Best Things to Buy and Resell – Retail Arbitrage

Buying and reselling items aka retail arbitrage was one of the things I did to make a significant amount of money when I was paying down debt and it was a lot of fun too. 

This is a follow-up to the earlier article on 15 Places To Flip Unwanted Items for Profit. Before you jump into the business of buying and reselling items, you may want to declutter your home and get rid of unwanted and/or unused items first. 


In this retail arbitrage article, I will break down:-

  • What exactly is retail arbitrage?
  • How to get started with retail arbitrage
  • How much money you can make
  • Tips to get the best out of retail arbitrage
  • How much upfront investment you can expect to make before you start generating profits
  • The best places to buy and resell items for profit

What is Retail Arbitrage?

In the simplest terms, retail arbitrage is the process of buying items at a discount and reselling them for a profit. 

This involves picking up items you think are undervalued or about to be discontinued at low prices and reselling them at a later date for a higher value or the full value depending on circumstances. 

Retail arbitrage is a bit like being a stock trader. You buy shares when low and sell for a profit when high.

For instance, while researching online or bargain hunting offline, you discover an item that’s usually $25 being sold for $15. 

If you buy 10 of these items for $150 and resell for $22.50, you will make a profit of $75. That’s a healthy profit while still selling for under $25. 

Depending on where you sell the items, you will need to deduct seller fees and shipping fees as well so you can factor that into the cost. 

Some people make this a full-time business. However, when I did this, it was more to make extra money to throw at my debt while working a full-time job. 

Deciding if you want to make some money on the side or if you want to make it a full-time gig depends on you and how much time and money you have available to invest. More on this below.

8 Best Items to Buy and Resell – Retail Arbitrage

You can buy and resell anything if you know there’s a demand for it but the best items to buy and resell include:-

1. Health Items

Health items include eye care, foot care, toothbrushes, salt lamps, smart devices like scales, baby gear, earplugs, eye masks, aromatherapy, etc. 

2. Beauty Items

Beauty items include perfumes, make-up, makeup paraphernalia, nail polish, mascara, foot soak, flat irons, blow dryers, hair care products, face masks, oils, essential oils, skincare products, etc. 

3. Fitness Items

Fitness items include dumbbells, workout clothes, workout shoes, fitness trackers, ankle and arm weights, knee guards, mats, jump ropes, exercise balls, recovery products, sports memorabilia, etc.

4. Fashion Items

Fashion items like clothing, shoes, watches, rings, necklaces, belts, socks, handbags, backpacks, laptop bags, scarves, etc. 

5. Home Decor 

General home decor, accessories, and home maintenance items are in demand at all times of the year and you can get a lot of these at low rates at the clearance rack of most retailers. 

6. Toys & Games 

Pretty much any kind of toy or game. There’s always someone on the lookout for items like this at a bargain and don’t sleep on vintage toys and games. 

7. Limited Edition Items

Limited edition items are a good investment for resale later on once production is ceased on the item.

Hot Wheels, Starbucks and Tim Hortons are just three of the companies that release limited edition items for special events and occasions.  

Limited edition items sell very well on eBay, Bonanza, Poshmark, and Mercari. 

8. Vintage Items & Collectibles

Vintage items and collectibles are worth a lot of money because of their considerable age and/or the particular period they are from. 

If you develop a knack for picking out vintage items and collectibles, you can make a very tidy profit. These items can be in any category. 

Items that fall under the category above are guaranteed to move and free up your initial investment for reinvesting. 

Additionally, be on the lookout for items that sell under $50. They are easier to move than the more expensive items. 

Where to Buy Items to Resell?

You can find items to buy and resell pretty much anywhere but particularly at:

  • Dollar stores
  • Big box retailers like Walmart, Target, etc
  • Garage sales
  • Thrift stores like Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc
  • Specialty stores like CVS, GNC, Rite Aid, Ulta, Vitacost, Sally Beauty, Bath & Body Works, Walgreens, etc
  • Clothing stores like Dress Barn,, Old Navy, Kohl’s, etc
  • Flea markets
  • Outlet malls
  • Furniture stores like Ikea, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe’s, etc
  • Toy stores like Build A Bear, Disney, Fisher-Price, Hasbro Toys, Lego etc
  • Clearance websites like Strawberry Net, Asos, etc
  • Liquidation stores

Where to Resell Items? 

