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On-Target Scouting Advice

On-Target Scouting Advice

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Today I’ve asked my friend Lynn Rafter to tell us about scouting at Target. You may have read part of her story in my book. I never thought of Target as a great outlet for inventory until Lynn introduced me to some hot toy deals this past holiday season. Even though the season has passed, she still sells a lot of Target merchandise every week. She uses FBA Scout on her Android phone to help her find the most profitable deals. She sells new items exclusively.

Hi there, I wanted to give you all a few tips and ideas on how to pull profit out of a Target, or any big-box retailer. Even though there may not be tremendous sales going on (just wait until November!) there’s always profit to be made shopping at these stores.

Before you go, don’t forget your Target credit card, which gives you 5% off all purchases. Bring your sales tax ID #, and coupons, too. Target has coupons on, and they take manufacturers’ coupons.

I buy toys, video games and small house ware items. I mostly sell toys because I LOVE TOYS! I can spend hours analyzing the toy section of a store (just ask my family), learning about the merchandise and figuring out what is a hot seller.

One reason I shop Target is because they focus on HOT SELLING ITEMS! They have limited shelf space and will quickly dump items that don’t sell well. Go ahead and scan almost any item, and you will see that it ranks high on Amazon. Your job is to find the item that will bring you the maximum amount of profit, regardless of whether it is on clearance, been discounted or is selling for full price.


When I shop Target, I start in the electronics section. I hit all of the clearance areas, and each Target usually has an electronics clearance section located one or two aisles away. Scan ALL the items marked clearance; you will be surprised at what sells at Target for $14.95 may be selling on Amazon for $65.

While I’m in this section, I will scan the merchandise for new items. Many times Target carries items before Amazon, and you can make a nice profit scooping up a few games or electronics for full price that are selling for 3X−4X that on Amazon. Be cautious though. I usually don’t send up more than three of any item if I am unsure of whether it will sell or not.


Next, I head into Toys. Target usually has multiple clearance toy sections and will have good discounts on toys throughout the department. I have shopped Target so many times I am immediately aware of new merchandise and always scan new items to see what they are retailing for on Amazon. Again, new items at Target may not be available on Amazon, so you could make a nice profit before Amazon gets a chance to sell it at a lower price. Again, don’t be put off by the retail price. You never know!

If you find an item at Target that is on clearance and will make a nice profit for you, check out the other Targets in your area, as they usually have the same items on clearance. Be aware though, one Target may list a video game on clearance for $4.95 and another Target will clearance the same game for $14.95. Even though all Targets carry roughly the same items, they set different prices based on the store location.

Double-check all prices before purchasing, and don’t feel too bad about returning items that don’t fit your margins; Target has a great return policy. You can even return items without a receipt if you have the credit card with which you purchased it.

Target Exclusives

One thing you should look for is the “Only at Target” sticker. Items with this sticker are exclusives and not available to be purchased by Amazon. They are usually only sold by FBA sellers on Amazon for a nice margin. You can do this too!

If you find something that you’d like to sell, please do not get into a “race to the bottom” price war with other FBA sellers. Know what you need to price your item at to get the return you need. With Target exclusives, there is no reason to go nuts – your units will sell because there are no others. Amazon won’t come in and compete with you; you are only cutting your own prices for no reason. This “race to the bottom” strategy hurts all FBA sellers, and customers come to expect everything to sell cheaply no matter what – it is no way to run a successful business, believe me!

Stick to Brands

Another bit of advice that I follow is to stick to name-brand items. Target and other stores carry items that are “private label,” meaning that Target has developed this product to be sold only at their stores. Wal-Mart does this a lot, too. Although less expensive than its national brand version, it will have a generic name and label. Think “Thomas the Tank Engine,” a name-brand item, vs. something like “Toot Toot Train,” a name that means nothing to most Amazon customers. The generic version is cute in the store, but Amazon customers won’t buy it.

