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fluffhead

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@biophase THANKS FOR DOING THIS! I'm a rejuvenated Amazon seller myself, as I started in 2012 and failed miserably at entering the PL game -- I imported counterfeit goods by mistake, which turned me off of the whole alibaba thing. Kicking myself, but I finally got back into it recently and have my first order of 500 units en route from China. I didn't improve the product just yet, as I wanted to get my feet wet, but plan on making it much more attractive and practical as I've already gotten a ton of "what I want in this" from reddit.

I guess my questions to you are:

1) Have you ever had to deal with a slew of negative reviews, presumably driven by competitors?
2) How quickly do you launch products? I feel that once I get the launch process down I can presumably launch 2-3 at a time (as long as I have the $ to support launches through PPC).
3) PPC strategy? Do you use amazon or manual or a combo?
4) Optimizing your listing - What techniques do you use for this? How often will you change this up to "test?"
5) I'm not sure if you've addressed this or not -- but what method have you found to be the most effective in driving sales from Amazon to your own ecommerce site?

Thanks in advance!!
 

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ZCP

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How do you have different addresses? Unless you own multiple properties but surely you are only living in one location.
Also, how to check things from different IP?
 

biophase

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are you saying that this way of selling products online won't work in 1-2 years when the factories figure it out? I am spending the next few months researching a product, so far i've made notes on the 1 star reviews, and the 5 star reviews, seeing what i can improve and copy. What other things would you look for when planning for a product, is there a way to find the ingredients and google them? Also, I've heard of people saying diversify your income streams so you aren't just selling on amazon FBA, what do they mean by that? Are there other fulfilment bays you use? Do you sell on other places?

I've pretty much got 3-4 months before I get paid properly from work and want to spend that time making sure I can do everything i can to have one solid product to launch.

I'm saying that this market will change, just like Ebay did, when the factories learn how to sell direct. It is already happening. The factories know that they can sell direct. They just don't know how to take photos, write good copy and understand the review system. Once they understand that it will be tough for us to compete because they will drive the price down. It is already happening.

What they mean by diversifying your income stream is that you should also being selling, or plan to sell on your own website, ebay, sears, rakuten, other places. This way if your Amazon income stream shuts down, you don't go to $0 income. I sell through my own online stores. I don't use other fulfillment avenues right now, just FBA.
 

biophase

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@biophase if you have discovered a certain product that you think you can improve, how do you go about testing whether the improved product would sell before you actually 'improve it' ? for example if your improvement is in the design of the product which would require a change in the manufacturing process, how would you go about testing the marketplace without first making the investment in the change? or do you just have to roll the dice and assume it 'should' sell since its just a variation of a profitable product in a proven niche?

I test by making a small order, like 200-500 pieces. I don't do the test a sample, or 10 pieces anymore. I guess I assume that my changes would sell. I think that any improvement of a product should increase its sales. You do have to understand that there is a difference between a functional improvement and a simple cosmetic modification.

If you took a flashlight and made it cooler looking be redesigning its handle, that could be risky because you only changed its look and you don't know if people will like your change. But if you took a flashlight and made it 50X brighter for the same price, that's a performance improvement and should increase sales over a similar competitor.

Current case study:
I have a new bag that I'm designing for a product, let's call it a duffle bag for a clock. While a duffle bag has been around for years, I am making specifcally a carrying bag for a clock. Nobody else has ever made a clock duffle bag. So this is a risky product for me. I think that people need this bag based on my knowledge of the need for people to carry along large clocks. But I do not know 100% if they this need bag, so it could flop big time. I'm ordered 500 pcs to start. My backup plan if this fails is to resell it as a regular duffle bag. Therefore, I did not put the word "clock" on any part of the bag. We will see how this goes.
 

biophase

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How do you have different addresses? Unless you own multiple properties but surely you are only living in one location.

I login in on the same IP many times. When I go on vacation or over to a fastlaner's home, we all log into our amazon accounts from the same place. If we had to worry about that, we couldn't go on vacations together or work togther at all.

And I do have different physical addresses for my businesses.
 

biophase

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Also, how to check things from different IP?

I check things from the same IP and computer. My employee also checks from a different location and IP daily so I would image that my lP log over at Amazon would contain mainly 2 IPs.
 

biophase

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@biophase THANKS FOR DOING THIS! I'm a rejuvenated Amazon seller myself, as I started in 2012 and failed miserably at entering the PL game -- I imported counterfeit goods by mistake, which turned me off of the whole alibaba thing. Kicking myself, but I finally got back into it recently and have my first order of 500 units en route from China. I didn't improve the product just yet, as I wanted to get my feet wet, but plan on making it much more attractive and practical as I've already gotten a ton of "what I want in this" from reddit.

