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Open a BL Store for a living?!

DiggydoesDiggydoes Cologne/GermanyMember Posts: 1,067
edited September 2016 in Buying & Selling Topics
Hi everybody,
i´m an AFOL for almost 6 Years now, during that time-span i´ve bought and sold a lot of Lego-Stuff for fun and to support the Hobby a bit. I´ve parted out sets and sold single Bricks, and i´ve sold some Sealed EOL´ed sets so i´m not a complete Noob ;)
I´ve been eyeing with the Idea of a Full-Time BL Store for quite some time but never had the guts to do so! 
So my question to the (succesful) BL-Store Owner out there, is it even possible to run a Full-Time BL Store and make a living out of it? Is it possible to do so without any employees? I really don´t want to ask for any "secret ingredients" of a succesful BL-Store, i would just like to know if it´s woth the hassle in the end! 
Currently i make a living as a DJ, so i mainly work on Weekends, means i do have a lot of "free-time" during the week, so time wouldn´t be a problem.
It´s just that i would have to invest heavy in the beginning to build up stock and i have no idea how many orders (with Pieces) you need in a week to live from it?

Any help is very much appreciated! I´m from Germany, so i guess most sellers who are active here wouldn´t be affected if i open a Full-Time Store ;)
TheBigLegoski

Comments

  • SprinkleOtterSprinkleOtter Member Posts: 2,708
    Look near you for job lots. They can have the highest return on your investment. I just can't see how some stores buy new sets for full price, then part them out- the money just doesn't seem to be there to me...
    Diggydoeskiki180703Yodalicious
  • DiggydoesDiggydoes Cologne/GermanyMember Posts: 1,067
    Look near you for job lots. They can have the highest return on your investment. I just can't see how some stores buy new sets for full price, then part them out- the money just doesn't seem to be there to me...
    I wouldn't want to go for the hassle of "used"Lego since to me it seems a lot of work to classify the pieces right so customers won't be dissapointed by the quality in the end!
    Most sets won't make sense to buy for full price,but some Modulars for example,which contain rare colour bricks are ok! I've parted 2 Town Halls a few years ago when they came out,worked pretty well :)
    bobabricksbandit778kiki180703
  • tallblocktootallblocktoo CanadaMember Posts: 494
    Maybe read through this thread if you haven't.  There is at least one person in that thread I believe that runs a store for a living. http://bricksetforum.com/discussion/22384/how-to-get-started-selling-on-bricklink/p1
    TheBigLegoskikiki180703
  • akunthitaakunthita USAMember Posts: 1,025

    This question came up on the BrickLink Forum a number of times. Based on what I have read there, there are lots of people who run their stores full time for a living.

    Unfortunately I can't find these conversations right now, but I do remember sellers mentioning real numbers. Like how much you need to invest to run a store full time, how many pieces you should have in your inventory, etc. So it might be a good idea for you to ask the question there, because in my experience sellers there are very helpful and open with such questions.

    There are some things however I do remember. Like that it is a LOT of hard work. You also need to plan out and invest in a good storage system. This doesn't necessarily need to cost a lot (you can just use ziplock bags and shoe boxes), but you do need to plan it out. The better your system, the faster you can fill orders.

    I also remember that sellers mentioned that for medium-size stores it is best to specialize in something instead of spreading themselves too thin, because otherwise they won't be able to compete with the largest stores. In other words it is better to have several hundred of fewer parts rather than a few of lots of parts. So for example you could specialize in Technic, or Friends colors and pieces, or Star Wars parts, or minifigs, etc.

    Also, large sellers, who's livelihood depends on their stores, don't limit themselves to BrickLink. They also sell on BrickOwl, eBay, and Amazon.

    Since it seems like right now you only work during the weekend, you are in a perfect position to gradually upgrade your store to full time selling, rather than jumping in with two feet.

