June 13, 2010, 3:06 PM

Getting the goods

OnlineStores.com shares its overseas sourcing strategies.

Niche retailer OnlineStores.com uses more than 20 overseas suppliers for its web stores, which include United-States-Flag.com, EnglishTeaStore.com, Stroller.com, ConstructionGear.com, DiscountSafetyGear.com, DesignerBaby.com and SafetyGirl.com. Advantages of overseas suppliers can include higher profit margins and better value, said OnlineStores.com vice president of marketing Kevin Hickey.

Hickey, who spoke in a session at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition entitled “Sourcing products: The many options,” said that some products, such as clothing, textiles, wood products, plastic items, furniture and toys, are easier to source than such merchandise as electronics and electrical devices.

He added that retailers can find suppliers through various methods, including through marketplace Alibaba.com, finding an agent or finding a company manufacturing a product similar to what a retailer wants.

Hickey recommended that retailers ask the following questions when picking suppliers:

  • What is their pricing?
  • What is their lead time to produce and deliver products?
  • What is the size range of their clients?

Hickey also advised online retailers to use multiple suppliers. “Why pick one?” he said. “Try two or three suppliers and over time give more business to the one that works best for your business.”

Hickey also suggested that retailers request product samples before placing orders.

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