Do you get more stress as you grow your e-commerce business?

Hi,
Growing the business means having larger catalog and inventory. It’s the inventory part that concerns me. It appears that most products sold on Amazon go through a product life cycle; start, grow, and die. I already have lots of left over inventory of products that went through the cycle. Also carrying a large inventory (as you grow) translates to stress. Many “what if” that could derail and prevent the products from being sold. How do you guys cope with this stress? Maybe the simple answer is to not grow?

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I struggled for several years with keeping track of inventory across multiple sales sites as my product lines and inventory pile grew from a few dozen items over 20 years ago to over 4000 active items currently.

Back when I was in sales I went to a LOT of training sessions and I think it was Zig Ziglar that said stress is a necessity for life. If there is no stress you are DEAD. That is literally true since a beating heart creates stress on blood vessels giving you that (fictional) 120/80 number.

It’s how you handle the stress that is the critical part. I found two ways for handling items that went MIA.

The first was a very close major wholesale source that stocked almost everything I sell/sold at the time. I could order the MIA stuff as well as normal restocks and get overnight UPS deliveries.

The second was finding a service that will track my inventory and sales across multiple websites including Amazon, eBay, and fortunately, one specialty/niche site that has my main product lines on it. It runs me $300/month but it is the best investment I have made in years!

Stress about other things depends on your particular situation. Frankly, if you are just starting out and are already this worried about it you might want to reconsider whether you want to do this for a living. I have inventory sitting here that I have had for years and it will sell or it won’t. During inflationary periods all those ‘prices are going up’ mean my stash of stuff just got more valuable.

I figure my ballpark $200,000 in inventory made me paper profits (when sold) of maybe $20,000 in the past 18 months or so.

Personal side note of what I learned from a Medic who was in multiple tours during the Gulf Wars. I was talking to him after my wife had her crash with the drunk 3 1/2 years ago – They wouldn’t let me into the emergency room for almost 3 hours. When they let me in they said her BP had been down to 40 over whatever. At 60 over you can’t feel it – you need a machine. He was the only one that told me (over a year later) how close to dead she was.

At 40 over whatever, the brain is a selfish BIT#@ and starts shutting down organs – Liver? don’t need that. Kidneys? nope, not necessary. Gall bladder? who cares, shut it down. All the blood is focused on preserving the brain at all costs.

Embrace stress. Enjoy stress. Stress means you have a pulse and are alive.

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It’s important to work on setting reasonable goals for your business, and then match every business decision to those goals.

The problem is in identifying “reasonable” goals: data-driven but also including the level of stretch that you as a person are willing to accept as a business manager.

Where goals are unreasonable and/or business decisions don’t have goals to guide them, there is the stress.

Stock quantity, product depth, product cycle anticipation, investments, resources–everything should be goal-driven, where the goals are the right match for the business, the market, the person.

If you find yourself unsure about a decision, ask yourself what the long-term goals are for that business aspect, and then identify to necessary next step in that specific direction.

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I so appreciate everything you wrote in your response. This is key. If you do not enjoy it, you will not enjoy many trades, vocations, or avocations. It is all part of life and part of living.

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Nothing to add for OP (I’m too small beans), but wanted to say that I’m very sorry about your wife’s accident and wanted to thank you for your post. I get the most done when I’m busy and pressured, I tend to drift when not. What you said summarized that feeling well.

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Thank you for the long and informative reply. Agree that stress is unavoidable. However there are different levels of stress in life :slight_smile: When I was a corporate worker, all I had to worry is show up at the office and perform, gym time, go to bed, and repeat again 5 days a week. Stress level is close to zero, almost too boring.

Thanks for sharing techniques to handle MIA items. My stress never come from MIA items. If they lost, so be it. It would only be a small portion of total inventory anyway. It seems like we have a different business model. For me, I contract factories in China to manufacture items based on my specification, ship them to the warehouse, and sell on Amazon. So, when the products reach the end of the life cycle, I always have a boat load of inventory left. :expressionless:

You obviously been doing this longer than me. I started out just six years ago. The fear of not being able to turn the left over inventory back into the money worries me.

That’s a very good thought. :+1: I’ve been trying to tell myself that as well :slight_smile: The only catch is that I’m paying a warehouse to store them. So the monthly storage fee keeps nibbling me every month. I guess you have your own storage and don’t have to pay anyone. That’s cool.

18 months. I guess you’re still selling them. That’s how you could come up with this forecast number. I wish I could estimate the time like you. Part of my $400K in inventory are no longer selling because they were a dud. I hope to try to sell them again at cost or small loss when the inflation goes rampant in the next few years. It seems like we’re going in that direction.