I guess my questions to you are:

1) Have you ever had to deal with a slew of negative reviews, presumably driven by competitors?
2) How quickly do you launch products? I feel that once I get the launch process down I can presumably launch 2-3 at a time (as long as I have the $ to support launches through PPC).
3) PPC strategy? Do you use amazon or manual or a combo?
4) Optimizing your listing - What techniques do you use for this? How often will you change this up to "test?"
5) I'm not sure if you've addressed this or not -- but what method have you found to be the most effective in driving sales from Amazon to your own ecommerce site?

Thanks in advance!!

1) No, I am lucky to be in low volume niches that really don't have competitors that are savvy.
2) I actually timed this. My last product took exactly 65 days to go from the day I decided to sell it, to the day it went live on Amazon.
3) I use PPC, but not that much. I don't need PPC because my products usually all rank 1-3 for their main keywords. But I use PPC because it gives me added exposure. Again, being in a non-competitive niche helps. Last year I was paying $0.01 a click and I was the only one bidding on my keywords.
4) I use basic optimization strategy: Great photos, Good titie, not too long. Use all 5 bullet points to their max, Use all description text (html, make it look pretty), add alot of keywords in the backend.
5) I don't drive sales to my ecommerce site. I actually encourage amazon sales. This goes against what most other people say. But my thinking is that if I keep driving sales to Amazon, my listings keep staying at #1-#3. If I drive sales to my store, yes my store may get more sales, but my rankings will slowly drop on Amazon. So I try to keep my sales as high as possible on Amazon to keep ahead of the competitors.
 

Robert Ferguson

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I'm saying that this market will change, just like Ebay did, when the factories learn how to sell direct. It is already happening. The factories know that they can sell direct. They just don't know how to take photos, write good copy and understand the review system. Once they understand that it will be tough for us to compete because they will drive the price down. It is already happening.

What they mean by diversifying your income stream is that you should also being selling, or plan to sell on your own website, ebay, sears, rakuten, other places. This way if your Amazon income stream shuts down, you don't go to $0 income. I sell through my own online stores. I don't use other fulfillment avenues right now, just FBA.
Biophase,
First off, thank you for this amazing thread.

This market change has also crossed my mind as I see it happening now with Amazon as it did with eBay. As im sure you always like to position yourself before the shift or pivot somewhat, what are your plans when the inevitable (with Amazon and China) happens? Are your businesses solely ecommerce right now? Will you expect to make it up in your other avenues since you don't put all your eggs in one basket? (Amazon).

I also believe that people still buy value over price any day. Therefore the ones with great (original, unreplicatable) products won't be hurt much and it may sift out the weaker "import this manufacturers exact product and list on Amazon" sellers or even "brands". Would you agree?

I very much appreciate your input and your contribution to this forum.
Thanks!
 
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AJG

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I test by making a small order, like 200-500 pieces. I don't do the test a sample, or 10 pieces anymore. I guess I assume that my changes would sell. I think that any improvement of a product should increase its sales. You do have to understand that there is a difference between a functional improvement and a simple cosmetic modification.

If you took a flashlight and made it cooler looking be redesigning its handle, that could be risky because you only changed its look and you don't know if people will like your change. But if you took a flashlight and made it 50X brighter for the same price, that's a performance improvement and should increase sales over a similar competitor.

Current case study:
I have a new bag that I'm designing for a product, let's call it a duffle bag for a clock. While a duffle bag has been around for years, I am making specifcally a carrying bag for a clock. Nobody else has ever made a clock duffle bag. So this is a risky product for me. I think that people need this bag based on my knowledge of the need for people to carry along large clocks. But I do not know 100% if they this need bag, so it could flop big time. I'm ordered 500 pcs to start. My backup plan if this fails is to resell it as a regular duffle bag. Therefore, I did not put the word "clock" on any part of the bag. We will see how this goes.

makes sense.

would we be wrong to assume that you already have an established relationship with the supplier that you have asked to modify the product? For a noob like me, i imagine i wont be able to just walk in and ask someone to go out of their way and change their processes for a stranger that hasn't bought anything...
 

Carnage

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I test by making a small order, like 200-500 pieces. I don't do the test a sample, or 10 pieces anymore. I guess I assume that my changes would sell. I think that any improvement of a product should increase its sales. You do have to understand that there is a difference between a functional improvement and a simple cosmetic modification.

