Where to source products for eCommerce store during coronavirus pandemic crisis

by Damir Šerbečić
eCommerce Selling on Amazon

While businesses that sell informational products and services strive, eCommerce stores and Amazon FBA sellers struggle to keep up with the stock and logistics.

Coronavirus pandemic came out of nowhere. Only a handful of sellers prepared their physical product business for such a scenario.

In some niches, demand and sales are through the roof! But it means nothing if you can’t fulfill the orders.

Uncertainty about when the vaccine for coronavirus will be available incites fear among everyone. In most G20 nations stock market has seen a downturn of 30%. As we know, stock markets are mostly driven by emotions and predictions.

Amazon has recently announced that they will be shutting down inbound shipments until the 5th of April (except for fast-moving products such as medical supplies). However, as they are opening over 100.000 new job positions at FBA centers, we can expect this to be only a short and temporary limit. As I said, uncertainty is at its highest level, so there is no way to predict their next moves.

If you still can, stock up!

Many factories have temporarily closed their operations or have an increased number of new orders, which leads to longer production time. 

Contact your supplier immediately and discuss their plans, and if you can place an inventory order that is larger than usual. My latest inventory order was at the beginning of March, and it was double the usual size. Of course, inventory order size depends on your current cash flow situation and how fast the products are moving.

Going out of stock means that you will lose rankings if you are an Amazon seller and that you can turn off paid ads even though ad costs are currently bargain since more people are browsing the web (more ad inventory available).

Stocking up is relevant for the scenario of maintaining the current level of business size. But what if you want to grow even during these tough times? What if the pandemic moves into 2021? 

In the eCommerce space, growth is closely tied up with the number of products that you have to offer, unless you are selling something consumable. The lifetime value of a customer is increased by selling more products to the same person. 

If you have an email list, a constant flow of targeted traffic or a retargeting list, then you shouldn’t wait for better times to come. 

Take advantage of your assets and low ad costs and find alternative ways to source products that would be relevant to your existing customers.

Here are some ways and places where you can find alternatives if your main supplier has closed its factory.

Source locally

Although the issue is global, by sourcing locally, you could potentially save on shipping time and have products in stock faster. Don’t get me wrong, factories are closing in every country, but not all of them. If your overseas supplier has temporarily closed its operations, then it would make more sense to try and find a new supplier locally to get through this tough time. 

As I said, it doesn’t have to be for the same product that you already sell. You can find a supplier that could produce a product that is complementary and relevant to your existing audience. 

For example, if you have an established audience in the fitness industry and you sell fitness gear, then it would make sense to find a local manufacturing facility that would produce fitness clothing.

The best way to find local suppliers is to either dig through the search results in Google or browse local business directories. The best way is actually to go to local fairs, but since events are forbidden in every country, stick with the first two suggestions. 

Print on demand (POD)

Print on demand is a dropshipping service where you upload custom designs and then once a sale occurs, a factory such as Printful prints your design on one of their products and ships it out to your customer. 

This is a perfect way to stand out from the rest of the competition with a potentially vast selection of custom products. 

You don’t have to hold any inventory. 

All you have to do is connect your Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Shopify or WooCommerce store with their platform, and start designing.

Unfortunately, this type of sourcing is limited to certain types of products. As of right now, on Printful, you can sell clothing such as t-shirts, leggings, jackets, or accessories such as bags, jewelry, phone cases, or home products. Check out their current product catalog here.

If its something your audience might find useful and buy, then it doesn’t cost anything to make a design and offer it.

Manufacture by yourself

Now that we are locked down in our homes, there are so many things we can do. Some are making plans and strategizing, while some are learning new skills.

Just because you were taught to source products on Alibaba, it doesn’t mean that you should be limited to only that sourcing channel. One of the ways to create a custom product is to make it yourself. There are millions of tutorials where you can learn a new skill of manufacturing a custom product. 

Yes, the downside is scaling, since you will be limited by how many units you can produce by yourself; however, that shouldn’t concern you. If the product becomes a success, simply send it to a factory that can mass produce that particular type of product. Until then, ask your family to help you out.

The biggest upside is that you have full control over quantity and quality, which means that you can make as low as one unit and offer it to your audience. If there are any flaws and room for improvement, you can act immediately.

Here are some good places to start learning new manufacturing skills:

3D Printing

3D printing technology has evolved and prices have decreased. For a couple of hundred dollars, you could buy a decent printer that can print all sorts of things. From toy figures to home accessories all the way to car parts.

Who is Damir Šerbečić?


Founder of digital marketing agency and educational platform WinWinAcademy. On this blog, I document and share tested marketing approaches to help you launch and scale a predictable, profitable and location independent eCommerce business.