You can resell items at the same places recommended on 15 Places To Flip Unwanted Items for Profit.

Whichever avenue you choose will depend on what category your items fall into and you will need to conduct some research to make an informed decision. 

How Much Can You Make With Retail Arbitrage?

It’s hard to name a specific figure. It depends on how much time you spend on it and the value of the items you find and resell. 

However, when I was involved in buying and reselling items, I made over $5,000.

What did I buy and resell? Beauty items. Specifically, perfumes, perfume and skincare gift sets, and moisturizers.

Yep, just those 3 items from the beauty category gave me more than enough work to do tracking down the deals, re-listing, and shipping once sold.

Check out the Side Hustle Archives for side hustle ideas you can engage in for extra money for savings or pay off debt.

Retail Arbitrage – 10 Tips for Beginners & Success 

1. Start Small

When you start out, source and resell smaller items such as beauty products, clothing items, accessories, and antiques then expand once you get a better hang of it. 

Even better if you stick to just one category at the beginning until you’re more comfortable. 

2. Don’t Sell On Too Many Websites

You simply will not have the time to sell on dozens of websites and you may lose track of what you’re doing plus you’ll get overwhelmed.

A more effective method is starting with 2 channels. For instance, eBay and Facebook Marketplace to start.

I used just two online selling sites local to the area where I lived then to sell all my items and has no problem moving all my inventory. 

3. Be Patient

Don’t be in a hurry to sell the item. It might take a few weeks or months before you are able to sell it at a higher value. 

4. Be Strategic

Don’t just buy something because it’s cheaper. Make sure there’s a potential market for it before you proceed. 

Research the online selling sites and see what items are popular and what people are buying the most.

There is no guarantee that an item will sell for a higher value so start with small items until you learn how to do this effectively and profitably. 

5. Don’t Be Greedy and/or Dishonest

Sell things at a fair price. Don’t be like the guys that ran to buy up thousands of hand sanitizers when the pandemic started so they could resell at insane prices.  

6. Be Clear

Don’t misrepresent items you’re selling just to get rid of them. It’s not worth the lethal review you will surely receive.

7. Optimize During Sales Period

Keep track of all the sales and shopping festivals throughout the year.  Those are good times to pick up even better deals. 

8. Sign Up for Information

How do you keep track of all these sales and shopping festivals? Sign up for all the newsletters. 

This is the best way to stay informed and conserve your energy and time. You can also follow their social media accounts, especially Facebook. 

You can create a dedicated email address for your retail arbitrage activities and have a designated folder for promotions and newsletters.

9. Keep Proper Inventory

Keep track of your inventory using proper tools – excel, online software, or whatever makes you comfortable.

This will ensure you don’t overstock or price something incorrectly. You’ll also be able to keep track via the reports provided by the sales avenue you choose.

10. You May Lose Money

This isn’t a tip as much as a warning. You may very well lose money engaging in this type of side hustle. 

Keep this in mind and don’t start throwing all your money at it. Proceed with caution. 

How Much Will Retail Arbitrage Cost You?

I started buying and reselling small items with $100. Once I got a better understanding of how to pick items in high demand, I increased my investment. 

After sales, I’d reinvest the principal and throw the profit at my debt. I never invested in enormous amounts of inventory at a time and set a limit of $600. 

If you are able to set more than that, go for it but remember, don’t get greedy. 

Anna gave up her 9 – 5 to implement her life plan after paying off over $40,000 in debt. She has been featured on HuffPost, YouQueen & Fitnancials among others. When she’s not working, she’s reading, letting her imagination run riot in her fiction writing, working out, traveling, or chomping on chocolate; not necessarily in that order. Learn more about Anna HERE.

This post may contain affiliate links which means I will make a small commission if you purchase through those links. Read full disclosure HERE.

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