Liquidation and clearance websites can look very profitable. On the face of it, you can purchase goods at huge discounts. But it’s risky too. Sometimes you are given very little information about the goods – or their condition – and you could end up with a truckload of items with little or zero resale value.
Research is key. Which are the best places to buy from? How do they work? What are the differences between them? How can you find good products and maximize your chances of success?
In this article I will discuss how clearance and liquidation websites work and discuss the best ones available in the US and UK. I have only included those which:
- Sell liquidation stock such as customer returns and excess inventory
- Sell business to business only, not to consumers
- Offer online browsing and buying
At the end, I’ll explain some common problems with buying liquidation stock, and give some useful buying tips.
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Top liquidation and clearance websites in the US
At a glance
|Direct Liquidation||Auctions|| – Buy now option|
– Brand new and refurbished stock come with 90-day warranty
– Shipping can be provided or arranged by the customer
|– Nice selection|
– Low prices
– Solid customer service
|– Slow to communicate|
– Reports of descriptions not matching
|BULQ||Fixed price and auctions||-New lots posted online three times a day|
-Fixed price and auction lots available
-2% accuracy variance on manifests
-Flat rate shipping fees
|-Solid layout, so you know what you’re getting|
-Excellent customer service
-“Target boxing” system works well
|-High shipping costs|
-Pallet shopping is tricky
|Liquidation.com||Auctions||-Buy now option|
-Transactions exceeding $5,000 must be paid by wire transfer
-Shipping can be provided or arranged by customer
|-Versatile shipping options|
-Offers a ‘Buy Now’ function
|-Lots of marketing emails|
-Poor payment options on high-value transactions
-Many misrepresentation reports
|BoxFox||Auctions||-New merchandise only|
-7% commission charged
-$3,000 credit card limit over 30 days
-Mobile app available
|-Platform allows you to buy and sell|
-Offers a mobile application
-Straightforward auction process
|-No loyalty program|
-Limited financing options
-High commissions on sales
|BlueLots||Fixed price||-Email notifications of new inventory|
-Auction lots or Buy now option
-Sellers are required to sign authenticity agreement
|-Solid notification system|
-Fraud prevention system with ID verification
Superb customer service
|-Verification process isn’t timely|
-Seller friendly, but that doesn’t always work out for the buyer
|888 Lots||Fixed price||-Negotiable prices|
-No min/max spend
-Shipping can be provided or arranged by customer
-Excellent shipping options
-Superb pricing with the ability to negotiate
|-Not international buyer friendly|
-Reported issues with refunds
Top Pick: Direct Liquidation
Direct Liquidation is an online, auction-based marketplace selling liquidation stock. The website covers products from over 100 different categories. Items can be overstock, shelf-pulls, or end-of-life products from North America’s largest retailers and manufacturers. Direct Liquidation also refurbishes items to the manufacturer’s original standards.
In order to bid, you must register for a free user account. You can search for merchandise by keywords, category, and/or the condition of products you are interested in seeing.
Similarly to eBay liquidation processes, Direct Liquidation has a proxy bidding model. You enter your maximum bid upfront, then the system will automatically submit the lowest bid required to make you the top bidder. There is also a Buy Now price on some items, allowing you to bypass the auction process.
Each auction contains a detailed downloadable manifest containing item descriptions, condition, quantity, model numbers, UPCs and retail price. Manifests can be downloaded in Microsoft Excel format.
For brand new and refurbished items, Direct Liquidation provides a 90-day warranty from the date of product pickup. In very limited circumstances Direct Liquidation will accept returns, if the merchandise is in a grossly different condition or quantity than stated.
Customers can choose to have Direct Liquidation handle the shipping or arrange shipping for themselves.
BULQ partners directly with many top retailers and other suppliers in the United States. New liquidation inventory is listed online three times a day. Some lots are fixed-price and are not negotiable, others are sold via 48-hour auctions.
You do not need to register to browse clearance lots, but must have a BULQ account to make purchases. BULQ requests resale certificates from all customers.
BULQ do not accept returns or exchanges, but will investigate claims if the difference between the manifest provided and the goods received is greater than 2%.
BULQ charges a flat shipping fee of $30 per case. For pallets, freight shipping costs are calculated based on the pallet’s weight, dimensions and distance from final delivery address. BULQ can ship anywhere in the contiguous United States.
