Savvy sellers go to great lengths to source their inventory effectively. Saving money is a top priority, and sellers tend to shape their strategies around getting the biggest bang for their buck. When it comes to sourcing, which route is better—in-store or online? With each having its own benefits and drawbacks, we solicited first-hand seller opinions to help determine which may be best, and why. Along the way, we were able to determine specific pros for each, as well as detect some mixed reviews. How do you source your inventory as an online seller?

Benefits to Sourcing Online

  • Convenience- Perhaps the most obvious benefit, sourcing online allows sellers to remain in the comfort of their homes/offices while replenishing their inventory—and avoiding crowds.
  • Free Shipping Gear- Many sellers choose to place orders online because they reuse the boxes that their items come in for re-shipping. Not only can the boxes be reused, but so can the Styrofoam and air pillow fillers!
  • Faster Research- Sellers tend to have their go-to spots where they retrieve their usual items. However researching where to buy a new item, or simply looking for better prices on a familiar item can be time-intensive. Conducting research online is much faster than driving around to different stores. Not to mention, sellers can print out offers from store sites and bring them to the store if they decide to purchase in-person— to guarantee a low price.
  • Rebates- One seller on a third-party selling forum claims to shop purely online because of the rebate discounts she receives. Several websites and online programs offer rebates to loyal customers, so this may be a great option for someone looking to source online.

Benefits to Sourcing In-Store

  • No Waiting- One of the biggest disadvantages to shopping online is that even with overnight shipping, you still have to wait for your goods. When purchasing in-store, sellers get to leave with their inventory and fill order that same day.
  • Product Verification- Whether purchasing a new or familiar item, shopping in-store offers the security of taking home exactly what you want. Sellers can check for defects, damage, sizing, weight, measurements, expiration dates and any other quality/shipping concerns they may have.
  • Scanning- Many sellers employ scanners which allow them to instantly check how much a particular item is selling for on Amazon. Sellers are better equipped to make educated decisions about what to purchase for resale—right on the spot!
  • Varied Clearance Prices- Many sellers cite that there’s nothing better for great deals than a clearance bin. Steep markdowns due to returns, seasonal liquidation, overstock, and other factors can provide sellers with high ROI potential that can’t be found online.
  • Exercise- This may sound silly, but exercise is a concern for many full time sellers who spend several hours a day seated at a computer in their homes. Going out, getting some fresh air and blood circulation is often provided by a trip to their local big box store to replenish inventory.

Mixed Reviews

  • Saving Time- While you’d think that shopping online saves time, many sellers note that because of researching, shopping online can take just as much, if not more time, than shopping in-store.
  • Saving Money- Sellers who adamantly source exclusively from either online purchases or in-store buys may claim their method saves them more money. This may certainly be the case for them individually, but neither can be held as the standard for every seller. In-store shoppers spend more on gas, while online shoppers spend more on shipping. Therein, the balance has to be stuck for each seller individually. *Important to note that several sellers, including loyal online buyers, cited steep in-store discounts in Q4 because of the holiday season.*
  • Quantity- It’s never safe to assume that when shopping either online or in-store that there will be more stock to purchase. Some sites limit the quantity you’re able to order at one time, and stores often run out of stock quickly. Conversely, sellers site being able to stock up easily via online shopping, as well as in-store clerks accommodating their large orders by retrieving inventory from the back.
  • Rare (BOLO) Items- There’s a constant debate as to whether it’s better to shop for rare or BOLO—“be on the lookout”— items, in-store or online. Truth is, there’s no way to know. Depending on the nature of the item one option may be better over the other.