It was 3 years ago in October that I opened the doors to Scanner Monkey with an invitation to a select few Facebook buddies to join my quirky little group where we could “swap funny stories about sourcing and maybe share a few BOLOs”.
What started with 3 members and a banner that read “Scanner Monkeys of the World Unite” has since grown into an extraordinary community of positive minded and generous online sellers with the unifying purpose of helping each other succeed – while having fun and making new friends in the process. [If you want more history on the group and how we have evolved you can read about it in our book The Scanner Monkey Way.]
I’ve always been a pretty nostalgic guy and I enjoy looking back at the humble beginnings of ANY great success story to see how things have evolved. After reviewing the Scanner Monkey Facebook group posts and the ScannerMonkey.com website, I was astonished to see how much we have grown in a short 3 years! Here are some interesting stats of what our tribe has collectively accomplished since 2013:
We’ve recorded 139 SMTV webcasts – each week featuring a successful seller or industry expert with actionable strategies.
Recruited 90 coaches, educators, and vendors to help our tribe with various facets of their businesses.
Secured 44 EXCLUSIVE discounts on FBA related software, services, apps, conferences, and books.
Connected with over 400 members at 11 conferences & meetups.
Coordinated 2 “Pay It Forward” Days – with over $10,000 worth of prizes going to our members.
We’ve had more fun than a barrel of monkeys by hosting 4 karaoke parties and one cruise with 54 attendees!
Most importantly, we now have 1,300 supportive members in our tribe! Our members, that range from part-time newbies to multi-million dollar mega-sellers, have always been THE most important asset of Scanner Monkey! I can confidently say that NO OTHER group is as supportive or positive-minded as the Scanner Monkey group. Yes, I might be a little biased, but I see examples of it every single day in our group. For that I feel extremely blessed to be a part of such a supportive community that truly understands the value of sharing with others so that we can grow together.
So how did we celebrate 3 years of supporting, connecting, learning and growing together? By giving away a gaggle of prizes donated by our awesome members! Here is just a sample of the great prizes we awarded to our members that entered our daily contests last week AND live on our special 3rd Anniversary SMTV show:
In order to win these prizes we asked our members to enter contests where they shared advice. Examples included their “Best #TuesdayTip” or “Tips to share with NEW Scanner Monkey members”. This way EVERYONE wins – either a prize OR great advice from other members. Between the FB contests and the live contest on our SMTV show we had over 100 entries, with 22 winners claiming over $4,300 worth of prizes! The winners included: Kim Coghlan, Sherry Morton, Dan Engler, Anita Hampl, Bond Chris Bond, Elizabeth Thompson, Ann Whitford Poppe, and many more!
Happy Anniversary Scanner Monkeys! I look forward to the NEXT 3 YEARS with my Scanner Monkey family!
In a recent email to sellers, Amazon further refines the ecommerce role that they want to play in the marketplace.
“In the past, one unit of each ASIN in storage has been exempt from the twice-annual Long-Term Storage Fee. Effective with the February 15, 2017, Long-Term Storage Fee assessment, this exemption will end. A Long-Term Storage Fee will be assessed on all inventory that has been in a U.S. fulfillment center for six months or more. There are no additional changes to the Long-Term Storage Fee at this time, other than there will no longer be a single-unit exemption effective February 15, 2017.
You can, however, remove these units for free: Starting today, September 19, 2016, we will reimburse you for the return fee or disposal fee for one unit of every ASIN for which you file a removal order. This promotion applies to inventory in U.S. or Canada fulfillment centers and expires end of day October 14, 2016, after which time normal removal-order fees will apply.”
Amazon, as the “everything store” had an emphasis on the availability of, well, everything. In order to do this, they were willing to house and store a large variety of items provided by third party sellers so that a customer could look on Amazon for that obscure textbook, rare bra size or discontinued toy and have it shipped for free as part of their Prime subscriptions. With Amazon’s business growing exponentially, and warehouses filling as fast as they are built, this strategy is changing.
Amazon sellers have been adjusting to their further restrictions on warehouse storage for a while now. Amazon wants our inventory levels to be low enough so that we do not carry more than a 6 months supply of any product unless we are willing to pay a high storage fee. Until last week, sellers could keep 1 of any item in stock with no long term storage fees which allowed for the stocking of rare books and other hard to find items, this is no longer the case.
