

Not having to do all of these menial tasks yourself is what makes Amazon FBA great. You can focus your efforts on finding hot products and growing your business.

The Best Stores for Retail Arbitrage

Like any form of business startup, retail arbitrage can be a bit of a gamble. You might buy a heap of inventory, only to be left with products that you can't sell without losing your money. Not every single product is going to be a best seller on Amazon!

Retail Arbitrage is, however, a great way for many people to make some extra money on the side and when done right, it can be a life changing venture that gives you freedom and fortune in many ways.

Here's are some of the best retail stores known to have products that can be profitable when resold on Amazon:

1. Walmart: Everyone knows Walmart. Clearance items and rollback deals are common at Walmart so if you have one near you, make some time to visit every so often.

2. Target: Target is always a crowd favorite amongst Amazon arbitrage sellers. Target's clearance section, especially end-of-season sales, often represent great opportunities for profitable arbitrage hauls.

3. Home Depot: Home improvement is a popular category on Amazon so its no surprise that Home Depot has made this list. Home Depot is a great source for tools, appliances and other home improvement related buys.

4. Lowe's: Similar to Home Depot, Lowe's can be an excellent source for home improvement products.

5. Marshalls/TJ Maxx/Ross: These "off-price" discount retailers are known for offering big discounts on brand-name clothing, accessories, and home goods.

6. Best Buy: The go-to for cheap electronics, Best Buy are known for their great sale events which are prime opportunities for retail arbitrage folk.

7. Dollar Stores: Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree are famous for rock bottom prices, which is great for arbitrage entrepreneurs looking to score a profitable flipping opportunity.

8. Barnes & Noble: Books are a fantastic category to break into on Amazon so make sure to keep an eye out for clearance sales on books, toys, and other merchandise available at B&N.

9. Bed, Bath & Beyond: One of the better known home goods retail stores, Bed, Bath & Beyond often have regular discount and clearance sales where savvy retail arbitrageurs will find plenty of profitable products.

10. Costco/Sam's Club: Purchasing bulk goods from these stores can be great for Amazon sellers dealing in replenish-able products.

11. GameStop: Discounted or used video games, consoles, and accessories can be very profitable products to flip on Amazon.

12. Kohl's: One quick search on YouTube will reveal a heap of retail arbitrage gurus touting their wins when sourcing from Kohl's. Like a few of the other stores on this list, Kohl's are great for discounted clothing, home goods, and more.

13. Walgreens/CVS: Health and beauty products are a hot item on Amazon so it's wise to keep your eye on discounts at outlets like Walgreens and CVS.

14. Toys R Us/Babies R Us: After going through turbulent economic times, Toys R Us are now exclusively found inside Macy's store across the US. Regardless of these changes, there are still great bargains to be had at these stores if you're in the toy or baby niche.

15. Office Depot/OfficeMax: Selling stationary and office supplies on Amazon can be quite lucrative if you know what you're doing, so Office Deport and OfficeMax are great locations to keep an eye on.

Some of the other stores you may want to familiarize yourself with are:

  • Bass Pro
  • Big Lots
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Kmart
  • Meijer
  • Menards
  • Michael’s
  • Publix
  • REI Co-op
  • Rite Aid
  • Shopko
  • Staples
  • Tuesday Morning

Remember, the key to successful retail arbitrage is research. You need to know what items are selling for on Amazon and what your potential profit could be after taking into account Amazon's fees and your shipping costs.

Also, always be aware of Amazon’s selling policies and restrictions, as some brand name items may be gated or restricted on Amazon, or could event put you at risk of an Amazon IP complaint.

What About Thrift Stores for Retail Arbitrage?

Thrift stores can be a goldmine for Amazon retail arbitrage, much like garage sales and estate sales, but there's a few difference than the typical retail store approach.

Thrift stores will require more patience, a keen eye, and knowledge of what used items sell well on Amazon. You're unlikely to find anything to buy in bulk, but more so one-off, unique items that are priced low but can fetch you a pretty penny in return.

