Please teach me the science of buying and selling stuff.
September 29, 2009 4:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering a slight career change into the online retail sector and I'd like to know more about distribution models, purchasing from distributors and manufacturers, and how product prices are calculated.

I'm in the software business right now, so I have a pretty strong grasp on how software is priced and distributed. What I really want to know is the science of buying, storing, selling and shipping physical items. How do you know what to buy and how much? When do you start adding discounts? How do you store and inventory large amounts of stuff?

There has got to be volumes written about these topics, right?

I'd like any information I can get for online businesses, ones with brick and mortar stores, and hybrids. Big or small, it doesn't matter, as I would likely join an already established business. I want to read online articles, listen to podcasts, read books, but most of all I'd love to hear firsthand from those of you with knowledge to share.

Anonymous because I'd like to keep my current job while I mull over this information.
posted by anonymous to Education (2 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
for the products we sell (art supplies, brick & mortar, not online), all of the products have suggested prices from the manufacturers (and our price is driven mostly by our desired margin and the discounted price we are paying).

knowing what and how much to buy is an inexact art, at best, but comes easier with time.

discounts can be based on seasonal/special discounts from the distributors/manufacturers, or just a desire to clear inventory.

by using distributors, we don't have significant inventory to manage that isn't on the sales floor.

kizer and bender and rick segel are two consultants who do this sort of work in the art materials world, but i don't think most of their advice is all that industry-specific. (but it is also geared towards brick-and-mortar, not jut online sales.)

feel free to contact me directly if you have any follow-up questions.
posted by jimw at 4:50 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hi there! I started writing you a detailed, long answer about my experience as a retailer selling dog and cat food and realized there was no way to do it without exposing some important trade information...I would be happy to share it one-on-one. Contact me at I think I might have good insights for you as I've thought long and hard on the exact questions you're asking.
posted by vito90 at 10:11 AM on September 30, 2009

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