Now, the fee structure and communication that sellers are receiving is letting us know that Amazon wants to be the place for popular items. They want items that will sell in the next few months and that’s about it. It’s a mass business that is far more profitable and predictable overall for them but less welcoming to the treasure hunter or picker. These sellers stock items that may sell for hundreds of dollars but appeal to a very specific buyer who may not even look for this item for 8 or 15 months from when it is sent in. Source the rare book, prep it and send it in to Amazon and then as Ron Popeil said, “Set it and forget it”.
This business model is not one that is helping with Amazon’s new plans so they are discontinuing it. As a way to help sellers transition, at least, we can have these items returned to us for free until Oct. 14th 2016. This is actually very helpful. For those who stock thousands of books, having them returned for a fee of $.50 each or disposed of for $.15 each can really add up. It also means that the prime fulfilled rare book may be coming to an end.
Impact On The Individual Book And Other Long Term Item Seller
This cost of storage is now an issue so each item will have to be carefully evaluated to see if it is worth storing and selling via FBA (fulfilled by Amazon). The business model will have to be adjusted significantly and those with greater expertise will continue to succeed, perhaps even to a greater extent. When any business become harder, it means that those who are willing to do extra work can be rise to the top.
New Business Opportunities Arise
In online used clothing sales, there has been a rise of more customer focused niche sites such as Swap.com (see our blog post about that here) as well as Instragram and Facebook selling. The used clothing item, which had formerly been the domain of eBay, thrift stores and garage sales is now upscaling and diversifying as more and more customers look online and want a used product shopping experience that is seamless and enjoyable. There used to be a wide range of online book stores and used books sites that were gobbled up by Amazon and eBay such as Half.com. Currently there are used book sellers that do a huge business on Amazon with both FBA and MF sides to their businesses. They are large companies with warehouses and staffing and may be in a position to take further domination of this used book market with warehoused and shipped merchandise that is sourced by third party sellers. Sites that have not been able to get off the ground due to Amazon’s domination may now have a shot as over time, the selection of hard to find items goes down on this giant retailer. We may see the rise of more corporate online second hand stores that provide an Amazon style shopping experience for buyers and an outlet for the selling of millions of hard to find items.
Another sales opportunity for these hard to find books is to convert them to Createspace and Kindle e-books. There is a business model where authors and estates are contacted by a consultant and a revenue share is put in place. Out of print but in in demand books can be made available and accessible. Perhaps these hard to find books can even be sold more, if the price goes down because it’s a print on demand (POD) product. Are you the professional who knows enough to contact these people and work with them? For many authors or their descendants, understanding Amazon’s POD system is just not a priority so the knowledgeable book seller can switch to a role as a service provider.
Regardless of your plan to adapt, think hard about your inventory levels and take advantage of this free grace period from Amazon.
We’d love to hear what you think and how you will adapt to these new changes. Please comment below.
We’d like to offer this post to the communty so that we can maintain a list as a community of restricted brands to sell on Amazon. These are brands that Amazon either has historically not allowed us to sell or new ones. Please post what you’ve learned.
This is not official but simply the shared knowledge of other sellers (cause that’s how we roll at Scanner Monkey).
I’m back home from the ScanPower Conference and reflecting fondly on the last 3 days of networking, presentations, and after hours fun with both the monkeys and the non-monkeys in attendance. This was a POWERFUL and INSPIRING conference with so many amazing sellers from very diverse backgrounds! I was blown away by not only the content of the presentations, but also the spirit of sharing and camaraderie that was pervasive throughout the entire event.
I’m often asked if it’s worth it to invest in the price of admission, flights, & hotel stays to attend a conference like this. My answer is always an emphatic “YES YES YES!”
Yes, the presentations are valuable and inspiring…but that is just the tip of the iceberg! It’s sooooo much more than that.
So, for anyone that has not attended a conference I thought I would share with you WHY you should INVEST in your business and in yourself by attending a sellers conference:
1) The networking – I know…I know….we constantly talk about networking and developing mastermind groups in Scanner Monkey, but there really is no substitute for face to face networking with other sellers, speakers, and peers. It’s really like TURBO networking where you can learn more about each other and your respective businesses in a 10 minute conversation than 10 days of exchanging PMs. And there are MULTIPLE opportunities to engage in this type of networking: in the halls during presentations, during lunch or dinners, or (my favorite) over a couple of drinks.
You will find that many times after these networking sessions you will have a new accountability partner, or someone you can call if you need help with a challenge you are experiencing in your business, or even create a new mastermind group. What’s even better are the strong friendships that form from being around so many people with the same desires and dreams that you have. Personally, I have made just as many lifelong friendships with people at just a couple of conferences than I have in 20 years in the wine industry. If you get out of your shell and make an effort to meet other sellers and see if you can help them, it will come back to you 100 fold!
