How Does Retail Arbitrage Work?

How Does Retail Arbitrage Work

Looking to make a profit by taking advantage of price differences between retail stores and online marketplaces? Retail arbitrage is a great way for entrepreneurs to buy low and sell high. It’s a legal and strategic approach to reselling that offers a pathway to success on platforms like Amazon. In this guide, Ad Badger explains the steps of retail arbitrage, helping you start a profitable reselling business with practical strategies and tool recommendations.

Key Takeaways

  • Buy products cheaply from retail stores and resell them online at higher prices. This practice is legally supported by the first-sale doctrine in the US.
  • Creating an Amazon seller account is essential for retail arbitrage. Based on your selling activity level, you can choose between personal and professional accounts.
  • To succeed in retail arbitrage, focus on sourcing high-demand, profitable products, using smart pricing strategies, and managing your inventory efficiently.

Everything that is in the article

What is Retail Arbitrage

Retail arbitrage is a smart strategy for buying low-priced items from physical stores or retailer websites and selling them at a higher price on online marketplaces like Amazon. 

You don’t need to create your brand or deal directly with suppliers. Instead, you buy products and resell them, pocketing the price difference.

But is retail arbitrage legal? Yes, it is. The first-sale doctrine in U.S. law supports the legality of reselling legally acquired products. Both the United States and the United Kingdom recognize retail arbitrage as a legal practice. This makes it a great option for anyone starting a reselling business.

So, is retail arbitrage worth it? Like any business, success depends on your dedication, strategy, and ability to adapt. With the right approach, retail arbitrage on Amazon can be a profitable and low-risk way to start your reselling business.

How to Set Up an Amazon Seller Account

Starting a retail arbitrage journey begins with setting up an Amazon seller account. Amazon offers two types of accounts: personal and professional. A personal account is free but charges $0.99 per sale and limits sales to 40 products per month. A professional account costs $39.99 per month with no sales limit. 

Use existing Amazon customer credentials or create a new account at During registration, provide essential business and personal information, including:

  • Business Information. Location, type, name, registration number, address, and phone number.
  • Personal Information. Full name, country of citizenship and birth, date of birth, residential address, and phone number.

After setting up the account, complete Amazon’s verification process by providing:

  • A government-issued ID
  • A document proving the residential address
  • Banking and credit card details for processing payments and expenses

Once all these steps are completed, the Amazon retail arbitrage journey can begin.

How to Find Products for Retail Arbitrage

The key to retail arbitrage is finding the right products. This is where your detective skills come into play. You’ll be hunting for items at a low cost from retail outlets that can be sold at a higher price on Amazon. These products can be found at local ‘big box’ retailers, discount stores, or online.

But how do you pick the right products? How do you know if something will be profitable? And where do you find these great deals? Let’s break it down step-by-step.

How to Find Products for Retail Arbitrage

Finding high-demand products is crucial for retail arbitrage success. Want to discover items that customers can’t wait to buy? It’s all about identifying products with high demand. But how do you do that? Here’s a simple guide.

One way is to look at the sales rank. A sales rank under 1,000 indicates very high demand, but products with a sales rank under 100,000 can also be good options for arbitrage.

Checking the consistency of a product’s sales rank over time can help you understand its performance, which can help you make informed decisions about what to buy.

Also, consider the product category. Popular categories on Amazon include home and kitchen, toys and games, and books. Keep an eye on seasonal and trending products, which can offer great opportunities.

How to Evaluate Profit Margins and Shipping Costs

Evaluating profit margins and shipping costs is essential in retail arbitrage. How do you make sure you’re making a profit? Here’s a simple guide.

Once you’ve identified high-demand products, the next step is to evaluate your potential profit margins and shipping costs. This evaluation is vital to ensure your retail arbitrage venture is profitable.

Net gain and potential profit margins can be calculated using tools like Amazon’s Revenue Calculator. By entering the purchase cost, the tool can determine the amount you will earn after Amazon’s fees, giving you a clear picture of your potential profits. For example, a 15-pound shipment costs $8.69 to send to Amazon FBA when using Amazon’s partnered carrier service.

While sourcing products, it’s crucial to consider various expenses like the referral fee and order fulfillment costs. Buying below the current Amazon price and targeting a high ROI will help preserve your profit margins. It also provides a buffer in case the market price for the product decreases, affecting the Buy Box price.

Amazon’s Revenue Calculator

How to Scout Local Stores for Deals

Scouting local stores for deals is a key part of the retail and online arbitrage process. Retail, discount, and grocery stores often have discontinued or clearance items that can be resold online at a profit. These hidden gems can boost your retail arbitrage profits, especially when you sell discontinued products.