If you took a flashlight and made it cooler looking be redesigning its handle, that could be risky because you only changed its look and you don't know if people will like your change. But if you took a flashlight and made it 50X brighter for the same price, that's a performance improvement and should increase sales over a similar competitor.

Current case study:
I have a new bag that I'm designing for a product, let's call it a duffle bag for a clock. While a duffle bag has been around for years, I am making specifcally a carrying bag for a clock. Nobody else has ever made a clock duffle bag. So this is a risky product for me. I think that people need this bag based on my knowledge of the need for people to carry along large clocks. But I do not know 100% if they this need bag, so it could flop big time. I'm ordered 500 pcs to start. My backup plan if this fails is to resell it as a regular duffle bag. Therefore, I did not put the word "clock" on any part of the bag. We will see how this goes.

Hi Biophase.
I had a question about the improvements you made.
Let's pretend you had a knife made by XXX. You say that you want to put finger indents on the handle to make it easier to hold. Doesn't this require a new mold to be made, and you would have to pay a thousand or more for the mold?
 

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Carnage

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I'm trying not to resort to importing products that are the same as everything in the market already.
I am aiming for :
1. Products that I improve
or
2. Not in the US (yet)

Am I limiting myself by not wanting to import generic products to resell?
 

biophase

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As im sure you always like to position yourself before the shift or pivot somewhat, what are your plans when the inevitable (with Amazon and China) happens? Are your businesses solely ecommerce right now? Will you expect to make it up in your other avenues since you don't put all your eggs in one basket? (Amazon).

I also believe that people still buy value over price any day. Therefore the ones with great (original, unreplicatable) products won't be hurt much and it may sift out the weaker "import this manufacturers exact product and list on Amazon" sellers or even "brands". Would you agree?

I very much appreciate your input and your contribution to this forum.
Thanks!

My differentiation now is mainly branding, since none of my products are patented. Also innovation in my brand with tweaks and changes means that I can keep my products one step ahead of China. The factory isn't going to roll out your new product first, they will rollout products that they've been making for hundreds of other sellers.

Yes, my businesses are 100% ecommerce. I don't want to get into retail. I think that there will always be enough ecommerce traffic to make a decent living. I will get other baskets if I need to. I just figure I'll adapt when the time comes.

The weaker importers with cookie cutter products will get crushed. In fact, I'm doing some of the crushing in one niche pretty soon. You have to ask yourself, how do I compete against big dogs with alot of money and go that route on your product.

Let's say you cobble together $2k and get 500 units @ $4/unit and launch on Amazon. You do a giveaway with 100 units to get to middle of page #1, sell the remaining 400 at $14 for $10 profit each. Yay you made $4000. You enjoy this money machine for 3 months and then...

...someone comes along with Amazon experience and $25k of backing. They get 10,000 units @ $2. They giveaway 1000 units and shoot to #1. They sells theirs at $4 and spend $5,000 on PPC. You just have no way to compete with them on this product anymore. You will need to adapt.

So what do you do here?
1) Obviously you will have branded, and hopefully you can convince people that your brand makes a better product
2) You change your product slightly, whether it be colors, or number in the package. Sell a 3 pack instead.
3) You increase your value proposition, add a free secondary item, lifetime guarantee, or warranty
 

biophase

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makes sense.

would we be wrong to assume that you already have an established relationship with the supplier that you have asked to modify the product? For a noob like me, i imagine i wont be able to just walk in and ask someone to go out of their way and change their processes for a stranger that hasn't bought anything...

No that is wrong. I do this with my first time purchase with any supplier. Your assumption is that you need to order their cookie cutter products before they let you modify a product, which is wrong.
 

biophase

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Hi Biophase.
I had a question about the improvements you made.
Let's pretend you had a knife made by XXX. You say that you want to put finger indents on the handle to make it easier to hold. Doesn't this require a new mold to be made, and you would have to pay a thousand or more for the mold?

It may require a mold and yes you would have to pay for it. Let's say the mold is $2,000. If my first order is 500 pcs, it just adds $4 to each product. So my first shipment is going to have a lower profit margin by $4 per unit. That's how I look at it. Either way, you need to look at the numbers and make sure they work.

But the huge upside is that if your product sells and your new handle is a hit. It will be tough for anyone to copy you, because the mold is yours. You mold your logo into it and nobody else will use it. No knockoff is going to spend money to make a mold.

Even though the risk is higher, the EV or upside on doing this is huge. You need to think risk vs reward. Many times your risk is under $5000, but the upside can be +$10k, $25k, $100k for many many years. Much better odds than playing options or the stock market.
 

biophase

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I'm trying not to resort to importing products that are the same as everything in the market already.
I am aiming for :
1. Products that I improve
or
2. Not in the US (yet)

Am I limiting myself by not wanting to import generic products to resell?

