How to be a 'middleman' broker to resell goods?
May 23, 2016 6:08 PM   Subscribe

American guy, longtime expat living in Asia and Europe. I'm comfortable financially with social security plus freelance writing/marketing gigs – but not especially in love with my work and want to try a new venture.

I can put about $20K to work to try this new venture. At heart, I'm a horse-trader, who loves to buy and sell things. Have never done it consistently or as an income generator but would like to try.

Ideally, everything would be done online since I'm too nomadic to put down roots. Would also like to sell to those who are least affected and last affectedWhat goods might I focus on to make such a venture work. I spend a lot of time in Thailand, Japan, and Spain so any ideas which are specific to those areas are good.

I'd like to do the following: Find in-demand, luxury artsy items/goods, buy at a price which lets me markup sufficiently to make a decent return on my time and money. Then sell to a select buyer audience online. I'm confident and capable in marketing to niches. It's part of what I do in my marketing freelance work.

I have about $20K to put into this and would hope to deal in items in the $500-$1000 range. At heart, I'm a horse-trader, who loves to buy and sell things. Have never done it consistently or as an income generator but would like to try.

I am confident in getting my goods in front of buyers to sell but feel a bit uncertain/doubtful about which specific items might be good to deal in. Suggestions, advice, caveats?
posted by lometogo to Work & Money (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the key here is, as an old timey salesman would say, to "know your product." And your customer. I can't help but think this sort of thing can only be a labor of love, because you're going to have to eat, sleep, drink etc your product and your customer.

I say this having spent a lot of time in Japan. I have one friend who, until the financial collapse of 2008, flipped Nikes and Murakami prints from Yahoo Auctions in Japan to eBay in the States. What worked for him was that at the time there was demand for both products in the States, but no way for customers to access Yahoo Auctions to get them. I think Rakuten has partially solved that problem.

Another friend operates an online shopping business in Japan. His customers are typically women ("housewives") who are looking for unique knickknacks for their home. He has his Rakuten store where he markets his goods, and he sources from China.

The challenge he has is shipping costs... to make any money he has to purchase low and sell very high, which he does. But this is the chief problem anyone will have trying to buy from Asia to sell in North America or Europe. You need to have a considerable amount of volume—more volume than you can expect to generate in the first year as a startup—to get the aggregate margins to make it work. Or you have to be able to access high-margin products such as cars or industrial machinery to reduce the need to generate sales volume.

There's also the customer to think of. There is not a lot of discretionary income in the States at the moment, except for the very wealthy. So you really have to determine who your customer is first, and figure out what they want that you can provide for a healthy margin.
posted by My Dad at 7:51 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think Japan has a lot of cool little products that could potentially be marketed in the US, but as "My Dad" said, you need to know the products and the customers. For that reason, you might be better off focusing on one product or category so you can really get to know it. That will come with the risk of having all your eggs in one basket, but I think that's a better risk to take than the risk of being a jack of all trades and master of none.
posted by OCDan at 9:18 AM on May 24, 2016

Look for Reddit posts and blog posts on Alibaba. You can find a lot of people talking about how they got into that business and what works for them. Those will be more about China, but should have a lot of general information as well.
posted by nalyd at 8:30 PM on May 24, 2016

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