BULQ have an Enterprise Team who are dedicated to building custom truckloads for high volume buyers.
Liquidation.com runs online auctions to sell clearance lots by the truckload, pallet, or box, with conditions ranging all the way from new or refurbished to used or salvage. Product categories include apparel, computers, electronics, housewares, industrial equipment and vehicles.
The majority of Liquidation.com auctions begin bidding at $100 with no reserve. New auctions are added daily. There is a Buy Now function for some lots to allow you to bypass the auction process.
You must register as a buyer to make a bid. You can browse auctions using a keyword search or advanced search, and arrange to be notified automatically when items of interest are added to the site. Transactions over $5,000, or from outside of the US will require payment via wire transfer.
Liquidation.com can arrange shipping. Alternatively you can handle your own shipping on auctions marked as “Buyer May Arrange Shipping” or “Buyer Must Arrange Shipping.”
BoxFox runs online auctions to sell clearance lots direct from retailers. It’s free to join. A mobile app is now available to allow buyers to check on auctions on the go.
BoxFox only sells new merchandise such as excess inventory, not customer returns. However, items may have been on retail shelves and show signs of being on display and having been handled by staff and customers. BoxFox sets an appraisal value for each liquidation item, based upon product databases from multiple online marketplaces, and prior sales prices and velocity on BoxFox. You can bid above or below this amount.
BoxFox also has an asking price for each lot, and any bids above the asking price will automatically be accepted at the end of the auction. If the final bid is less than the asking price, the seller will have one full business day to accept or reject the bid.
BoxFox provides individual product photos, ratings, market value estimations, and tools to calculate profit potential. Each auction lasts 3 business days. You pay shipping and a 7% commission each time you buy, and there is a $3,000 credit card limit over a rolling 30-day window.
Inventory is shipped directly from the seller to the customer, so BoxFox cannot provide shipping costs at the time of auction. They do, however, provide links to shipping calculators, so you can estimate these costs.
BlueLots partners with some of the largest brands, ecommerce retailers, and manufacturers in the United States to help liquidate their excess inventory. They don’t mark-up inventory and instead make a profit by charging the retailers themselves. Lots are either listed using a proxy bidding auction model or as Buy Now.
You can browse clearance lots online without an account, but to view complete inventory manifests and to make purchases, you have to register. You can sign up for email notifications when new inventory is listed.
Sellers have to sign an agreement when they apply to sell on BlueLots that the inventory they list for sale is genuine and does not infringe on anyone else’s copyrights or intellectual property.
BlueLots utilize various carrier partners including FedEx, UPS, and USPS. Shipping rates are set based on the dimensions and weight of the parcel as well as the origin and destination, and every shipment includes signature confirmation. Pallet lots are shipped via third-party freight carriers and are usually priced between $300 and $400 per pallet. You cannot arrange your own shipping.
888 Lots offers more than 100,000 brand new products in over 30 categories. Lots are fixed-price but buyers can negotiate with their sales representative.
You have to register and complete a customer application form to buy stock from 888 Lots. They require a valid resale certificate if you are a US customer, or a valid business registration if you are outside the US.
888 Lots sells individual clearance items as well as larger lots. There is no minimum order as long as you buy the full quantity of any particular SKU. There is also no maximum spend, although there are limits on credit card payments.
Pallets come with detailed manifests containing product images, descriptions, condition, ASIN, Amazon sales rank, review rank and estimated profit for each item. Items are brand new with a minimum of 90% “giftable” condition unless otherwise stated in the manifest. If needed, 888 Lots can provide chain of custody documentation showing where the liquidation stock came from.
For lots, there is a flat $12.00 per box shipping rate. For individual items and all other shipments, shipping is calculated based on weight and size of the shipment. Shipping costs are automatically calculated when you place items in to the shopping cart, or alternatively you can arrange your own shipping.
