There’s no doubt that selling shoes comes naturally for me. As a child, I was raised in a family of shoppers. I learned about quality brands early on, as well as where to seek them for the lowest prices. In fact I successfully sold new & pre-owned shoes (amongst other things on eBay) for 10 years before moving to 95% Amazon FBA 18 months ago. This is not to say that the information can’t be learned. It certainly can, but there will is more of a learning curve if it’s not something you’ve lived and learned naturally already. However, if you are diligent and willing to learn as well as willing to evolve your thought process you can successfully add shoe sales to your Amazon business.
So why sell shoes?
I’ve done $320,000 in sales from January through October of 2015 – $96,500 of the sales were from shoes alone. But why shoes? Simply put – it’s a gated category, it’s more “difficult” to learn and therefore there’s less competition. Also in general, selling prices on Amazon are more stable in this category and ROIs tend to be higher than with other products. It is not difficult at all to consistently find 75% ROI or better with shoes and to transform those ROIs into 100% or better by stacking discounted gift cards, online promos, cash back sites and reward credit cards.
Where do I source for shoes?
Everywhere! Shoes can absolutely be found just about anywhere. Discount stores, department stores, manufacturer stores, online flash sites. It’s not difficult to find shoes via both RA and OA once you know when to shop and what exactly to look for. Subscribe to website newsletters so you are alerted to sales and promos. Shop stores during holidays or immediately after. Watch for clearances, back to school sales, liquidations, etc.
What criteria should I use for purchasing shoes?
This differs from seller to seller, but below are the general guidelines that I use when purchasing shoes.
- Neutral colors (unless the listing only has wild patterns and you’re sure that they sell well – but when there’s multiple variations, “plain” colors are best): black, brown, beige, navy, white
- Womens sizes 7-9
- Mens sizes 9-13
- Toddler Sizes 7 – 10
- Kids Sizes – 12, 1, 2, 3
- I avoid narrow & wide widths focusing only on average (B or M for women, marked D or M for men)
How do I analyze a shoe listing?
Here’s the tricky part. Do I buy or not? How deep do I go in quantity? Normally you would analyze the historical pricing and rank data on an item via sites such as Camel Camel Camel or Keepa but the shoe category (along with clothing & sports) has very limited historical information. You will typically find nothing on CCC and very limited information on Keepa. And to make matters worse you cannot tell which size or color combinations are selling well and which combinations aren’t moving at all. While learning this category I actually purchased a shoe ranked in the top 200 of shoes that sat for a year before selling. I hadn’t yet learned when to buy and when not to buy. And to be completely honest, a lot of what you’ll learn about shoes will come from good old trial & error. Below are a few tips that I use to guide my purchases.
- The fewer the variations on the listing the better (I usually steer clear of listings with more than 6 variations in color/pattern as it’s nearly impossible to tell which variations sell the most, although your best bet is always mid-range sizes in neutral colors. )
- When analyzing sell price look at all variations in that size as well as at the prices of sizes within .5 of the size you’re considering purchasing. While mid-range sizes sell well and will typically sell for more money just make sure there’s not an astronomical difference. For instance if size 8 black is listed at $100 and all the other colors in that size are $35 it’s unrealistic (in most cases but not all) to believe your pair will sell for $100. Also if the black size 8 is listed at $100 and black size 8.5 is $35 it’s again unrealistic to believe yours will sell at $100 because the buyer may potentially order the 8.5 instead of the size 8.
- I tend to stick to 50K rank or less with shoes but there’s always exceptions. I’ve purchased shoes over 100k in rank when I know that the high rank is likely due to most mid-range sizes being out of stock for awhile and had the shoes sell immediately. I’ve of course had the reverse happen as I indicated earlier – where the shoe was ranked in the top 200 of shoes and sat for a year
How do you prepare shoes for shipment to the warehouse?
Every Amazon seller develops there own process for prepping shoes. The most common methods of securing boxes are to use poly bags, tape, rubber bands, shrink wrap or shrink bands. My preferred method is rubber bands. I’ve found that it’s quick and easy and provides a greater chance that the box will not be damaged when a customer makes a return. Customers will often get frustrated with tape and tear the box up – poly bags, shrink wrap or bands are fine too but again, when I’ve used them in the past the customer has returned them without anyway of keeping the box closed.
To box or not to box?
Generally you want to send undamaged, clean, original shoe boxes to the warehouse. But occasionally a store will ship shoes to you in horribly damaged boxes or bags. For shoes such as Crocs or flip flops (which often don’t come boxed anyway) it is acceptable to poly bag them. All other shoes should be boxed – so if they arrive without a box or with one that is damaged, simply place them in a new, plain shoe box along with some tissue paper (boxes can be ordered on Amazon as well as from Bubble Fast or Uline). I keep a good supply on hand for emergency use but most of the time I don’t even have to use them. I do not place the damaged box inside the new box. I move all contents to the new brown box and discard the original damaged box.
What else should I be aware of when selling shoes?
- Upon receipt, check all shoes over to ensure that they contain the correct size & color of shoe. I cannot tell you how many times I receive the wrong shoes in the wrong box and you will be held responsible when the customer complains about receiving the wrong item in the box.
- Also look for “hidden” stickers. Some companies are notorious for slapping price stickers not only all over the box but inside the shoes or on the soles. Some will also attach tags with clearance stickers.
- You will get returns. It’s the nature of the business and selling within the shoe category. Shoes & clothing are generally just items with a high rate of return because it’s so hard to determine proper fit when you’re unable to try the item on. My return rate is about 8% but the huge profit margins far outweigh the headache of returns. And in 95% of the cases, the shoes and box are returned in mint condition, Amazon returns them to my inventory and they are then resold to a new buyer. For the remaining 5%, I have the shoes returned to me. Many of them are perfectly fine and I return them to the warehouse once again to be sold. The remainder may have minor damage (as we see with all kinds of products sold on Amazon) and I’m able to quickly recoup my investment by selling them on eBay.
Hopefully you’ve found this brief blog post to be a good starting point for delving into selling shoes on Amazon. As your shoe sales grow there a host of subscription services offering shoe product finds for a monthly fee. You’ll find these services helpful as they cut down on the amount of time you must spend sourcing for shoes yourself. And the rabbit trails produced by some of the finds will help you to grow your shoe sales exponentially. In fact, my business partners and I offer several subscription services to provide you with shoe finds (along with other finds if you’re interested) including a daily email list and a virtual assistant mastermind group. Full details can be found at www.eliteproductsource.com. You can also learn more about shoe sourcing & product sourcing in general by joining our free group EPS Elite Product Sourcing – Amazon Product Finds at: https://www.facebook.com/
Brianna Moller Greene