Liquidations and closeouts can be some great sources for retail goods, but like any source and any product range you need to know what you are doing and who you are dealing with.
By far the one thing you must realize is just what is the condition or the source of the goods you are interested in. Assuming you know the type of products you are looking for there are still a number of things to look for.
First is the condition of the merchandise. Even with the consideration that it is classed as New, you need to know more. Is it New from the manufacturer? Did they simply produce more than they could sell at their normal price structure and through their usual distribution channels?
Is it New, but irregulars or “factory seconds” or “blemished goods”? Still never been “titled”, but not first run goods, either.
Is it New, but has it been bought by a distributor or retailer and not sold as expected, resulting in the original buyer turning it over to closeout specialists or inventory liquidators?
Could it be New, but what is referred to as “Shelf Pulls”, where a manufacturer voluntarily goes into major retailers and pulls all of their older packaging and replaces the products with their new packaging or “new and improved” product?
Shelf pulls also occur when a competitive manufacturer comes into a retailer and convinces them to change the brand they promote. This could be anything from a line of cosmetics to a brand of house paint. As part of the deal, the new prime supplier agrees to remove and give credit for the original stock on the shelves and then turns it over to liquidators in order to recoup some of their cost.
Shelf pulls are still new goods, but will often have price labels and shelf worn packaging, open boxes, etc. Definitely not new, out of the original shipping carton condition.
A good liquidation or closeout specialist will make this clear from the start, but others may make you force the true source from them. Be sure before you buy exactly what you are getting.
There are also Retail Returns. These are often sold by the pallet and can consist of a single range of goods, or a mixed bag of all sorts of products. These are goods that have been returned to retailers and basically put in a bin to be sold to the highest bidder. Rather than try to tape up a torn carton or replace a burned out bulb, they put it all in the bin and sell off the lot through specialists.
You can often get just electronics or small home appliances, or hardware, etc. these lots are often broken down into categories, but with any returns type goods, be prepared to do a lot of repairs, from stitching clothing to repairing electrical drills or microwaves.
There can be good profits in the store returns, if you are knowledgeable in that product range and understand you will have to turn some screws to get your profits. There may also be dents and dings in the cases and housings, so do not be surprised if there are cosmetic issues, as well.
You can also get new books that have been returned as not selling. These are referred to as remainders and will be marked in some way. Usually they will simply have a line drawn with a magic marker across the outer pages. This tells bookstores everywhere not to issue a refund, since the book was never sold at retail.
Buying books can be a big risk. Often you will get many copies of the same obscure title. While you may think you are getting a variety, a pallet of books can be hundreds, but you may only get a dozen or so titles, with 30 or 40 or each. I have read more than one horror story of people buying books and struggling to get them carried upstairs to their apartment, only to find they had a lot of copies of a limited number of titles. Discouraging in more ways than one.
Selling your new inventory can be done online, but be careful with descriptions if selling shelf pulls or returns, as they are often not in first class condition. They can also be sold at car boots or flea markets and market stalls. Some folks have a very good income selling such products, as there is definitely a market for them.
Where to start? Liquidation.com and Overstocks.com in the US, possibly with some UK and EU listings. You can try Clearance-Buying.co.uk and GemWholesale.co.uk and ask about UK and EU liquidators on The Wholesale Forums.
These sites will give you some insight on how they rate the goods, so you can get an idea of what you are buying. Keep in mind, that other than new from the manufacturer any of these are subject to some wear and tear, but they can still be very profitable.