Yes you by definition are limiting yourself. Whether it's good or bad is up to you. Do you want a store that looks like a Walmart with a hodge podge of products and no semblance of brand or value? Or do you want a store that looks like Apple, where people see correlations and synergies between products and they get the feeling that anything they order from you is of good quality?

Not is the US yet products will be hard to find. And of course you need to ask yourself why they are not in the US yet.
 

Robert Ferguson

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My differentiation now is mainly branding, since none of my products are patented. Also innovation in my brand with tweaks and changes means that I can keep my products one step ahead of China. The factory isn't going to roll out your new product first, they will rollout products that they've been making for hundreds of other sellers.

Yes, my businesses are 100% ecommerce. I don't want to get into retail. I think that there will always be enough ecommerce traffic to make a decent living. I will get other baskets if I need to. I just figure I'll adapt when the time comes.

The weaker importers with cookie cutter products will get crushed. In fact, I'm doing some of the crushing in one niche pretty soon. You have to ask yourself, how do I compete against big dogs with alot of money and go that route on your product.

Let's say you cobble together $2k and get 500 units @ $4/unit and launch on Amazon. You do a giveaway with 100 units to get to middle of page #1, sell the remaining 400 at $14 for $10 profit each. Yay you made $4000. You enjoy this money machine for 3 months and then...

...someone comes along with Amazon experience and $25k of backing. They get 10,000 units @ $2. They giveaway 1000 units and shoot to #1. They sells theirs at $4 and spend $5,000 on PPC. You just have no way to compete with them on this product anymore. You will need to adapt.

So what do you do here?
1) Obviously you will have branded, and hopefully you can convince people that your brand makes a better product
2) You change your product slightly, whether it be colors, or number in the package. Sell a 3 pack instead.
3) You increase your value proposition, add a free secondary item, lifetime guarantee, or warranty
Biophase,
Thank you for this. I value your experience very much and I appreciate you sharing it. This was very helpful and I love the way you break everything down and explain it.
 

Carnage

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It may require a mold and yes you would have to pay for it. Let's say the mold is $2,000. If my first order is 500 pcs, it just adds $4 to each product. So my first shipment is going to have a lower profit margin by $4 per unit. That's how I look at it. Either way, you need to look at the numbers and make sure they work.

But the huge upside is that if your product sells and your new handle is a hit. It will be tough for anyone to copy you, because the mold is yours. You mold your logo into it and nobody else will use it. No knockoff is going to spend money to make a mold.

Even though the risk is higher, the EV or upside on doing this is huge. You need to think risk vs reward. Many times your risk is under $5000, but the upside can be +$10k, $25k, $100k for many many years. Much better odds than playing options or the stock market.

Thank you for the insight, Biophase.
I'm assuming you first started by importing generic products. When did you decide to spend the money to create your own?

I'm in the process to getting generic products and trying to profit off that to build capital before I go out to create my own products.
 

biophase

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Thank you for the insight, Biophase.
I'm assuming you first started by importing generic products. When did you decide to spend the money to create your own?

I'm in the process to getting generic products and trying to profit off that to build capital before I go out to create my own products.

I pretty much started making my own. I had no desire to import the same thing everyone else was importing. I knew my products had to be different from the start. Why start your brand off with a weak product?
 

ZCP

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I check things from the same IP and computer. My employee also checks from a different location and IP daily so I would image that my lP log over at Amazon would contain mainly 2 IPs.
And that is my question, multiple companies from the same main two IP's over and over. Anyone had issues?

I think we'll state a case for two seller accounts for two different companies to be on the safe side. Business address, checking accounts, etc. different. IP's the same.
 

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I pretty much started making my own. I had no desire to import the same thing everyone else was importing. I knew my products had to be different from the start. Why start your brand off with a weak product?

When starting capital is limited, say $3k, would it not be the correct choice to import a generic item adding better copy, pictures etc to start building bank and then moving on to custom work?
 

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I pretty much started making my own. I had no desire to import the same thing everyone else was importing. I knew my products had to be different from the start. Why start your brand off with a weak product?

Two questions:

1. Do you you consider it "value added" even if you change something as simple as a piece of velcro to a zipper on a product? Assuming you have heard complaints about the velcro not working well enough on the competitors product? Or do you go for more drastic improvements.
Do you consider this a big enough improvement to have a strong brand, instead of just importing the exact product and re labeling it?

