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How to Make Retail Arbitrage Sourcing Routes in Your Neighborhood

Dave Consolazio
December 6, 2023
December 6, 2023
Retail sourcing locations on Google Maps with Targets selected

Retail arbitrage sourcing can take on many different forms. If you only use retail arbitrage as a side hustle, you probably won’t need more than a couple local spots to source at on an occasional basis. But if you plan on turning this into a full-time gig as I did from 2015 through 2019, you’ll need to map out driving routes that hit all the best places to source from.

I had six different sourcing routes that I would alternate between on a weekly basis. As a general rule, I spent three to four days per week sourcing for products and then two to three days per week planning out and preparing shipments to send to Amazon’s FBA warehouses. I would adjust my sourcing and shipment plans based on sales and product availability at the stores on my driving routes.

In this article, I’ll break down how you can optimize retail arbitrage driving routes in your area following three easy steps. I’ll also cover some other important things to consider before you hit the shopping trails.

Looking at Google Maps on a smartphone

Step 1: Decide What Type of Products You Want to Resell

The retail arbitrage sourcing routes that are best for you will depend heavily on what type of products you plan on reselling. I resold a wide range of products on Amazon, but my bread and butter was toys and electronics. As such, when I wasn’t reselling from thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army, I did most of my sourcing in big box stores like Target and Walmart and discount stores like ROSS and Marshall’s.

These types of stores are some of the best places to source for retail arbitrage products, regardless of your niche or specialty. But in addition to these all-encompassing types of stores, you will want to include more specific options based on your expertise. Here are some examples:

  • If you plan to resell clothes and accessories, include clothing stores like Macy’s and JCPenney on your route.
  • If you plan on selling books online, include bookstores and libraries that have book sales.
  • If you plan to resell tools, include hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

The pre-planning stage is also a great time to determine which tools and supplies you will need to get started on Amazon. ScoutIQ is an excellent retail arbitrage scouting tool that allows you to scan barcodes to quickly assess how products are selling on Amazon and how profitable they would be for you to flip.

Resellers looking for additional services can make their job easier with the solutions offered by InventoryLab. In addition to its great scouting app Scoutify, InventoryLab also aids full-time sellers with in-depth research, reports, accounting and more.

Step 2: Use Google Maps to Locate the Best Places to Source for Retail Arbitrage

Google Maps is an extremely powerful tool for researching and discovering the best places to source for retail arbitrage. And with the “My Maps” feature, you can create and manage maps to save specific locations for future reference.

Head over to Google Maps on your computer and make sure that you are signed in to your Google account. In the top left corner of the screen, you will see an icon with three lines that you can click to open the menu. From this menu, select “Saved.” This displays four tabs: Lists, Labeled, Visited, and Maps. Click on “Maps,” and then select “Open My Maps” to open the My Maps page in a new window.

Saved, Maps, and Open My Maps buttons in the upper left corner of the Google Maps interface

From the My Maps page, click “Create a New Map.” You can click on the name “Untitled Map” and change it to something relevant like “Shopping Map.” Clicking on “Untitled Layer” will allow you to change the name of your layer. For this example, I will start by locating the Targets in my area, so I will name this first layer “Target.”

Adding a layer to a map in Google Maps

You will want to use two tabs for this next step. Return to Google Maps (leaving your My Maps tab open) and search for Target. This will show you all the Targets in your neighborhood. To get a more accurate list, be sure to zoom in on specific areas and click “Search this area.”

Map of all Target stores in a section of Los Angeles in Google Maps

Now click on one of the Targets to get its address. Head back to the My Maps tab and start typing Target and the first few numbers of the address. This should auto-fill the rest. When you click on the Target, a pin will drop on this location and you will have the option to “Add to map.” Click on that, and your location will be added to your Target layer.

Adding a location to a Google Maps layer

If you hover over the new pin that has been added to your Target layer, you will have the option to personalize it with a color or an icon. I will make all my Target icons red to match the color of the logo. If you want to be extra fancy, in the “More icons” section, you can add custom icons, including store logos.

Customizing colors and icons for location in a layer

Repeat this step for all the Targets in your area. Once you are done with those, click the “Add Layer” button on your Shopping Map to start a new layer for a different store. Repeat the process again, this time adding all the locations of the new store and color-coding it with a different color. When you are finished, your map should look something like this:

Retail arbitrage sourcing locations in Los Angeles

Needless to say, you don’t have to be this thorough to have a useful retail arbitrage sourcing map. You may also have far fewer sourcing options if you don’t live in a major city like Los Angeles.

