July 17, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 10 Comments

Your eBay & eCommerce Questions Answered #33

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Judging by the relative lack of emails I’ve received, it seems that most of you are busy sunbathing and preparing for your holidays, or are simply too lazy to do any work! That’s fine! I actually enjoy these quiet few weeks during the summer, when I don’t have to deal with as many emails every day! 🙂

So today we have a short and sweet Q&A post, covering just 4 questions:

  • Why do I only have to pay import tax on some shipments?
  • How to sell branded goods on eBay for a profit?
  • Can patented products still be sourced from China?
  • How to deal with sales fluctuations on eBay?

Let’s get started!

Hi Andrew,

I hope you can clarify something for me.

I recently placed 2 separate clothing orders with surfstitchaustralia, to be shipped to the UK. The cost of each order was around $400 AUD.

When the first order arrived (approx. 17 items of clothing) it was delivered by DHL and no payment for duties or VAT was requested.

However with the second order I received about 3 text messages asking me to pay £76 GBP before the items could be delivered.

I thought this strange as it was the same value as the 1st order and only a few more items overall.

I then received a text to say that they will be delivering my order tomorrow.

I am presuming that they will be wanting me to pay when they deliver but I don’t want to pay anything until I am clear about why they are charging me for this order and nothing had to be paid for the 1st order.

Hope you can help.

Kind regards

Hi Andrea,

Chances are that the first shipment simply slipped through customs without the required charges. This happens fairly often.

But it doesn’t change the fact that an order worth $400, imported from Australia into the UK, should be cleared through customs and have its import taxes paid for. So you should be happy that you only need to pay this for one shipment, rather than both.

Hi Andrew,

I appreciate your great work in helping people who want to start a business on eBay.

I myself want to sell branded products on eBay like memory cards, usb drives, mobile phones, Lego and Disney toys etc. I see so many people are selling such items very cheaply and I wonder how they were able to purchase these branded items in order to sell them for that price on eBay. I’m assuming that they must have bought them from authorized or licensed distributors?

However I searched very hard and couldn’t find any dealers at all for brand name toys or mobile phones in the UK and while I did find some UK based suppliers for memory cards, they are very expensive.

In fact the prices they charge are higher than what people are selling the same items for on eBay! How are they able to sell cheaper than the actual distributors!? Where do they source these items from? I am very upset that I can’t find any suppliers that even come close to matching the pricing these other sellers seem to be getting.

I would be very grateful for any help and guidance you can offer me.

Thank you and regards,

Hi Arj,

This is exactly why I always recommend staying away from branded goods on eBay. The margins for such products are basically non-existent!!! Many of the sellers you see are selling customer returns, grey imports, even stolen and fake goods!

So it’s not an accurate representation of the pricing when sourcing ‘by the book’. All this coupled with the extreme competition means that to make any profit at all selling branded goods on eBay, you really need to do something different, something extra, to make it work.

A huge proportion of listings on eBay for branded goods are for imports from countries like Hong Kong and the US, and in many cases people get these products in to the UK without paying VAT and import duty, which is of course illegal, and that’s how they manage to offer such low prices.

So all in all, I would just recommend staying away from this market altogether and instead concentrate on unbranded/your own brand items, which carry significantly higher profit margins.

Hi Andrew,

First of all I am incredibly pleased with my Easy Auction Business purchase and I always look forward to your published work.

I wish to start sourcing a product which is readily available from Chinese factories, however I suspect this new type of product may be patented.

If the product is in fact patented, would an unbranded replica be perfectly legal to sell?

My question is simply, what would you do if you were me and wanted total legitimacy in selling these products online?

Kind regards,

Hi Jason,

Thanks for your email.

No, IF a product has been patented, no one can manufacture it without the patent owner’s permission. This applies to both branded and unbranded “replicas”. In most cases this means that you can’t simply buy such unbranded products from Alibaba as they are in essence fakes/copies, if they’re being sold without license/permission from the patent holder.

If you want to sell a patented product, the best way is to contact the patent holder directly and ask how you can order from them, or via authorised distributors.

Dear Andrew,

I hope you find the time to read this and give a little advice/reassurance.

