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In my last post I talked about timing and I encouraged people to take advantage of the market’s natural ebbs and flows.  I hope all of you are buying toys for Christmas right now and sending them up. ToysRUs, Target, Walmart and other stores are already having toy sales so get out there and buy as much as you can on deep discount.

The math wizards among you have already figured out that by 21 days I mean until August. The first year, and even the second year I was selling on Amazon I wasn’t in a position to get really prepared for the huge, happy holiday season. Either I didn’t have a lot of money for inventory (year one) or I didn’t know enough to realize that the holidays actually begin in August. Yep. August. The second year in August I had mostly text and other books up at Amazon and didn’t start buying new stuff until late October.  While I’ve made money every holiday season on Amazon, you can bet I’m a lot smarter about it now. If you are using Kabbage (click HERE for my blog post about Kabbage) or Amazon’s lending program, credit cards or any other form of “other people’s money,” this is the time to start planning how you will use it.

While toys are great sellers during the holidays, my sales of specialty bedding, appliances, kitchenware and other household goods go up during this time.  I’ve sold everything from boxing gloves to electronics during the holidays so think “gift” when you are shopping, not just toys. In later weeks I’ll talk about particular strategies for Black Friday and big days like that. For now, here’s how I look at the holidays. This is based on what I tend to sell. Your list will look differently:

July

  • Take advantage of toy, end-of-summer and early back-to-school sales
  • Buy mostly new inventory
  • Focus on gifts
  • Continue to send in textbooks as I find them
  • Send in back-to-school stuff
  • Lots of kid birthdays in August. Send in Baby and Toy items as well as party supplies
  • Look for electronic accessories like phone cases, iPad cases, Bluetooth speakers, etc. I have several retail outlets that sell these items on discount regularly.
  • New Valentine’s, Halloween and Thanksgiving merchandise can often be found in thrift stores and clearance stores (I bought new Iron Man valentines this week for 50 cents)

August

  • Textbooks – keep sending them in
  • Holiday sales start
  • Continue to send in gift items and electronic accessories
  • Send in small furniture and dorm-room stuff like pillows, twin bed sets, closet/room organizational tools, etc.
  • Pick up deals at Baby clearance sales
  • Summer clearance sales (I sell swim and pool stuff year-round)
  • Back-to-school means my backpacks and lunch boxes are selling

September

  • Friends of the Library sales start in full-force through mid-November
  • Textbooks, electronic accessories and dorm-stuff selling full force now
  • Look for textbook sales after school starts at Half-Price books, book sales and other outlets
  • Sales start for Halloween costumes and accessories
  • At the end of the month look for sales on smartphone and laptop accessories. Send them in for Xmas.
  • I can usually pick up next year’s calendars for a good price in September

October

  • Continue to send in gift items, coffee table books, etc. Don’t forget pets. A staggering number of pet owners buy holiday gifts for their pets (including me)
  • Look for appliance and kitchenware sales
  • Sales begin for Thanksgiving including appliances, tableware, decorations and special foods
  • Send in Xmas ornaments and decorations (many people put their decorations up Thanksgiving weekend)

November

  • Buy costumes and Halloween supplies at a deep discount some will sell year-round (superhero costumes, for example). Hold on to the rest until August/Sept.
  • Be prepared for the biggest shopping weekend of the year. Send your final shipment up on the 19th to guarantee it is ready to sell by Thanksgiving
  • Thanksgiving night and Black Friday offer huge sales both online and in-store. Have a buddy and a plan to hit those sales in a targeted and efficient way.
  • Get all your new inventory up to Amazon ASAP
  • Buy Thanksgiving tableware and decorations on sale at the end of the month
  • Look for deep electronics discounts on Black Friday

December

  • Reprice weekly if not daily on key items – prices will go crazy during this time and a few cents can make a difference
  • Keep replenishing inventory as your budget allows up to December 20 or so
  • Save some budget for after-Xmas sales Dec 26-31 and after New Year’s sales (Jan 2)
  • Clear out all old merchandise. This is your best shot before February fees are assessed
  • If you’ve not already, send in textbooks for January
  • Finish your calendar sales because Amazon will undercut you significantly in January. Sell at a discount if you must.
  • Buy electronics and TV support items (like Roku and HDMI cables) on sale.
  • If you can find a good deal on exercise stuff or anything “resolution” oriented, send it in before Jan 2. I sell a lot of exercise videos/DVDs and books in Jan.

January

  • Holiday sales continue through first week of January as people redeem their gift cards and return unwanted gifts.
  • Big sales in early Jan 2-10
  • Sales for Super Bowl parties begin like new TVs and accessories (like Roku and HDMI cables…)
  • Bedding or “White” sales in January
  • Send in Valentine’s Day gift items and candy early in the month
  • Clear out any old inventory because February is when Amazon assesses huge storage fees for old merchandise

What I find is that I have more buying opportunities than I have inventory dollars and I have to be frugal and targeted with my purchases. By now I know the items that tend to have the highest margins for me and I focus on them when scouting. I am more willing to buy a high-dollar item than I was in the beginning. If you have limited dollars as I do, spend some time thinking about where you want to spend them. As you can see, I tend to buy wherever I see a good deal. During the holidays, I focus heavily on Toys, Baby and electronics.

I’ve scouted a lot of stores now so I also know where I’m likely to find good merchandise in specific categories. If you are new and not sure where you are going to find your merchandise for the holidays, start scouting now in different stores. Even if there aren’t any particular deals or sales going on the day you visit, you can be sure there will be later and now you know where you can find things like appliances or pet toys or electronics or toys at potentially good prices.

Also, be sure to sign up for every possible rewards program you can get at these stores. Do it in July. They will be sending you coupons and “members only” deals all the time that can mean big savings.  Big Lots, for example, offers members 20% off everything sales several times a year even if you haven’t spent enough to earn it yet. There will be at least two of these sales before Xmas and I stock up big. ToysRUs is constantly offering special deals for limited times. If you are like my Dad, you’ll check them out online before you go and know exactly what you are going to buy and when.  When you add on the TRU dollars and/or discount for using their credit card, it can add up to a good deal pretty quickly.

Start planning now! The holidays are only a few weeks away.

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