Trust Your Instincts

I will spend the rest of my scouting trip looking at baby items and small house ware items. I look for anything that has a recognizable face (Elmo, Hello Kitty, Sponge Bob, etc), is on clearance, or just seems to be wrongly priced. After a while, you will be able to guesstimate in your head what you think an item should be selling for, so if you see an electronic baby toy that retails for $7.95 and you think would sell for much higher, go ahead and scan it. Odds are you’re right! Target carries many baby “must-haves” that are “luxury” items, at a low price.

Amazon customers don’t shop at Target as much as I do, and are happy to pay a higher price for the convenience and great service from Amazon.

Hope this helps you navigate around Target more efficiently. Have fun and make money

How about you? Do you have insider Target tips to share or fun experiences scouting? Please post them!

  • Mary Pardue
    Posted at 09:27h, 20 March Reply

    I read an article a month ago stating the Target was not happy about people buying items from their stores and selling them for a higher price on-line. And they intend to cover all barcodes with a unique Target code to discourage this practice. I didn’t like to hear that because I do scout at Target for FBA items. I wish I could remember where I read the article but I cannot recall at the moment. Has anyone else heard this?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 10:09h, 20 March Reply

      Thanks for your post! The article I read said that they were upset about people using their stores for showrooms where they could see the product and then buying it cheaper online. They don’t consider us competition, we are good customers who buy large quantities and we will be selling it for more than Target. They are mad at discount sellers. They stated that they would be insisting on more exclusive arrangements with their suppliers so people can’t find the items cheaper online – really good news for sellers like us!

      If they do plaster stickers over the barcodes, that will be a pain and it won’t be aimed at us – it will be aimed at “normal” shoppers with smartphones who will be checking out hot toys, etc., for the very lowest prices for Johnny and Suzy’s gifts. I already pack a Scotty Peeler in my scouting kit because of BigLots and their #$%#@ stickers on DVDs! 🙂


  • Dave
    Posted at 11:45h, 20 March Reply

    Great article. I wasn’t aware of the 5% off on the Target card. I will go apply for one over the weekend.

    Do the clerks in the stores ever tell you not to peel stickers off? They might think you’re switching stickers to get a lower price. (I used to work in loss prevention and people did this a lot.)

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 12:52h, 20 March Reply


      Store detectives frown on people removing price stickers as you say. Other stickers, however, are OK. At BigLots, for example, their stickers are orange (and impossible to get off without industrial solvent!) and are NOT placed over the barcode. Usually that is some other sticker, even a plain white one. So I’ve never had trouble picking at that one to scan. I always put the stickers back when I’m done. I’ve had a couple of store employees approach me and I showed them I wasn’t touching the price sticker and they were OK. I don’t know what Target will be doing with their stickers so it is hard to say if you will have store detectives following you around the store or not. At bookstores like Barnes & Nobel and the late-lamented Borders, I used to peel up the stickers enough to scan and then pat them back down (very easy stickers I might add). I never had trouble with this because the name of the book is on the sticker. In other words, I can’t swap stickers, the book wouldn’t ring up correctly. Hope that helps!

  • Dave
    Posted at 16:32h, 20 March Reply

    Thanks Cynthia. One thing you can also do at Target is to scan the barcode on the shelf where each item is stacked. Make sure you have the right one though. The products aren’t always put back where they should be.

    I’m not sure if you can do that with the clearance items though..they may not have price tags on the shelves.

    You’re right about the Big Lots stickers. They are meant to last!

  • ray
    Posted at 23:57h, 20 March Reply

    Queen Stine –

    …you ARE the FBA Queen to us. No joke, “Cynthia says…” has been the first two words of probably 100 phrases around here in the last two months. First, thank you, for spreading the gospel of this business. It has certainly helped us…it’s amazing, the power of a little unexpected hope and cash.

    Lynn, this is the most insightful writing on how to run a scouting outing that I’ve seen. Keep doing this! Timely, we were there just tonight…came back with lots of goodies…goodies that I no longer have to label, (praise Buddha).

    For Lynn or Her Majesty, I’d get a lot from learning your strategy regarding how you plan scouting outings, i.e., do you hit up 5 Marshall’s on Mondays? 4 Targets on Tuesdays? 3 Walgreen’s on Wednesdays? We sporadically hit up our favorite spots. It’s all willy-nilly and, as our business grows (and it’s growing FAST) it feels like a more systematic approach would be preferable. A comment on it would be great; a near-future article would be stellar!