Keep in mind that you can always come back to this map later on the “My Maps” page, so don’t feel the need to finish your entire map in one sitting.

After you have mapped out all the best places to source for retail arbitrage, you are ready to plan out your driving routes.

Step 3: Plan Out Your Optimal Driving Routes

Next to the name of your map (which we named “Shopping Map” in this example), you will see three dots that open up a dropdown menu when clicked. Select “Copy map,” and you will be prompted to enter a new map name. I am going to name this new map “Route Map.”

Three-dots button and Copy Map option

On our Shopping Map, we created individual layers for each store name. On the Route Map, we will be creating individual layers for driving routes. The best way to do this is to first group locations that are within close proximity of each other. For example, using our Shopping Map from the previous section, you could break this batch of stores into five separate routes:

Breaking up a city map of stores into sourcing routes

Note that the number of groups and the stores included in those groups will vary for every reseller. If you live in a small town without too many sourcing options, you may only need one or two driving routes to hit them all. Or if you have very limited time to source on any given day, you may choose to build a bunch of different routes, each with a small number of stores.

There is no one-size-fits-all rule to mapping out your retail arbitrage locations. And remember that you can always make edits and updates to this map later, so after you have done some sourcing and driving in the real world, you can make adjustments based on your observations. I often skipped certain stores or sections of my route on any given day due to time or supply constraints.

Once you have a general idea of what you want your routes to look like, it’s time to make these changes on your Route Map. Start by adding a new layer and name the route whatever you’d like. For example, on the map pictured above, I might name the route I’ve labeled No. 2 as “Hawthorne,” since that is the city most of that section’s stores are in.

Layers and pins can be dragged and dropped on the list. When I click on a pin on the map, I am given the option to change its style. By changing this Target in Hawthorne to a diamond, I can now easily locate it on the list of Targets.

Changing a location's icon shape in Google Maps

All I have to do now is drag the Target from the “Targets” layer up to the “Hawthorne” layer. I’ll repeat this process for all the stores on this route until I have something that looks like this:

Map of stores to source products from in Hawthorne

Repeat this process for every route, adding a new layer and route name and dragging all the stores on that route into the new layer. When you are finished, all the layers with store names will be empty and can be deleted, and your Route Map will have all your custom maps on it.

All your hard work will pay off when you open the Google Maps app on your phone. By clicking the “Saved” tab and then the “Maps” button, you will be able to pull up your Route Map on your phone. And you can even toggle layers on and off so that only the route you are currently on is displayed, making it super easy to navigate to all your destinations on the road.

Product sourcing map transferred to iPhone

Things to Consider Before Getting Started

I hope that you found this guide to creating retail arbitrage sourcing routes helpful, and that this method brings you as much success out on the shopping trail as it did for me. But before you get started, I wanted to share a few more valuable resources with you that could help take your retail arbitrage business to new heights.

  • The Ins and Outs of Retail ArbitrageHave your shopping routes picked out but still want to learn more about what retail arbitrage actually entails? This guide to reselling on Amazon breaks down everything you need to know from how retail arbitrage works to what seller fees and obstacles you should look out for along the way.
  • Profit and Loss Tracking – While the majority of your profits and losses doing retail arbitrage will be determined by how low of a price you buy products for and how high of a price you can sell them at, it’s important to remember that this isn’t the total picture. Are you factoring the cost of shipping materials into your profit tracking? What about the gas you need to drive along the routes we just built? Using a service like FeedbackWhiz’s Profit and Loss tracking tool that gives you the power to accurately log everything is a great way to keep track of your profitability.
  • Exploring Marketplaces Outside of Amazon – If you are planning on expanding your retail arbitrage business into one that resells across multiple platforms, you can make the process a whole lot easier using ExportYourStore. ExportYourStore can copy all your product information from Amazon to eBay or Amazon to Shopify—and then keep details like stock levels up to date across all platforms. And if you are currently an eBay seller looking to expand into Amazon FBA, ExportYourStore works seamlessly in the other direction as well, exporting your information from eBay to Amazon.

And with that, I wish you the best on your retail arbitrage sourcing adventures. Happy hunting!