Here are a few thrift store options that might be worth keeping on your radar:

  1. Goodwill: One of the more well-known thrift store chains, Goodwill is know for its for its vast array of items ranging from clothing, books, home decor, electronics, and more.
  2. Salvation Army: Very similar to Goodwill, the Salvation Army thrift stores will present you many opportunities to pick up profitable flips.
  3. Savers/Value Village: Huge on driving a message of re-using pre-loved items, Value Village is great for fashion items and they even offer a club card for additional discounts.
  4. Local Thrift Shops: Don't forget to check out your local non-chain thrift stores. These can sometimes have less competition and might offer some unique, hard-to-find items.
  5. Habitat for Humanity ReStore: These outlets are excellent for finding home improvement, furniture, and appliance items at low prices.
  6. Consignment Stores: Higher-end consignment shops can often have designer clothing and accessories at a fraction of the retail cost.
  7. Garage/Yard Sales: While not exactly a thrift store, never underestimate what you might find at a local yard or garage sale.
  8. Estate Sales: Similar to garage sales, estate sales can be a great place to find valuable items being sold cheaply.

When shopping at thrift stores or scouring the local yard sales, it's important to research what you are buying, as returns are typically not an option. Research can be done on the fly with the Amazon or eBay app on your phone.

Another great research method is to use Google Lens to snap a photo of a product and search for it online.

Warning: If you purchase items from thrift stores to resell on Amazon outside of books and you get an authenticity claim, an IP Claim, or any other issue that may require receipts/invoices the one you get from the thrift store will not work with Amazon.

Many of the receipts are just a price and have no indication of what the product was. Thrift stores also have no chain of custody as they get everything donated to them and there is no telling where the item may have come from.

My personal belief in today's market is that thrift store should be used as a sourcing location for books only and anything else you fins at a thrift store should be sold on eBay rather than on Amazon.

Chris Green Google Lense for Arbitrage

A fellow Amazon seller and long-time friend of mine does this exceptionally well, and he shares his journey on Facebook for others to see.

Finding Good Products to Sell with Retail Arbitrage

As you become more experience as an Amazon FBA retail arbitrage seller, you will start to pick up do's and don'ts along the way. To help save you some time, here's some handy tips that could save you a fortune.

Use the Amazon Seller Scanner App

The Amazon Seller Scanner app is free and it connects to your seller account. What's great is that you can use it to scan items you find in stores and see what they are currently selling for on Amazon. This a great little free research tool.

Check Amazon Movers and Shakers

Amazon Movers and Shakers is a list of all the biggest sales rank movers on Amazon, updated every 24 hours. It's a great tool to check often so you can get an "eye" for trends and products that sell well.

Look Closer at Variants

Not all product variants are good sellers. For example, a particular shoe might sell well but the green version of it might be a dud. Before you make a big purchase of goods you've sourced, ensure that you dig a little deeper into the variants.

Use Software Like Keepa

Keepa is a fantastic piece of software that allows you to track millions of products on Amazon. You can do things like track price movements and Amazon sales rank which helps give you a great overview of potential products that are worth arbitraging.

Check Amazon's Product Compliance

Make sure you are well versed in Amazon's category, product and listing restrictions so you don't end up buying bulk of a product that is going to cause you headaches due to restrictions.

Best Software for Amazon Retail Arbitrage

If you want to really get a head start on your retail arbitrage journey, using a scanner app will help you access Amazon sales data on the fly so you can make better retail sourcing decisions.

Suggested Reading: Best Amazon Seller Scanner Apps

If you want to check out our article linked above, you'll see a full breakdown of a bunch of different scanner apps.

For a free offering, we would highly recommend checking out the Amazon Seller App. It is nowhere near as powerful as our number one suggestion below, but it's a great start if you're on a budget.

For serious Amazon retail arbitrage sellers, Scoutify 2 is hands-down one of the best options for you.

What I love most about Scoutify 2:

Ideal Buy Criteria

You can pre-configure certain criteria that will trigger a thumbs up when you scan a product that meets your desired requirements. This saves you time and effort when sourcing on the run.

Scanning Speed

It might not sound like much, but having a scanning app that scans and returns data fast is a real time saver. Many other apps cant match the scanning speed of Scoutify 2.

