As cases of COVID-19 spread across the nation in the spring, Bob Moulton decided it was best to close his business, National Pawn, to walk-in sales. Although pawnshops were deemed essential in North Carolina and could remain open, Moulton didn’t want to risk the health of customers or employees at his 19 locations.
However, he also didn’t want to lay off any workers, so he had employees start listing items for sale on sites such as the Facebook Marketplace. Items that were sold were then delivered to customers via curbside pickup.
“We actually found it to be very successful,” Moulton says. “It amazed me the amount of disposable income that our customers had.”
When it comes to selling online, three names stand out: eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. While eBay made a name for itself as an online auction site, the latter two serve as local classified ads. Today, people can sell almost anything on each of the sites at a fixed rate.
“EBay has always served as a barometer for what’s happening on and offline,” says Sam Bright, vice president and general manager of verticals for eBay North America. “If it’s in demand in real life, it’s in demand on our marketplace.” In recent months, home and garden, tech, fashion and fitness have all seen sales growth on the site, according to Bright.
Online selling can be lucrative for both businesses and individuals alike. To learn more about how to make a profit on sites like eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, keep reading for tips from expert sellers as well as to learn which categories seem to be selling best right now.
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Tips for Selling Online
Rose Winquest, a Grand Rapids, Michigan, resident, sells on Facebook Marketplace full time. She buys discounted products for resale and has friends who give her castaway items. She says Facebook Marketplace is her favorite place to sell because it makes it easy to sell products that appeal to diverse interests. “I love connecting with people of all kinds of backgrounds,” Winquest explains.
To make sales quickly, Winquest recommends people price items at or less than half the going rate in the store. Using a first-come, first-serve method of selling is also preferable. “Holding items for people is risky as there are a lot of people who back out if given the time,” she says.
When creating listings, take plenty of pictures and include keywords that will help your items be easily found in searches, says Deb Liu, founder of Facebook Marketplace. For instance, rather than describing an item as a table, be more descriptive and add the type of wood or use a more specific term such as coffee table.
“Unless your items serve a similar purpose, sell them separately,” Liu recommends. “Buyers aren’t likely to buy a couch and a basketball with the same purchase.” It’s best to only bundle items that are likely to sell in a group such as a set of clothing or related toys.
When items sell, consider completing the transaction in a public place such as a police station, church or gas station, says seller Maria Chichester from Lowell, Michigan. Chichester has been selling on Craigslist for 10 years, but says Facebook Marketplace has become a new favorite spot recently.
“Craigslist is littered with so many scams and fake sales posts, it’s hard for people to judge if the posts are legit,” she says. However, she continues to post items for sale on both sites, noting they are a convenient and free way to reach a large number of potential customers.
Chichester provides detailed information in her listings, including any imperfections. If her price is firm, she makes a note of that as well. Once someone expresses an interest, she tries to answer questions and make payment arrangements via email instead of in person. That helps weed out “tire kickers” who may come to look at an item but not be a serious buyer.
Meanwhile, online selling platforms are looking for ways to make the process smooth. “Selling on eBay is easy and in light of the new normal, we’ve taken steps to make it even easier,” Bright says. The site has increased the number of free listings provided to eBay sellers to 200 and now shares trending items in the site’s seller community forum.
12 Items to Sell on eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace
Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are designed for local sales while eBay items are often shipped to buyers. While some items, such as designer clothes, may garner more on niche sites such as online consignment stores, the following seem to move well on these three sites.
— Home goods.
— Pet supplies.
— Baby items.
— Yard tools.
— Outdoor recreation items.
— Video games.
With people continuing to work from home and many schools embracing remote learning this fall, laptops have become a hot commodity. “As a company, we had over 1,000 laptops (at the start of the pandemic),” Moulton says. “Now we have got none.”
Before selling any laptop or electronic device, be sure to delete any personal or sensitive material.
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Televisions are another item that Moulton says National Pawn cannot keep in stock. They have sold quickly online, and his business is now on the hunt for more items to meet customer demand. “We are paying big money for stuff we can sell quickly,” he says.
Home goods, such as small appliances, have also proven popular with online buyers in recent months. Bright notes bread machine sales on eBay jumped 800% from last year while fire pits and chimneys saw a 240% increase. “Bidets even had a moment, up 220% over the same time period in March of last year,” he says.
Pet care products have been popular among Winquest’s buyers. “I find that people love their pets and are willing to spend a great deal of money on them,” she says.
Since kids grow quickly, people are often looking for a deal on baby gear, according to Chichester. “Larger baby items such as cribs, strollers and toys that still have a lot of life sell quickly as people do not want to pay full price for these items,” she explains.
As people spend more time at home, there has been renewed attention on home maintenance as well. Moulton notes, “Yard tools sold really well as people are working at home.”
[Read: How People Spent Their Stimulus Checks — and What You Can Learn From Them.]
Outdoor Recreation Items
People also seem to be spending more time outside where the risk of COVID-19 appears to be reduced, and Chichester says items such as kayaks and Power Wheels vehicles for kids tend to be in demand.
Those looking for entertainment inside are snatching up video games and video game systems. These have been another hot online seller, according to Moulton.
” Furniture is great to sell,” Winquest says. Although some people may be buying to refresh their décor, others are looking for older pieces that can be refurbished and resold.
Parents may also be on the hunt for reasonably priced items that can be used by students learning from home during the fall semester. Liu says interest in desks on Facebook Marketplace doubled from July to August of this year.
Moulton was surprised to see how quickly jewelry sold online. “Jewelry is more of an impulse luxury item,” he says. However, that didn’t stop people from treating themselves to new pieces while shopping from home.
People may also be spending more on their hobbies, according to eBay sales data. Collectibles such as baseball and basketball cards, musical instruments and collectible card games have all seen an increase in interest from buyers this year.
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Some used car lots are running out of inventory so people may be turning to eBay, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace to browse a larger selection of cars, trucks and vans. “Vehicles and boats also sell well because people are able to avoid dealer fees,” Chichester says.
Recreational vehicles are popular on Facebook Marketplace. “There’s been more than 25,000 new RV/camper listings in the U.S. every month since March,” Liu shares. She adds that Airstreams are a top choice for U.S. shoppers.
Almost anything can be sold online, but these 12 categories seem to be the hot sellers at the moment. If you’d rather not hassle with selling items yourself, Moulton notes many pawnshops have low inventory right now and would be happy to take items off your hands for the right price.