EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 76 - August 11, 2002 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 8

5 Rules for Assessing Inventory (Or 'How I Ended Up with Miles of Disney Fabric')

By Michael Hanna

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My wife and I have two and a half miles of high quality nautical print fabric in our home. Here's why...

As eBay sellers for five years, we operate two auction businesses. Each site sells different types of products. One is dedicated to special or unique items that meet the following standards:

One: Rare or extraordinary

Two: First quality if new, or mint condition if not

Three: Should easily sell on eBay while giving deep discount to bidders

Four: Estimated financial return is at least three times the investment

Five: Can be purchased in its entirety to avoid competition

Most products we sell are acquired at business liquidation or surplus property live auctions, our favorite sources. Tapping these sources takes a willingness to specialize, temporarily, in any merchandise category. You need not be an expert on the product itself, Internet research will tell you all you need to know to write a good ad.

In light of the above criteria, I'll tell you how we applied them at a live auction recently conducted by Walt Disney World (WDW) Property Control in Orlando. We made the 2-hour drive with another couple, fellow eBayers and friends for 30 years, who frequently share investments and sales with us. WDW had advertised that they would be selling costumes and thousands of yards of fabric that had become surplus to their needs.

Once inside the huge warehouse, we were immediately drawn to four pallets of brand-new rolled fabric in an outstanding nautical blueprint pattern. We learned that the cloth had been designed for Disney Cruise Lines and was used to make uniforms and other items for their two cruise ships, Magic and Wonder. The first two standards had been met. Our final bid was successful at a price that met our financial standards and to satisfy the last standard, we bought it all.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to "corner the market" on a given product (standard #5), as we did on the fabric. It allows sellers to set reasonable prices relative to the investment, and it avoids price wars with other sellers that sometimes lead to nobody making money. If you can give your bidders a great deal while you make a good profit, you have the best of all worlds.

It took less than 2 months to get into the profit zone on the fabric and other items from the Disney auction. Sales of the cloth have been brisk, and winners love the quality and price. Yes, there are still miles of it robbing us of space in our home, but we view it as a gift that's going to keep on giving for years.

It took a total of two trips and four vanloads to get the fabric home from Orlando. Maybe we'll rent a truck next time. A warehouse, for sure.

About the author:

Michael Hanna is retired from law enforcement and lives with his wife, Heidi, on Florida's Gulf Coast. They have been operating a graphics business and two eBay sites for five years, specializing in rare, hard-to-find and unusual items. On the leading edge of the baby boomers, Mike has a world view of online auctions and believes the opportunities for retirees to move to the location of their choice and use leisure time to make money have dramatically increased. Email him at mike @

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