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Nomads Travel To America’s Backroads and Walmarts — to Stock Amazon’s Shelves

The Verge recently profiled “a small group of merchants who travel the backroads of America searching clearance aisles and dying chains for goods to sell on Amazon.

“Some live out of RVs and vans, moving from town to town, only stopping long enough to pick the stores clean and ship their wares to Amazon’s fulfillment centers.”

The majority of goods sold on Amazon are not sold by Amazon itself, but by more than 2 million merchants who use the company’s platform as their storefront and infrastructure. Some of these sellers make their own products, while others practice arbitrage, buying and reselling wares from other retailers. Amazon has made this easy to do, first by launching Fulfillment by Amazon, which allows sellers to send their goods to company warehouses and have Amazon handle storage and delivery, and then with an app that lets sellers scan goods to instantly check whether they’d be profitable to sell on the site. A few sellers, like [Chris] Anderson, have figured out that the best way to find lucrative products is to be mobile, scouring remote stores and chasing hot-selling items from coast to coast.

“It’s almost like I’m the front end of the business and Amazon is just an extension of my arm,” says Sean-Patrick Iles, a nomad who spent weeks driving cross-country during Toys R Us’ final days. It was a feeding frenzy Anderson and others also hit the road for…

For Anderson, the holy grail is the Bounce Dryer Bar, a $5 plastic oblong you affix to the dryer rather than adding a dryer sheet to each load. Now discontinued, a two-pack sells on Amazon for $300. Discontinued nail polish, Pop-Tarts, hair curling products: Anderson has chased them all when the scanner has shown them fetching multiples of their normal price. He once hunted a particular brand of discontinued dental floss across the Big Lots of America, buying six-packs for 99 cents and selling them on Amazon for over $100 apiece.
According to the article, Anderson “thinks the constant travel is part of why his marriage ended…”

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