Buy Box Data

When you scan a product, Scoutify 2 will let you know the details of the buy box offer for the product. This is valuable info to have at your finger tips.

Sold by Amazon

It's crucial to know if potential product you want to source is being sold by Amazon. You'll know if Amazon is selling any product you scan with Scoutify 2.

How Much Does it Cost to Sell on Amazon FBA with Retail Arbitrage?

There is no one, fixed-fee when it comes to selling on Amazon FBA, but rather a range of different costs that retail arbitrage sellers need to take into account.

Here's a list of costs that you will need to take into account:

Amazon FBA Warehousing Costs

Amazon charges you to store your products in their warehouse. This table of fees is current at the time of writing this article, but I always recommend checking the Amazon Seller Central help docs.

Amazon FBA Warehouse Fees

The storage fees are quite transparent and they vary depending on the type of the product, the time of year, the amount of actual space your products are taking up and the length of time that they have been stored.

Amazon FBA Fulfilment Costs

Fulfilment costs include picking, packing and shipping your products to your customers when you make a sale. The Amazon Revenue Calculator is a great way to estimate fees.

Amazon Selling Fees

When you sell an item, you are charged whats called a referral fee by Amazon. This fee depends greatly on the category of your products and it can range from 8% to 17% of the sale price.

Amazon Monthly Fee

In order to maintain a professional selling account with Amazon, you need to pay $39.99 per month.

Amazon Prep Center Costs

If you choose to engage and Amazon FBA Prep Center to prepare your goods then you will need to take into account their fees.

Cost of Goods

This one's pretty obvious, but you need to keep an account of how much you actually spend on products that you source. You also need to consider the cost of shipping the goods to your prep center or to Amazon directly.

Taxes and the Legal Stuff

I'm not an accountant but make sure you engage the services of one when the time is right. You may also need a legal professional when it comes to incorporating your business. I don't give advice on any of these matters because everyone's situation is different, so make sure you get the right professional help for your own scenario.

What The Difference Between Retail Arbitrage and Online Arbitrage?

This one is quite simple. Retail arbitrage involves sourcing products from brick and mortar retail stores whereas Online Arbitrage involves sourcing products online. Both methods of arbitrage involve selling the products on Amazon FBA so most of the principles are really the same. In fact there's no reason you can't do both.

I prefer to spend my time researching and sourcing online so I love the online arbitrage model, which is why I hold a regular OA Challenge for those wanting to do the same.

Retail Arbitrage Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Legal to Resell Products on Amazon?

Yes, it is legal to resell products on Amazon. However, there are some restrictions that you should be aware of. For example, you cannot sell counterfeit items or items that are subject to a recall. Additionally, you must disclose if an item is used or refurbished. It's generally always best to focus on new items.

What Are the Benefits of Retail Arbitrage?

There are several benefits of retail arbitrage. First, it is a quick and easy way to make money once understand how it works. You can find products to sell in your local area, and you don't need any special skills or knowledge to get started. Additionally, there are very minimal startup costs associated with retail arbitrage because you can start small. Finally, it is a great way to learn about online selling and ecommerce businesses in general.

How Much Money Can You Make Doing Retail Arbitrage?

There's no set limit to how much you can make, but the one "secret to success" that I can give you is don't give up too soon. This is why most people fail. You do need some capital to start, but you don't need a huge amount, and you need to spend some time on this if you truly want to master it.

Stay consistent in your daily sourcing efforts and keep at it for the long term. I know people that have become millionaires from this business model, so it is definitely possible to achieve amazing success for those that stay at it and don't quit.

What are the best products for retail arbitrage?

All product categories on Amazon have profitable retail arbitrage opportunities. The key to success with retail arbitrage is to identify products that you can purchase at a low price and sell on Amazon for a profit.

The Final Word on Retail Arbitrage with Amazon FBA

There you have it! That's everything you need to know about retail arbitrage with Amazon FBA right here in one easy to understand article!

I hope this article has given you a better understanding of how the process works and what you need to do to get started.

If you're ready to start your own retail arbitrage business, then head on over to my free Amazon FBA group on Facebook, or consider taking a look at the OA Challenge where we cover everything about Online Arbitrage with Amazon FBA.

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