    BTW, I have tried it myself, and it wasn't for me. Processing so many orders, dealing with thousands of tiny parts, parting out sets... it just got too much, and it wasn't fun. I went back to just selling part-time to support the hobby. But other people really like it, so it depends. The point is that it is definitely a job that requires hard work, and there is really no magic formula. You might like it, or you might not.


    dougtsTheBigLegoskiDiggydoesLobotkiki180703PaperballparkmadforLEGOmaaaaaaa
  • dougtsdougts Oregon, USAMember Posts: 4,112
    ^ also, there has been a lot of chatter recently on the bricklink forums (you really should spend some time reading through those) about how business is down for many, and that more and more sellers are undercutting pricing, which is eroding margins.  There seems to be no shortage of long term parts sellers who are seeing this as the time to get out of the game too

    Not saying not to do it, only that you should certainly do your homework.
    Diggydoeskiki180703BrickarmormadforLEGO
  • tallblocktootallblocktoo CanadaMember Posts: 494
    The person I was referring to is @DadsAFOL and his comment  addresses several of your questions and is on the second page of the thread I just linked above. 
    Diggydoeskiki180703
  • SprinkleOtterSprinkleOtter Member Posts: 2,708
    One thing about employees:
    If you're not sure if you can make it by yourself, then I'm not sure there's any way which employees would help. They are costly, not as knowledgeable as you are (you'd likely have to give them a good deal of training to be any good, so that's a lot of your time gone), and they are more things to manage.
    Diggydoeskiki180703
  • DiggydoesDiggydoes Cologne/GermanyMember Posts: 1,067
    One thing about employees:
    If you're not sure if you can make it by yourself, then I'm not sure there's any way which employees would help. They are costly, not as knowledgeable as you are (you'd likely have to give them a good deal of training to be any good, so that's a lot of your time gone), and they are more things to manage.
    I have this in mind, that´s why i def. would go for it on my own, without employees! I guess for a non AFOL it´s pretty hard to differntiate all those similar looking pieces ;)
    SprinkleOtterkiki180703
  • DiggydoesDiggydoes Cologne/GermanyMember Posts: 1,067
    Thanks for your Input so far! 
    Like i´ve said, i´ve already made a few experiences with a small (part-time) Store and i quickly realized that having a good sorting system is the main thing to work quick! 
    It´s interesting that you @dougts mentioned that a lot of BL Sellers complain about bad business the last time! Since i do sell Minifigures from time to time i realized that too, so i´m really not sure if this is the right time to throw it all in one big shop! But i´ll def. check the BL Forum, thanks for the hint!
  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,357
    edited September 2016
    @Diggydoes, I hope this doesn't come across as too pedantic, but the key for inserting an apostrophe in words, on a UK PC keyboard at least, is 2 right from L, next to the semicolon, not the one you're using, which inserts a funny character that make your posts look odd ! :-)
    SprinkleOtterkiki180703
  • LegopantsLegopants GermanyMember Posts: 1,963

    ^ On a German QWERTZ keyboard, it´s it's Strg+#  :-)

    SprinkleOtterkiki180703stlux
  • DiggydoesDiggydoes Cologne/GermanyMember Posts: 1,067
    Huw said:
    @Diggydoes, I hope this doesn't come across as too pedantic, but the key for inserting an apostrophe in words, on a UK PC keyboard at least, is 2 right from L, next to the semicolon, not the one you're using, which inserts a funny character that make your posts look odd ! :-)
    Thanks for this Input ;) i had no clue that there is a difference between the apostrophe i use and the one that you use :)
  • TheBigLegoskiTheBigLegoski Amsterdam, NederlandMember Posts: 1,288
    edited September 2016
    lol, all those different keyboards here in Europe.
    In NL we have 'qwerty' just like the UK, but it is still different. In France I am always lost cause their keyboards are very different, and in Germany the keyboards yet again are a little different.
    ps.
    Good luck opening your full-time store Diggydoes!
  • bobabricksbobabricks Vancouver, BC, CanadaMember Posts: 1,836
    I suggest gradually growing the store and putting your profits towards your store until you hit a point where your store is large enough to make a living. Throwing all of your money into 'one big shop' is a big risk and no no for investors.

     You definitely had the right idea not going for job lots to sell used parts, it's not worth your time. What is worth your time is looking for EOL'd stuff on Craigslist for super low so that it can be flipped. Also make sure that when you are parting out sets, it is worth it to you. Sets are most likely not worth parting out at retail unless it's a brand new set on launch day, minifigs from those sets sell very well, but only for a short period of time.