Top liquidation and clearance websites in the UK
At a glance
|BritDeals||Fixed price||-Brand new inventory|
-Negotiable lot prices
-Chain of custody provided
|-Offers a 40% discount on first order|
-Superior customer service
|-None really. Most complaints we read stemmed from ‘uninspected’ pallets.|
|Gem Wholesale||Fixed price||-Goods sold by the pallet|
-Flat rate shipping fees
-£300 minimum spend
|-Excellent communication channels|
-Quick to refund
-Solid first-time buyer protocols
-Stock alerts on social media
|-Mixed bag on product quality reviews|
-Make sure you want the items delivered to the address on your card
|i-bidder.com||Auctions||-Used by a network of UK auction houses|
Register in advance
-Can request a “condition report”
Delivery varies depending on auctioneer
|-Solid connections with UK auction houses|
-Comprehensive platform for buyers and sellers
-Offers an ‘Ask a Question’ tool to reach out to sellers
|-Mind the quality, especially when dealing with cars|
-Auction system causes headaches at times
|Wholesale Clearance UK||Fixed price||-No minimum spend|
-7 day return policy
International delivery options
|-Excellent option for eBay sellers|
-One-to-one service with an agent
|-Most negative reviews we read were the fault of the buyer.|
Brand new inventory
Negotiable lot prices
Chain of custody provided
Goods sold by the pallet
Flat rate shipping fees
£300 minimum spend
Used by a network of UK auction houses
Register in advance
Can request a “condition report”
Delivery varies depending on auctioneer
No minimum spend
7 day return policy
International delivery options
BritDeals offers over 100,000 liquidation items in more than 30 different categories. Their clearance inventory is brand new with a minimum 90% “giftable” condition unless otherwise stated in the manifest. Lot and branded lot prices can be negotiated but individual items are fixed price. Customers must sign up as a member to make purchases.
BritDeals’ manifests include UPC, RRP, sales rank, current selling price on various marketplaces and net profit after fees on Amazon. A chain of custody can be provided if needed.
Shipping is calculated when you place an item into the shopping cart. Customers may also arrange their own shipping.
Gem Wholesale have been selling ex-catalog customer returns and clearance stock for over 40 years. They have two large warehouses in North Wales, and their website is updated with new liquidation stock daily.
Goods are sold in mixed pallet or parcel lots and every pallet is different. Prices are fixed. Each pallet comes with a stock list detailing catalog numbers, item descriptions and RRPs. Each lot is given a grade which indicates the quality and condition of the items in the pallet.
You can place an online order without a login, but creating an account will allow you to track your current order and view past orders. There is a minimum order value of £300.
There is a flat-rate delivery fee of £40 per pallet in England and Wales (or £55 for next day delivery).
i-bidder.com is a portal for online trade auctions, covering a range of discounted new, surplus, clearance, used and returned stock. They support a network of UK auction houses which collectively sell more than 2 million items every year.
You need to register online, and an auctioneer will need to approve your account before you can bid.
i-bidder.com strongly recommends that you request a “condition report” from the auctioneer. This is a document describing the appearance and quality of a lot in detail. You can request further information or additional photographs using the “Ask a question” link on the lot page.
Delivery costs vary depending on the type of lot, auctioneer, and delivery address. The auction house selling the lot may offer their own delivery solution, provide details of firms they work with, or you may need to organize your own delivery.
Wholesale Clearance UK
Wholesale Clearance UK is an online supplier of liquidation stock and end-of-line clearances, based in Dorset. Stock is regularly updated online.
Wholesale Clearance do not require a trade account or registration, and they allow viewing of stock prior to purchase. There is no minimum spend as long as you buy the listed quantity of any particular SKU.
They offer UK and international delivery and assistance with VAT reclaim. Unusually, they have a seven-day return policy which means you can return your stock for any reason and receive credit.
Note: UK company Marthill International has been removed from this article as they have informed us that they are closed to new customers.
Global liquidation companies
B-Stock runs liquidation auction sites in multiple countries, connecting buyers and sellers directly. Retailers and manufacturers from across the US, Canada, Europe and Asia use B-Stock to run clearance auctions.
Some of the best-known companies using B-Stock to liquidate inventory include:
- Amazon in the US and Europe
- Best Buy
- GE Appliances
- John Lewis
The merchandise being sold varies depending on the marketplace. Individual lots can be of any condition from “new in box” to refurbished or even salvage condition.
Customers must apply separately to each marketplace since each company has its own approval criteria. There is no registration fee for any of the marketplaces.