I have been selling on eBay for around 8 months now, with about 20 items listed at the moment – I have created my own brand of herbal/superfood powders.

It seems like eBay are hiding my listings and only letting them show at certain times and in certain countries, like they are flicking a switch on and off.

For example, last week I was getting lots of watchers/views and around 6 sales a day (some days 100GBP worth) but this week I have had no views and no sales, absolutely nothing, as if my items are completely hidden!

Also last week on a certain day I had 2 sales from Sweden, both within a short space of time, then the next day 2 sales from Italy very close to each other. Again, it seems to me like my listings are being shown in a certain country and then eBay flick the switch and they’re hidden again.

I will be a top rated seller on the 20th of next month, so do you think once I am a top rated seller eBay will allow my listings to be shown to all countries, all the time?

I was ready to invest in a load more products this week but after 4 days of no views or sales I am starting to doubt myself.

I am a single father with kids depending on me so I am starting to go into a bit of a panic!

I really hope you find the time to give a little advice, even if it is just a 1 line response.

Kind regards,

Hi Jason,

This is COMPLETELY normal and nothing to worry about. When you’re just starting out and only achieving a low volume of sales, they will appear very random – that’s just pure statistics; you can get 6 sales one day and then none for the next 3… However it will all average out over a longer period of say a month.

And when you reach TRS status and your sales increase, they will average out more and you’ll get a more constant number of daily sales. But even then there will be spikes and days with no sales at all. That’s all 100% normal and nothing to worry about in the slightest.

If we’re talking about this week specifically – look out the window! 🙂

It’s SUNNY & HOT as hell!

So people are spending more time outside and less time online buying stuff. July as such is a very slow month for most online businesses simply because people don’t spend as much time online as many people are on holiday and spending time with their family.

Lastly, take a look at this guide for more tips and advice regarding sales fluctuations and seasonality:


I hope this helps Jason!

And that’s it for today!

If you have a question or two for me, feel free to get in touch via the contact form on this page! As it’s summer time and I get less requests than usual, the chance of your question being published is very high!


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  1. Hi Andrew,

    Hope you are doing good. Love your blogs, really helpful.

    I am just wondering that is it good idea to schedule your fixed price good till cancelled listing to a particular day and time or any day & time will do.

    If yes then can you please suggest which days and time is the best for it.

    Thanks in advance,

    Best Regards,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Ricky,

      No, it really doesn’t matter when you start your GTC listings.


  2. Mandy Williams

    Hi Andrew

    In the photography section you recommend productshot.co.uk sadly their studio appears to be shut down and the same message has been on their website for several months do you have any other recommendations?



    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mandy,

      Hmm, not sure what’s going on there.

      Will have to investigate alternatives and do a separate post on this.


  3. Jonathan Akpor

    Thanks Andrews for this wonderful blog. Its been very helpful to me.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Jonathan! 🙂

  4. Hi Andrew,

    If it’s quiet, I wonder whether you’d be able to do a post on VAT, in particular VAT thresholds and what going over it means. Perhaps I missed it, and I know I’ve seen you mention a few times that you generally don’t want to register until you really have to, however I haven’t seen anything in detail.

    I started selling in January and thought I wouldn’t have to think about it, but if my sales go on the same trajectory I’ll be going over the limit in this tax year. I had previously worried about it, as I thought it would make me massively uncompetitive as i was thinking all my prices will have to be higher. My basic way of thinking was on a £1 item cost, I can only claim back 20p, yet on a £5 sale, I have to account for £1. So a net difference of 80p either lost in margin or having to increase price.

    However, someone pointed out that there are quite a lot of items that VAT would be claimed back on – e.g. postage, Ebay/Amazon fees, packaging, so actually it might be a lot less of a difference.

    Anyway… I know you’re not an accountant, but maybe a brief look at it with some example price bands might be of interest to other readers.

    As always, keep up the great work,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Thanks Paul, will def. get something written on this topic!


  5. hi andrew i bought your easy auction business about 3 weeks ago but still havent received the dvds.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Lok,

      I have replied to your support ticket.


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