  • DaraghDaragh IrelandMember Posts: 363
    Whoops, I should have re-read that before the edit option vanished, if you can work through the landmine typos there is some useful information in there - sorry. 
  • dougtsdougts Oregon, USAMember Posts: 4,112
    Daragh said:
    Whoops, I should have re-read that before the edit option vanished, if you can work through the landmine typos there is some useful information in there - sorry. 
    no need to apologize.  That is a great post, and there is a lot of useful information there.  Thanks for taking the time to post it.
    SprinkleOtter
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,303
    Minifigs sell well so long as they are the right ones. Not city, not generic, not repeated in sets (esp small / cheap sets).

    I prefer the approach of small numbers of parts in stock but large numbers of each part. So long as they are the right parts, they sell well and orders are easy to pick and storage requirements quite small.

    I also bag things in multiples and sell fixed numbers at a time. I'm not spending time picking one thing worth 5c and then another worth 6c. I'll bag 10 or 20 at a time if the part is cheap. 
    SprinkleOtterTheBigLegoski
  • Pitfall69Pitfall69 0 miles to Legoboy's houseMember Posts: 11,300
    A little research goes a long way. The Arvo Brothers tend to use rare parts in their designs. You could try specialize in hard to find items, maybe even "corner the market" on some items.
    77ncaachamps
  • ryjayryjay Member Posts: 976
    One big question....how much $ is required for you to make a living?
    Pitfall69bobabrickskiki180703Sethro3madforLEGO
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,303
    Pitfall69 said:
    A little research goes a long way. The Arvo Brothers tend to use rare parts in their designs. You could try specialize in hard to find items, maybe even "corner the market" on some items.
    The way to do that is purchase their instructions as soon as they are released, and buy the rare parts before they rocket in price. If you leave it too long, you have no chance.
    Pitfall69kiki180703
  • Sethro3Sethro3 United StatesMember Posts: 819
    ryjay asked what I was going to ask. How much do you want to live on? I'm sure anyone could "make a living" out of a bricklink store, but will it pay ALL of the bills AND have some left over for fun stuff.

    I would go as far to say that there is no way I could make more from selling LEGO than I do at my current job. I'm not sure how much DJs make or the average Bricklink seller makes, so keep that in mind.
    Pitfall69
  • asrfarinhaasrfarinha Galway, IrelandMember Posts: 131
    @Daragh
    Where do you get your storage drawers and how happy are you with them?
    I'm also based in Ireland and can't seem to find a lot of good options. The best I found so far seems to be Farnell, because of the free shipping.
    I see some on Amazon, but the cheap ones look quite flimsy, while the nicer looking ones are a bit too expensive.
  • DaraghDaragh IrelandMember Posts: 363
    @Daragh
    Where do you get your storage drawers and how happy are you with them?
    I'm also based in Ireland and can't seem to find a lot of good options. The best I found so far seems to be Farnell, because of the free shipping.
    I see some on Amazon, but the cheap ones look quite flimsy, while the nicer looking ones are a bit too expensive.
    For smaller parts I use the 33 drawer cabinets that Lidl or Aldi do every so often, they cost 9.99 and should be available again fairly soon, I have about 60 of them. They do a similar sized unit with 8 medium drawers, 8 small and 1 large for the same price. They are handy too. For larger parts or quantities I use the food storage boxes from Dealz (€1.50) or Euro Giant (1.50) and for the really large parts and quantities I use 9 litre boxes that I think I got in Heatons for about €4. 
    catwrangler
  • CaptainPirateManCaptainPirateMan MichiganMember Posts: 329
    Interesting thread. I haven't "officially" launched my bl store yet, but I have sorted and organized all the stuff I plan on selling. In just waiting until I feel "ready" to take the plunge, because it is a commitment, and I want to be successful at it.

    Since I haven't launched yet, I don't really have any advice to offer. But I can state my goals/expectations. In the short term, I plan on putting every penny I make back into the store. I was a business major, so I realize that I shouldn't plan on making ANY real profit from any business venture for at least 2 years, and that applies to my BL store for sure. I also don't plan on going for broke right away, what I mean is spending thousands of dollars in my store. I just plan on starting slow, building it up over time, marathon not a sprint. I also have listened to others advice and built up a niche type store. What will my niche be? Minifigs. Like others have said, people are not interested in the generic "yellow" city figs, etc. So I have built up a pretty impressive collection of LOTR, Hobbit, POTC, and TONS of CMF for my store to offer. Part of the reason for my delay in opening my store was because I wanted the figs we offered to be LONG gone from Lego before we sold them. That should make them more attractive to buyers, and make them more profitable for us. We also have a nice little selection of bricks, but I fully realize I can't compete with big stores in this category yet, so it's not my focus. We went people to buy minifigs, and then maybe a few bricks as well. 

