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What Exactly Is Retail Arbitrage? Hear It from An Arbitrage Guru - Make a Living from Home in 2017

Have you ever purchased an item on eBay and gotten an Amazon package sent home? This happens quite often, and is a proven business model, called retail arbitrage or dropshipping.

In fact, this is a business model I recently started myself. You know that I have already created my own private label product that I sourced from China and sent to the Amazon FBA warehouse. It is the collapsible measuring cups & tablespoons set you can see in the banner to the right.

The reason I decided to try out dropshipping also is that I do not have to spend thousands of dollars on inventory.

Purchase the Pop Emoji Cookie Cutter on Amazon - Make a Living from Home in 2017

Instead, when any of my listings are selling, I purchase the product from a wholesaler and ship it straight to the customer. This is saving me a great deal of money from having to invest in manufacturing products.

The only major con with this business model is that the margins are lower. You have to sell on volume to make enough profit.

I came by a great article by webretailer.com, where they interview British scientist, Ben Hovell, who started retail arbitrage by a coincidence and became very successful with it.

Ben Hovell from Scientist to Successful Retail Arbitrage Guru

What Exactly Is Retail Arbitrage? Hear It from An Arbitrage Guru - Make a Living from Home in 2017Ben Hovell started arbitrage selling on eBay in 2008. He bought an item on eBay, only to have it arrive in a box from Amazon.co.uk.

Ben then discovered that the item was cheaper on Amazon than on eBay, and pieced together what had happened.

He purchased the item on eBay. The eBay seller purchased the item from Amazon, and entered Ben’s address for delivery. Amazon then shipped the item and the eBay seller kept the difference

It is important to understand that this is not Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), like I am introducing in:

How to Sell on Amazon for Beginners

The seller does not purchase products in advance and ship them to the Amazon warehouse for Amazon to handle the processing and shipping. The key is instead that the item is only bought from Amazon, or any other wholesaler, once a sale has been made on eBay. Amazon is effectively being used as a drop-shipper. Find out more about dropshipping in my prior article:

Is Dropshipping Legit? Benefits and Disadvantages Listed

Having understood the basics, Ben decided to get into the arbitrage selling business himself:

Hard drives were very expensive at the time, so I listed ten on eBay and copied the prices from Amazon, with a bit added on. Then I sold one, which was wonderful. I sold another one a week later, which was wonderful again.

Be careful of your dog in the car - Purchase the 2 pack seat belt for dogs on eBay - Make a Living from Home in 2017The next sale did not go as smoothly. The price had gone up on Amazon, and he lost money on the sale. Amazon actually makes millions of price changes every day, which creates a major challenge for arbitrage sellers. However, Ben stuck with it, checking Amazon’s prices every morning and changing his price on eBay accordingly.

The next step was creating a piece of software to check Amazon prices three times a day and if they had changed, create an upload for eBay’s File Exchange System to update the prices. With this automation in place, Ben scaled up his business, and had hundreds of eBay listings running:

It had gone from a hobby to a little more serious. We are talking about $129 or $260 in profit per week. Not a living, but worth having. I realized my constraint on growth was twofold: one, I needed more eBay listings and two, I needed to update prices more frequently.

Next, Ben commissioned more powerful software to check prices every hour, and found a company in India to outsource the work of writing eBay listings. Both constraints were resolved, and the business “just ballooned and ballooned.”

What Exactly Is Retail Arbitrage? Hear It from An Arbitrage Guru - Make a Living from Home in 2017

Sales were growing rapidly, and both eBay and PayPal fees started to go down thanks to volume discounts. By using an Amex credit card with cash-back, the Amazon purchase price was in effect lowered by 1.5%, reducing costs further.

At this point Ben employed someone for 2 to 3 hours per day to place orders on Amazon – up to fifty a day – and was making tens of thousands of pounds in profit a year. Ben was spending millions of pounds on Amazon.

What Did Ben Sell?