Sorry to hear the story of your wife accident. Hope she survives and lives a joyful life by now.

So to conclude, it’s the growing inventory that makes me stressful because of the uncertainty of whether I could turn it back into money. Worst case if one day Amazon decides to suspend my account, I would have no place to unload the inventory. It would be a total loss. Scary. That’s why I’m thinking that one way to reduce stress is not to grow. The inventory level would remain static. The loss would be limited.

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I don’t know what you’re selling, but if you’re constantly getting stuck with a ton of inventory it may be because you need to spend more time on market research.

It’s rare that a product goes from being a super hot seller straight to zero, usually you can see the end of the life cycle coming. This is going to highly depend on what you’re selling, but just as an example, if you’re selling phone cases, manufacturers’ phone release schedules are relatively static. You should stop ordering current model phone cases months before the new ones are slated to come out. If you’re a lightning cable seller, now would be a good time to stop buying new ones as well given the news. For almost any product, once you’ve seen the peak happen and the sales start going downhill, you need to consider discontinuing the product yourself so you can sell down your inventory, vs trying to get every last sale out of it and having a bunch of unsellable stock remaining.

Amazon suspending you is always a major risk. And if you’re an Amazon only or Amazon primarily seller it’s something that you always need to worry about at least a little.

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I try to stay positive, you never know what tomorrow may bring. Products come and go and even when you have a cream of the crop item who know what kind of Amazon cluster**** can happen. Bots take down listings and you could be fighting for weeks if not months just to get it back while 3 other listings have pushed you out.

There are items I wish I had invested in 100,000’s of units and then there are some where I have been burned on a few hundred.

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Thanks for your reply. You’re correct that usually it takes several months for product to change the position in the cycle (let’s say from hot to decline to dead). However the lead time from producing the product at Chinese factory to arrival at Amazon warehouse also takes time; around 4 months roughly which means that I have to start a new production even though I still have inventory left in FBA. This contributes to the left over once the sales volume decline.

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That explains my experience as well :slight_smile: Thanks for your reply.

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Right, so you need to plan ahead based on where the product is in the life cycle. If you see it starting to decline you don’t order more or you order a smaller amount. You need to consider discontinuing products BEFORE they die so you don’t get stuck with a ton.

You may also want to consider selling unsellable inventory to a liquidator or disposing of it. Paying money to store stuff that’s unlikely to ever sell (if this is the case) is throwing good money after bad.

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Thanks for the recommendation. What’s the best way to find liquidators? Google “product liquidator”? Please advise.

I don’t have any experience other than with amazon liquidations, but that’s for non-performing or problematic inventory that’s already AT FBA.

Honestly though, you can’t really go too wrong here, anyone who’ll come pick it up and pay you what they agree to is fine. You can expect very little recovery (like, 5% of retail value) though. Only do this for items you’ve completely abandoned though, because after you sell it to them there’s a good chance that some of them make it onto Amazon at very low prices.

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You’re right. I might as well try to sell them again at 70% discount on Amazon first. Those listings have good review (4.5 stars). Thanks.

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cUMoBp

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This has been attributed to Ray Croc but many others have said very similar things –

You are either green and growing or you are ripe and rotting.

I just put in a major restock today and added a bunch of new items as well with one of my main suppliers. It will take me weeks/months to receive it and get it all back into my inventory.

I have to get back to adding almost all these items to my new website that is all USA made items. Too little time and too much inventory.

No moss growing under anything and I see some green shoots…

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Another great statement.

I often say to the team, “Why are those products rotting on the shelf?” This often after we made a new batch to ship FBM or flight to FBA. Of exactly the same thing that is rotting! :woman_facepalming: :person_facepalming: :man_facepalming:

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The quote has been mangled throughout the years. I believe it was originally:

As long as you are GREEN you will continue to grow.
The minute you think your are RIPE, you begin to get ROTTEN.

Attributed to Ray Croc.

My dad made me a sign with this very quote on it when I was a teenager and I hung it in my room. Still applies today to almost every situation.

-Ana

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Selling collectible coins and stamps I have no product life cycle. I have sold coins and stamps that I listed on amazon 22+/- years ago. I have no product stress, I just keep adding more and more product. I always purchase more replacement inventory for sold out coins/stamps. Years ago when I stocked and sold books there was always rotten inventory to be removed. Never again will I do a product line like books again.

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All of these or none of these.

A simpler heuristic is to determine what you want to do with, in this case, the business/brand or insert any other synonym.

Then, do it or die trying.

Nothing else matters. Or it does and then the “business” didn’t matter that much from the get go or it did, but it doesn’t now.

There are a thousand permutations and combinations and no one but you is the wiser/decider.

It really is a do or do not.

Everything else is just a technicality.

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