    Long term, yes I would LOVE to make this a real enterprise that makes a nice profit for myself and my family. I wouldn't hire outside employees, but as my kids age, I would LOVE to give them "in home" jobs, if we deem it feesable. But I realize Rome wasn't built in a day, it takes a lot of time, and I'm in no hurry. So for at least two years, all my profits will go back into my store. After that, I would love to see the store support my Lego habit. Then if it really takes off, maybe more.
  • ryjayryjay Member Posts: 976
    For anyone that has a BL store, what is your inventory in $ and do you turn it every month?
  • SprinkleOtterSprinkleOtter Member Posts: 2,708
    ryjay said:
    For anyone that has a BL store, what is your inventory in $ and do you turn it every month?
    That's a very good question. For a regular buy-sealed-sets-and-part-them-out store, the answer is very simple. For my store, the answer is very complicated. I've purchased over $1,000 of stuff in one month, but other months I don't spend a penny on inventory. I feel like I could make several times my investment every month, but time constraints at the moment are keeping me at a break-even point, but always acquiring more inventory.
  • catwranglercatwrangler Northern IrelandMember Posts: 1,730
    @Daragh That's good news about the Lidl drawers coming back soon; I bought a set last time but by the time I went back for more they were all gone, and of course nobody else seems to be doing anything similar at a similarly competitive price!
  • ryjayryjay Member Posts: 976
    ryjay said:
    For anyone that has a BL store, what is your inventory in $ and do you turn it every month?
    That's a very good question. For a regular buy-sealed-sets-and-part-them-out store, the answer is very simple. For my store, the answer is very complicated. I've purchased over $1,000 of stuff in one month, but other months I don't spend a penny on inventory. I feel like I could make several times my investment every month, but time constraints at the moment are keeping me at a break-even point, but always acquiring more inventory.
    I could never imagine running an inventory based business without knowing my inventory cost...otherwise it is just a hobby....or a losing venture.

    If that $1000 is your total inventory, how long does it take to turn it dollar wise?
    SprinkleOtterkiki180703
  • SprinkleOtterSprinkleOtter Member Posts: 2,708
    ryjay said:
    ryjay said:
    For anyone that has a BL store, what is your inventory in $ and do you turn it every month?
    That's a very good question. For a regular buy-sealed-sets-and-part-them-out store, the answer is very simple. For my store, the answer is very complicated. I've purchased over $1,000 of stuff in one month, but other months I don't spend a penny on inventory. I feel like I could make several times my investment every month, but time constraints at the moment are keeping me at a break-even point, but always acquiring more inventory.
    I could never imagine running an inventory based business without knowing my inventory cost...otherwise it is just a hobby....or a losing venture.

    If that $1000 is your total inventory, how long does it take to turn it dollar wise?
    Oh, I know my inventory cost- I'm not sure why you think I don't. However, the monthly cost always varies. Same with my monthly return. I still have incomplete sets from my first big job lot ~5 years ago. However, I made my money back on that lot within months, and made a good profit after that.

    It really depends on the lot. Most turn a profit within a month. Others take longer, because I don't have time to get to them at the moment.
    ryjaykiki180703
  • ryjayryjay Member Posts: 976
    @SprinkleOtter...would you say your BL store is more of a hobby or an actual business?  I'm assuming because you say you have time restraints that you have another job you depend on more for an income...is that right?
    SprinkleOtterkiki180703
  • SprinkleOtterSprinkleOtter Member Posts: 2,708
    I would refer to it more as a hobby at the moment, but watching Shark Tank sometimes, I put a lot of the would-be investment companies to shame.

    No, just a college student. If I wanted, my BL store could be a full-time job.
    ryjaykiki180703
  • DaraghDaragh IrelandMember Posts: 363
    ryjay said:
    For anyone that has a BL store, what is your inventory in $ and do you turn it every month?
    You're asking some pretty confidential information there. how other people classify their BL store is up to them, if the model doesn't appeal to you that's fine. Tracking your inventory value at any stage in time is simple in one respect - you always have a value from BL at any stage in the month, knowing what you sold last month is no problem. Finding out if what you sold last month relates to what you parted out last month starts getting very complex. Parting out a typical set may mean you sell the minifigures fairly fast and the rarer parts, the more common parts could be around for months or even years, or until you have volume enough of that part to attract a volume buyer. The dynamics of any store is based on lots of variables not always easily quantified in hard numbers. 
    Lobotkiki180703GothamConstructionCo
  • LobotLobot UKMember Posts: 923
    Daragh said:
    Finding out if what you sold last month relates to what you parted out last month starts getting very complex. Parting out a typical set may mean you sell the minifigures fairly fast and the rarer parts, the more common parts could be around for months or even years, or until you have volume enough of that part to attract a volume buyer. The dynamics of any store is based on lots of variables not always easily quantified in hard numbers. 