    All the Best – ray

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 10:49h, 21 March Reply


      You made my day! I’m so thrilled to know that what I wrote helped you! I will make sure Lynn sees your request. I’ve asked her for more, too, so keep an eye out. Her model is very much the Retail Arbitrage taught by Chris in his book. At times it seems like “it can’t really work that way” – but it really does! I love FBA selling and I’m glad that you do, too! Thank you for sharing your success!


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    Posted at 09:56h, 24 March Reply

    […]  On-Target Scouting Advice A few tips and ideas on how to pull profit out of a Target, or any big-box retailer. Even though […]

  • Talty
    Posted at 20:03h, 24 April Reply

    Hi Cynthia, THANK YOU so much for sharing your info with me!! It is coming to me at the exact perfect time in my life. I’ve read your book and hope to ship my first box this week.

    My question: Amazon requires a white background on images. How do I do that? Photoshop? or some other software? Can I do it without purchasing PhotoShop? Or should I stick to items that already have images on file???

    THANK YOU!!!

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 09:23h, 25 April Reply


      Thank you for your question! I’ve only added a few items to the Amazon catalog and they already had manufacturer’s pictures that I was able to pull off the Internet. If you are selling a bundled product or something new not in the catalog, I would suggest you use one of those little photo studios that the eBay folks use with white all around the item and really good lighting.

      For the most part, I recommend sticking with items that you already know are selling (because they have ranking on Amazon) unless you are very confident about the product you are listing and/or willing to support it with advertising if need be. For example, last December I listed several new Inkoos dolls that weren’t in the catalog yet. I was very confident because I was selling Inkoos like crazy. I also tried a bundled product last Fall. I was beginning to worry that I was going to need advertising to sell it, when I sold my first one (and now have a rank). It took four months and this was a bundle I felt confident about, also, based on similar products selling. My risk was less than $160 and I did it as an experiment. It took a lot of time to set up and package.

      In your case as a new seller, I would recommend selling from among Amazon’s millions of products already in the catalog until you have a good cash flow going and are ready to try a few experiments of your own.


  • Angie
    Posted at 16:17h, 31 May Reply

    Hi Cynthia ! I know i’m a little late reading and commenting but I just found your blog! Thanks so much for this wonderful information. I’m just starting out but have big hopes!

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  • Dean Kas
    Posted at 23:03h, 04 April Reply

    Hello Cynthia,

    I see the last discussion on this thread is about 10 months old… But I have a question that I hope you can help with.

    Many businesses are looking to get their products to Walmart and/or Target for sale. Do you know how I can buy in bulk from Target for resale? I won’t even mind buying their store brand. I would be selling in foreign markets where Target doesn’t have a presence.

    I will be looking for pricing that is lower than their retail prices, since I will still have to resell.
    Do you think this is possible?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 09:55h, 05 April Reply


      This is an excellent question and I’m afraid I don’t have the answer. You might try asking Lisa Suttora. She teaches classes on wholesaling and may have some insight for you. Her blog is Hope this helps!

  • Fred Amidon
    Posted at 01:00h, 30 January Reply

    Just finished reading your blog post on picking items from Amazon. I am just starting out selling on Amazon and ran into a problem and haven’t been able to find anyone that has run into this problem. I purchased a Target brand (Room Essentials) product for resale on Amazon. Using Amazon Seller app the UPC code did not show up in their database. If I had read your blog first I would have passed on the item (I purchased 4) I went through steps to list but when I get to point to put in Target UPC it will not take. How can I sell this at Amazon? I would appreciate your advise. Thank you.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 18:50h, 02 February Reply

      I do not recommend selling this item on Amazon. Since I wrote that blog post years ago, the world has changed at Amazon. They do not want us selling items like this on Amazon. They have come down hard on retail arbitrage and online arbitrage sellers because they consider other retail stores to be an inauthentic source of goods. I suggest you sell these items on eBay. Today I recommend that sellers look to wholesale sources, buying direct from the manufacturer or creating their own line of products to sell on the platform.

      Sorry for the bad news.

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