Anything and everything on Amazon’s bestsellers lists, as long as it was priced between $65 and $650. Ben would list everything on eBay for the Amazon price plus a percentage and a fixed “fee” – a kind of commission for handling the transaction. But then things changed:

It got increasingly difficult to buy. Amazon said “hey, this is not for personal use”, and stopped me from buying. I don’t know why it happened, there is no dialogue there. There are ways to get around it but I decided that it would not last forever and went back to being a scientist. That was in 2012.

Ben’s style of arbitrage selling was based on high volumes, and clearly it can be profitable. With good software and outsourcing, it seems like he found internet marketing’s holy grail of a “passive income”.

So What Is the Catch?

What Exactly Is Retail Arbitrage? Hear It from An Arbitrage Guru - Make a Living from Home in 2017

It is a zero-sum game with a race to the bottom. Not everyone can make money doing the same thing. But arbitrage selling will continue to exist as a niche, run by people with the willpower and programming knowledge to do it.

It is like trading on the stock exchange, which still has arbitrage with fast frequency transactions, and we still have arbitrage in the betting markets. It is exactly the same game and will always be there. It just happens to be doing it with consumer goods (source: webretailer.com).

“Not Everyone Can Make Money Doing the Same Thing”

Yes, there is a point in this statement from Webretailer but with the growing eCommerce market there are still lots of opportunities out there.

Some people say it is best to focus on a small niche and some, like Ben Howell, advises you to sell “a bit of everything” and focus on volume.

My plan is to do both. 

In this moment I am building an eCommerce business that will focus on good deals of lots of different products. 

In the pipeline is also to build another eCommerce store that is niched. I will keep you posted on my progress, and what seems to work the best.

Until next time, stay blessed and make sure to create your own dream – not someone else’s!


Stina Pettersson

Make a Living from Home in 2017
Email: stina@makealivingfromhome2017.com


About the Author

Stina Pettersson - Founder and owner of Make a Living from Home in 2017

My name is Stina Pettersson. I am the founder of Make a Living from Home in 2017 and the author of the articles on this site. I am originally from Sweden and am currently a business owner to 3 online businesses.

I help people to start their own online business and make a living from home. I am especially fond of helping the stay at home parent, or single parents to increase their income.

I hope I will get the honor to help YOU achieving your online success.



  • Show Comments (4)

  • Dolly

    Hi, Stina, have you ever tried to use automated software like https://salefreaks.com/ or any other? Do you you think it is better than traditional arbitrage? Or I will just waste my money with it?

    • Stina Pettersson

      Hi Dolly,
      thanks for your comment! I’m glad you reached out.
      Yes, I have tried some dropshipping software, like Pricematic, Profit Scraper etc. I have not tried Sales Freaks though. I checked it out, and it seems good, but a bit pricey if you ask me.If you are dropshipping from Amazon to eBay, the automatic re-pricing feature is very good, since the prices are fluctuating constantly on Amazon and it’s difficult to keep track on this manually.

      However, since dropshipping has relatively small profit margins and it does take lots of hard work, we are moving more towards online retail on Amazon right now. Meaning, that we are going to sell brand name products that we know are already selling. For this, you do need a re-seller certificate, but you can still be a sole proprietor and doesn’t need to register a LLC, even that it has benefits doing so. I will soon write a blog post about the process of online retail, and update you guys on my experiences of it. For example, you have to apply for brand approval on Amazon before selling brand items.

      I would suggest that you test some of the dropshipping tools using their free trial period to see how much value they have for you. We couldn’t find any that had EVERYTHING we needed in one software, so we are managing without it right now. Maybe in the future we will.

      Please let me know what you decide and how it’s going for you. If you have more questions, please feel free to ask:-)

      Best of luck to you Dolly!

      • Dolly

        Wow, thank you so much for your comprehensive answer!

        • Stina Pettersson

          You are very welcome Dolly!
          I hope it was useful:-D Hit me up again if you have more questions.


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