Shipping options also depend upon each marketplace. Some have buyer-arranged shipping only, while others calculate shipping costs for each lot individually. Some have flat rate or even free shipping.
How do clearance and liquidation websites work?
Retailers liquidate stock, meaning they sell it off cheaply and in bulk, because they can’t sell it at full value through their brick-and-mortar stores or their websites.
Why can’t they sell it at full value? Well, liquidation stock might include customer returns, that take a lot of manual work to check over, and even then can’t be repackaged in exactly the same way as when they were new. Or it might simply be overstock – the retailer bought too much of a particular product and has been unable to sell it all. When new products come along that will sell better, they need to make room in their warehouses and on their store shelves.
While all companies resolve to different liquidation strategies, the most commonly seen tactics for amazon liquidation and ebay liquidation is to clear this stock quickly by offering to sell it to specialist liquidation companies very cheaply and in very large volumes. This gives them a quick return and minimizes the time they have to spend examining and cataloging the stock. This process also dependent on the country origin of the retailer. For example, US liquidation sites are follow different processes than the ones followed in Asia.
The liquidation companies then process the inventory item-by-item, package it into boxes or pallets, set the price, and sell it on to smaller businesses and marketplace sellers. The majority of websites listed here work in this way.
Some clearance and liquidation auction sites, like BoxFox and B-Stock, connect buyers and sellers directly, as an online marketplace, rather than buying the stock themselves.
Common problems buying and selling liquidation stock
Selling liquidation stock is a popular but challenging business model. Rookie sellers often believe they can make huge profits by buying cheap inventory and selling it at the full retail price. But profit margins often fall far shorter than planned.
A common problem with buying liquidation stock is it is often difficult to know exactly what you are going to get. The condition of the items makes a huge difference to the value. Products can be faulty or broken, or might need repackaging or repairing. Even goods categorized as “new in box” might have dirty packaging from being on shelves for a long time. You can get “good” pallets and “bad” pallets, and it’s not always possible to know which it is going to be just from studying the manifest.
Many liquidation sites will include in their manifest an indication of MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), which can make potential profit margins look appealing. But the true value of a product is the price that it’s selling for now, not the suggested retail price. By the time that products hit the liquidation channel, the current price will often be way below the MSRP.
Detailed and accurate manifests are very important. However, be aware that the more detail in the manifest, the higher the liquidation company’s processing costs and therefore the higher their mark-up. You have to find a combination that works for you in terms of risk, investment and profit potential.
Questions to ask liquidation companies
- Are the prices fixed, negotiable or set by auction?
- Do you need to register in advance to purchase?
- Do they require a resale certificate?
- Are there minimum or maximum spending limits?
- What details do they provide in their manifests?
- How much is shipping, and what options are available?
- What is their policy and process if the goods don’t match the manifest?
Once you have received the goods you will need to factor in your own processing costs to fully catalog the items (descriptions, photos etc.) and get them into saleable condition. This can take a lot of time and completely erase your profits.
Tips for buying from liquidation and clearance websites
So what is the best way to maximize your chances of making a profit when buying clearance or liquidation stock?
We’ve covered this in detail in Sourcing Products from Liquidation Companies: The Essential Guide, and here are the headlines:
- Get a resale certificate – most US liquidation companies require one before you buy from them.
- Analyze the manifest – get as much detail about what you are buying as you can.
- Understand manifest variance – you could be entitled to some money back if the goods vary significantly from the manifest.
- Know all your costs – liquidation stock can be very time consuming to process and can tie up money for long periods of time.
- Consider quality and grading – there might be little detail on the goods’ quality in the manifest, so get to know the company and their grading specifics before buying a lot of stock.
- Plan the logistics – shipping costs can vary widely, and you might be tied to using the company’s own logistics provider.
- Specialize – build up your knowledge and expertise in a specific product category.
- Watch out for expiration dates – clearance products can be in the supply chain for a long time.
- Build up slowly – don’t spend your full working capital at once. Take small risks and build up your knowledge slowly but surely.
Get the process right, and there is a huge amount of money to be made. Get it wrong, and it could ruin you.
Customers want better and better deals, and the liquidation business provides one way to give that to them. Learn the ropes, gain experience, and use it to your advantage.
This article was first published in November 2018 and last updated in July 2021.