    That's a very good point @Daragh - I'll need to do my first tax return shortly and my only concern is what should I sensibly value my stock as being worth?  I've invested virtually all of my sales income back into inventory so 99% of any profit will be in it!  Obviously the individual Bricklink value is far higher than if I were to sell the entire lot on Ebay as a job lot, but that was always my 'get-out' plan if I'd ever had enough...

    Any advice would be appreciated :-)

  • ryjayryjay Member Posts: 976
    Daragh said:
    ryjay said:
    For anyone that has a BL store, what is your inventory in $ and do you turn it every month?
    You're asking some pretty confidential information 
    LOL...you're kidding right?
  • ryjayryjay Member Posts: 976
    So to answer the OP, no...you can't make a living with a BL store...it is too complicated and convoluted & time consuming to ever know if you are making money, let alone a living.  A fun hobby and a fun way to help pay for your love of lego, but support a mortgage/rent, insurance, food, family, car, retirement...no
  • DaraghDaragh IrelandMember Posts: 363
    Lobot said:
    That's a very good point @Daragh - I'll need to do my first tax return shortly and my only concern is what should I sensibly value my stock as being worth?  
    Hopefully someone running a shop longer and has being through the thrill of a tax return may answer. I would think the max value of a BL store stck would be 50% of the 6 month average at best. 

    Lobot
  • bluedragonbluedragon United StatesMember Posts: 481
    @Lobot I value my parts inventory based on cost. I track the average cost per part at any given time (gets updated every time a set is parted out or loose parts are purchased) so I just multiply that by the number of parts in stock. For sets I use a different method: no inventory for tax purposes; as soon as a set is sold, the original purchase is entered as an expense.
    Lobotkiki180703
  • LobotLobot UKMember Posts: 923
    @Lobot I value my parts inventory based on cost. I track the average cost per part at any given time (gets updated every time a set is parted out or loose parts are purchased) so I just multiply that by the number of parts in stock. For sets I use a different method: no inventory for tax purposes; as soon as a set is sold, the original purchase is entered as an expense.


    Thanks @bluedragon - I did debate doing that, and I've maintained a detailed record of everything that I've purchased and sold so it's definitely an option.  My only reservation with that approach is that the value of minifigures is totally disproportionate to an 'average' part!  Perhaps I might have answered my own question - have a standard value for both parts and minifigures.

  • SprinkleOtterSprinkleOtter Member Posts: 2,708
    ryjay said:
    So to answer the OP, no...you can't make a living with a BL store...it is too complicated and convoluted & time consuming to ever know if you are making money, let alone a living.  A fun hobby and a fun way to help pay for your love of lego, but support a mortgage/rent, insurance, food, family, car, retirement...no
    I'm not sure how you could possibly say that... That @DadsAFOL for example. Or the couple on the front page of Bricklink at the moment.
  • bluedragonbluedragon United StatesMember Posts: 481
    @DadsAFOL is Jason on the front page of BL :-)
    @Lobot I agree MFigs and parts are different in terms of value but for accounting purposes that doesn't matter and it simplifies things if every part is valued the same. A technic pin and a sand green 1x8 brick are also far apart, for example.
    Lobotcatwrangler
  • SprinkleOtterSprinkleOtter Member Posts: 2,708
    @DadsAFOL is Jason on the front page of BL :-)
    @Lobot I agree MFigs and parts are different in terms of value but for accounting purposes that doesn't matter and it simplifies things if every part is valued the same. A technic pin and a sand green 1x8 brick are also far apart, for example.
    Oh. Now I feel a little silly ;)
    bluedragon
  • DadsAFOLDadsAFOL USAMember Posts: 608
    Me too
    SprinkleOtterbluedragonraygunnricecakedougts
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