However, finding these deals isn’t a one-time thing. Regular sourcing trips to various stores are required to maintain inventory. These trips can be quite time-consuming as they involve traveling from store to store, hunting for profitable products, and purchasing products.

It’s also important to be adaptable. Product availability can fluctuate, with an item being plentiful one week but not found again or found at a higher cost at another time. This unpredictability is part of the game in retail arbitrage, requiring you to be flexible.

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Pricing Strategies for Retail Arbitrage Products

Once you’ve sourced your products and have the necessary tools, it’s time to discuss pricing strategies. Pricing your retail arbitrage products appropriately is crucial for maximizing your profits.

To optimally price your products, consider the following strategies:

  1. Aim for a high ROI to maximize earnings per sale.
  2. Provide a pricing buffer to accommodate potential drops in the Buy Box price.
  3. Keep an eye on historical Buy Box prices to understand pricing trends.
  4. Monitor current Buy Box trends to stay competitive and increase your product’s selling chances.

Setting your prices a couple of dollars higher than the current Buy Box price is advisable. This provides flexibility to make downward adjustments while remaining competitive. However, always be alert to the actions of other sellers who may influence the current selling price.

Be prepared to adjust your pricing strategy accordingly to maintain competitiveness and profitability.

Managing Your Inventory and Fulfillment Options

Managing your inventory and choosing your fulfillment options are other key aspects of running a successful retail arbitrage business. On Amazon, you can choose between Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), self-fulfillment, and dropshipping from the source. FBA can be particularly beneficial if you plan on selling large quantities of products, as it saves time and effort.

Implementing a tracking system can help manage inventory by keeping track of stock levels and the exact placement of products in storage. This can significantly streamline your inventory management process, allowing you to focus more on sourcing and selling profitable products.

Once you’ve purchased your inventory and established a product listing in Seller Central, the next steps are:

  1. Send the inventory to Amazon
  2. Confirm the ship date
  3. Select the shipping mode
  4. Confirm the inbound shipping price

By managing these steps efficiently, you can ensure a smooth fulfillment process, which will lead to happy customers and a successful retail arbitrage business.

How to Navigate Challenges and Scale Your Retail Arbitrage Business

Like any business, retail arbitrage comes with its own set of challenges. These include issues like:

  • Brand gating
  • Inconsistent inventory
  • High return rates
  • Fierce competition

Brand gating and intellectual property rights require authorization to sell certain products, which can pose significant hurdles. Moreover, the availability of profitable items can fluctuate, and competition can lead to price wars.

Despite these challenges, understanding your buying criteria, being adaptable to various business models, and knowing your personal risk tolerance can help you navigate the world of retail arbitrage. It’s also important to:

  • Constantly search for new products
  • Understand competition dynamics
  • Be aware that other resellers may source from the same clearance sales, affecting the availability of certain products.

How to Diversify Beyond Retail Arbitrage

While retail arbitrage can be profitable, diversifying beyond it can open up new opportunities. There are several alternative business models on Amazon that you can explore, like:

  • Private Labeling
  • Wholesale
  • Handmade Products
  • Dropshipping

In Private Labeling, you create your brand around existing products, offering control over branding, pricing, and customer experience. This model can be more profitable in the long run, as you’re not competing with other sellers on the same listings.

A wholesale business involves purchasing goods in bulk directly from the manufacturer or distributor to sell on Amazon. This requires a larger upfront investment but can lead to economies of scale.

The handmade category allows artisans to sell their unique, handcrafted products to a wider audience. If you’re crafty, this could be a great way to diversify your business.

Lastly, dropshipping is a model where you list products on Amazon and, upon sale, purchase the item from a third party that ships it directly to the customer. This model removes the need for inventory management, making it a good option for minimizing operational complexities.

Here are four alternative business models on Amazon that you can explore


Retail arbitrage presents an exciting opportunity to leverage price discrepancies between retail stores and online marketplaces like Amazon. From setting up your Amazon seller account, sourcing high-demand products, evaluating profit margins and pricing strategies, managing  inventory and fulfillment options, navigating challenges, and diversifying your business, the journey of retail arbitrage can be rewarding. With the right tools, strategies, and adventure-seeking spirit, retail arbitrage can be your ticket to financial independence.

So why not give it a shot?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is retail arbitrage legal?

Yes, retail arbitrage is legal in the United States and the United Kingdom, so you can engage in it without legal concerns.

What are some challenges I might face in retail arbitrage?

Retail arbitrage can be challenging due to brand gating, inconsistent inventory, high return rates, and fierce competition. 

How can I diversify beyond retail arbitrage?

To diversify beyond retail arbitrage, consider exploring alternative business models like private labeling, wholesale, handmade products, and dropshipping.