2. Do you try and source products through the actual manufacturer? Or are you OK with buying products through trading companies as long as they can get you what you need and the price works.

As always thank you for your time answering all of the questions :)
 

biophase

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When starting capital is limited, say $3k, would it not be the correct choice to import a generic item adding better copy, pictures etc to start building bank and then moving on to custom work?

I would start customizing from the beginning. Getting custom stuff done does not take that much more money, if any.
 

biophase

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Two questions:

1. Do you you consider it "value added" even if you change something as simple as a piece of velcro to a zipper on a product? Assuming you have heard complaints about the velcro not working well enough on the competitors product? Or do you go for more drastic improvements.
Do you consider this a big enough improvement to have a strong brand, instead of just importing the exact product and re labeling it?

Sure, if the complaints are that velcro is no good, and a zipper is better, then that might be all you need to differentiate your product. It is certainly better than importing the same thing as everyone else. That change probably increases the price by a few cents.

2. Do you try and source products through the actual manufacturer? Or are you OK with buying products through trading companies as long as they can get you what you need and the price works.

It's better to find the manufacturer. But in some cases, if I am order 3 products from a manufacturer and they can get me product 4 (even though they don't make it), I will go with them because it makes it easier for me and all 4 products are lumped into one shipment. But it does depend on how much more product 4 would be from them.
 

Dicky Dee

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I'm saying that this market will change, just like Ebay did, when the factories learn how to sell direct. It is already happening. The factories know that they can sell direct. They just don't know how to take photos, write good copy and understand the review system. Once they understand that it will be tough for us to compete because they will drive the price down. It is already happening.

What they mean by diversifying your income stream is that you should also being selling, or plan to sell on your own website, ebay, sears, rakuten, other places. This way if your Amazon income stream shuts down, you don't go to $0 income. I sell through my own online stores. I don't use other fulfillment avenues right now, just FBA.

How have you been driving traffic to your own website? Im selling well on sales channels like amazon and ebay because the traffics there, but im having a really tough time getting traffic to my own site.
 

biophase

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How have you been driving traffic to your own website? Im selling well on sales channels like amazon and ebay because the traffics there, but im having a really tough time getting traffic to my own site.

I drive traffic to my website mainly through PPC and organic searches. But the beauty of having a brand is that I don't care if the product is purchased on my own website or amazon, as long as people are buying my brand!
 

Dicky Dee

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Yup i agree! However i want to create my own sales channel instead of relying on others incase it all falls apart one day (amazon). How did you learn to use adwords or google shopping? I can't seem to get a positive ROI with my campaigns in adwords
 

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Yup i agree! However i want to create my own sales channel instead of relying on others incase it all falls apart one day (amazon). How did you learn to use adwords or google shopping? I can't seem to get a positive ROI with my campaigns in adwords

I learned google adwords through books, watching videos, chatting with Andy Black and trial and error. I've never really learned google shopping. I just have ads on there and they send me traffic, lol. My conversion rate sucks, but I hit those people with retargeting afterwards. With retargeting, all I am trying to do is get impressions, not clicks.
 

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Out of all the 50-100 products you have are all of them selling well? Currently, do you have any dud products that nobody are buying sitting at your warehouse? If you put a large order and you get crap from your supplier, do you ever get demoralized? How do you handle duds that are just not selling and wasting space?

I imported some products a couple months back and it took like six months to get rid of and I got super demoralized/paralyzed. Maybe its because I am under capitalized so I don't have much wiggling room for mistakes which is what makes it so scary for me. Just want to know your mindset for handling duds.
 
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biophase

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Out of all the 50-100 products you have are all of them selling well? Currently, do you have any dud products that nobody are buying sitting at your warehouse? If you put a large order and you get crap from your supplier, do you ever get demoralized? How do you handle duds that are just not selling and wasting space?

I imported some products a couple months back and it took like six months to get rid of and I got super demoralized/paralyzed. Maybe its because I am under capitalized so I don't have much wiggling room for mistakes which is what makes it so scary for me. Just want to know your mindset for handling duds.

I've had 3 dud products. Duds are products that I can't even sell at breakeven. Any product that makes money to me is not a dud. I don't need each product to sell 5 a day. If that happened I would need a way bigger warehouse. With 50-100 products all I need is for half of them to sell once each day.

Duds don't do anything to me. It's a risk reward calculation. If I worried about every product I imported I would still be at 10 products. The only way to expand is to take risks.

When I do get certain duds that don't sell, I just toss it all into the trash. Clear the clutter and move on. I don't even try to liquidate or wholesale them because it just sits in the warehouse taking up space and serves as a reminder of a bad product.
 

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