2) The helpful tips – Yes, people share tips in a lot of Facebook groups, but when you are in a smaller group in person and people have paid good money to be there the providers of that information have to up their game and give EXCEPTIONAL value. Plus, there is just something about connecting in person that opens up the dialogue to a whole different level. I can’t tell you how many times I heard at the last conference “With just ONE tip from that presentation (or conversation) I will make an additional $_____ per month! That one tip just paid for my price of admission.”
3) It shows others that you are serious about your business if you are willing to plunk down a few hundred dollars to attend a conference or any seller event…and that carries over into the digital world.
4) You can build a solid foundation of resources. The presenters and vendors in attendance are there primarily to help you build your business, but they would also like you to use their services as well. You should strongly consider using the vendors that take the time out of their busy schedules to educate you on the issues that impact your businesses. This last conference featured speakers talking about wide array of subjects including: utilizing Fiverr, suspension prevention, creating relationships with store managers & wholesalers, keeping your account healthy, and product photography (and those are just a few). These should be your GO TO people when you need help in that area of your business.
5) It’s downright fun! You love what you do, right? You have fun making big $ on the most powerful selling platform on the planet, right? Well, guess what…it’s even MORE FUN to be surrounded by people that feel the same way! It’s part of what makes Scanner Monkey such an awesome group – being surrounded by like minded and positive thinking sellers. It can be very emotional at times when you see the relationships that form from being around others that have same struggles, desires, and dreams that you do. I even saw a few people at the SP conference in tears (I won’t name any names…but they know who I am talking about ). Throw in a Scanner Monkey Happy Hour or karaoke and it gets even BETTER!
These are just a few reasons you should consider investing your time and money in a seller conference…but there are even more! For those that have attended conferences before please feel free to add how you benefited from conferences in the comments below.
I’m confident that the monkeys that were in attendance at the SP Conference would agree with me that it is money well spent! Right?
In the next few days and weeks we will hear a lot of the “sky is falling” from many that do not have a horse in this race. They will be quick to point out all the negatives and possible worst case scenarios that reinforces their fearful decision not to trade overseas.
The truth is those who have only one option are the greatest risk takers of all. Staying only in the US Amazon market creates an ever-closing cycle of competitive demise that forces you to take less margin for more work. Change or movement is the only way to survive even in this safe marketplace. Information will be the true weapon in this battle. International Amazon marketplaces have fewer sellers with less experience. Accessing a synergistic hub such as Scanner Monkey, will allow us to harness US experience and drive it into the European Market.
As a seller in the UK and European Amazon marketplaces, we love the fact that many will hold off becoming competitors because of the “concern” and perceived high hurdles. We will continue to leverage our strengths and have increases in sales and margins across multiple platforms. If one market closes, we move to another. Currency inverts, we ship the other direction.
Light, nimble traders with low asset investments will reap sizable rewards as they always do in these marketplaces. FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) is the perfect leverage point with minimal overhead costs except a little paperwork and inventory exposure of 30-60 days.
What are we going to do?
Rather than give advice, I am going to talk about our strategy.
Our goal is to maximize our footprint and options with as little investment as possible while maintaining solid margins. Our goal is to be ahead of the mob as this drama unfolds.
Register for the VAT and establish accounts with prep and pack companies in Germany. Using our International Arbitrage Course staff accountant, the cost will be a little time and gives us the ability to ship into Germany and use FBA to sell products in under 4-5 days.
Research registration for the VAT and set up accounts with prep and pack companies in each of the other three Amazon marketplace countries outside of the UK and Germany (France, Spain and Italy).
Register for the VAT in Ireland since they are the likely candidate for the “NEW” UK for Amazon to hit the EU. With Amazon’s commitment to MCI and Pan EU, this is a likely place for the EU growth to happen. Cost is only the time to register and file 0 returns.
Continue to increase products in both the UK and EU marketplaces.
Monitor margins through re-pricers and continue to sell daily in to the European markets.
Be part of a mastermind group of like minded EU Amazon FBA sellers to pool information and solutions. Like any journey into the wilderness, there is strength in a small dedicated group.
Work on creating a footprint in other developing Amazon marketplaces such as Japan.
Change is inevitable. Those with timely information and the courage to act will be the ones to.
Contact Steve via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more about his course, International Arbitrage.
Keep up to date about Amazon UK, Europe and more in our FREE Facebook group, Scanner Monkey UK.
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