How to Organize Your eBay Inventory: a Step-by-step Guide

Initiating a transaction cancellation is an unfortunate situation for any eBay seller, especially as they will receive a defect for doing so. A common reason for this to happen is the seller being unable to find the sold item. The good news is that this situation is usually avoidable in the vast majority of instances. The solution is to be organized. And this starts with the careful organization of your eBay store inventory. Follow this step-by-step guide to improve your inventory organization today.

1. Find a space

The most important step of organizing your eBay inventory is to dedicate a space in your house to your business. For those who have the flexibility, a spare room or basement is ideal. If you’re an eBay seller working with space limitations, carve out an area of a room and separate it with a screen partition or furniture. It works best if a ‘quieter’ area of the home is chosen, with less day-to-day traffic and potential disturbances. An alternative option is to create space outside the house, with a small shed or workroom.

Ideally, this dedicated eBay room or area would also have enough space to include a shipping ‘station’ and/or small DIY photography studio. Think of it as an all in one eBay home office.

2. Create a storage system

The next step is to carefully consider how to store inventory in this dedicated eBay space. There is many ways to do this but one popular method is to create as much shelving as possible and then physically store items in individual see-through Tupperware or Rubbermaid containers on top. Some sellers choose to buy custom-designed shelving to fit the specific room.

Tote or basket containers are also commonly used for storage, however not being able to see the items from the outside is a disadvantage. It is important to avoid moving or sorting through inventory as much as possible to avoid damage and loss of potential profit. Items are generally harder to damage if kept within hard-sided containers.

3. Choose how to organize items

While big online retailers such as Amazon may organize their own warehouses completely by random, sorting items with logic is key for an at-home eBay business. The most sensible first step for most sellers would be to separate ‘to be listed items’ from the ‘currently listed.’ Another area of items dedicated to already listed but not sold items is also inevitable. Beyond this, there are numerous ways to organize further. Depending on the type of inventory, you may want to then categorize items by age, style, size, product use or author name.

4. Decide on a labelling and recording system

Labelling and recording items is unquestionably the most time intensive part of inventory organization but it is also extremely crucial to the success of an eBay business. After all, what is the use of safely stored inventory if you can’t find an item that just sold? It is almost certain that there are as many ways to label and record inventory as there are eBay sellers.

One easy way to record inventory is to use a spreadsheet (e.g. Excel) to list the description of the item, purchase price, selling price, shipping costs etc. A unique code (or inventory number) can then be created for each item on the spreadsheet. This would then be physically labelled on the item’s container and also on eBay listings using the ‘add note’ function.

5. Consider pre-packaging items

Some eBay sellers like to pre-pack items for fast shipping to buyers as well as their own convenience. Sellers who do this would typically package the item immediately for shipping after photos and measurements are taken. This method not only ensures that shipping costs are accurate at the time of listing but also enables sellers to fulfil orders quickly.

There are however a few disadvantages with pre-packaging. Firstly, it does not account for buyers potentially buying multiple items. This method also heavily relies on excellent organizational skills especially concerning accurate labelling and storage as packaged items are undoubtedly harder to find.

6. Clear out inventory regularly

Despite your best efforts, it is likely that there will be a number of items that just don’t sell. It is worth first trying to experiment with a different title, description or pricing. Maybe even try selling the item in a different season. If it still won’t shift, consider listing it on another selling website. If nothing works and long-term storage elsewhere is not an option, it may be time to move the item on. As much as it may be painful to see the potential profit go, it is also important to be realistic with available space and your own time.

Consider donating unsold or forever unlisted (the items you never get around to selling) items to charity to benefit others.

7. Time to upgrade?

At one point, your eBay business may outgrow your house or home storage space. Some eBay sellers don’t even wait for this stage, preferring to move out of the house as soon as financially viable to avoid mixing business and pleasure. Whatever the reason, there are two main ways to move your eBay business on from the home environment.

  • Renting storage space such as a storage unit or warehouse for a monthly or annual fee
  • Outsourcing storage with a third-party fulfilment service such as Shipwire or Amazon

The importance of organization

The benefits of good inventory organization are both easy to see and feel. A few hours spent here and there on the administration of your eBay business will save you money, time and reputation later. Fewer defect transactions also mean higher profits, so it’s a win-win situation all around.

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.

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