Choosing Retail Products to Sell in Retail

Factors to Consider in Retail Item Selection

Young woman examining cosmetic bottle in shop, side view, close-up
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Choosing a product for your retail store to sell may very well be the most difficult decision you will need to make when starting a retail business. The choices are limitless and the task may be overwhelming at first. Not only should there be a demand for your products, but it must be profitable and something you enjoy selling.

Before you commit to a product or product line, consider the following factors.


It won't matter what products you sell if your customers aren't buying. Before considering what product to sell, determine what market you want to sell to. Once you know what kind of customer you want, then you'll be able to determine their needs. If your products only appeal greatly to some people, it may not be enough to sustain a business. Your product selection doesn't have to appeal to all of the population, but it should be something you can convince a large percentage of shoppers they need.

Profit Margin

Selling big-ticket items is generally more profitable but can require more credibility to sell. When you look at the price of the product, don't forget to calculate direct and indirect costs (like overhead) of selling your goods. If you think you can sell 50 widgets a day for $1 each and the widget costs you $0.50 each, it may look like you have a profit of $25 per day. But when you learn your overhead expenses average $20 per day, you may find your profit isn't sufficient even though sales are good. The best-selling products won't ever earn any real money if your margin is too small.


Choose a product with recurring sales value. A consumable item that needs to be replaced on a regular basis is one way a retailer can establish long-term sales. By establishing a customer base with recurring products, customers will continue to come back to you to buy more as they use up the products. Additionally, satisfied customers are more open to recommendations for related products.


When it comes to selecting products to sell based on what's popular, timing is extremely important. New trends and products can be a great boost to your business, but you'll need to enter at the beginning of the product lifecycle in order to be successful. Learning to pick a hot product before it becomes hot is a valuable skill that comes from knowing your market.


Competition is healthy—it's proof that people want to buy your product, after all—and there are ways other than volume and price that a smaller store can compete with larger retailers. On the other hand, the more unique the product, the less chance of competition.

Private Label

One way to guarantee that you have a truly unique product line is to make the item yourself. Another way is to partner with a small business that makes a product you would enjoy selling. Also, consider private label products which will allow you to brand an item made by another person.


When deciding which products to sell in your store, ask yourself the following question. Is this product something I would give my dearest friend? If not, you may want to keep looking. Product quality is extremely important when your reputation is on the line.


Keep your product offering simple in the beginning. If your product line is narrow and focused, then your marketing efforts can be just as tightly focused, which will bring you the best results for your marketing dollars. As your business grows, so can your product line as long as you keep new products compatible with the type of business, your location, and your market.

Some questions to keep in mind while selecting products for resale:

  • Would you buy it and use it yourself?
  • Can you see yourself getting excited about this product or service?
  • Would you sell it to someone you know?
  • Is there a real need for the product in today's market?
  • Can you imagine yourself selling this item for the next several years?

The key to having a successful business is to know your products and to believe in the merchandise that you are selling. If you do not believe in the product yourself, then you probably won't be successful at selling it. Keep brainstorming and you'll find a product or product line that meets both the needs of your target market and your own ability to purchase and resell it.