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Choosing the Right Wholesale Shoes for Dropshipping

The major advantage of dropshipping is, of course, not having inventory to manage. This is probably even more true when it comes to products like shoes, which are essentially fashion accessories, and as such are highly reactive to shifting trends. Moreover, shoes come in a wide range of colors and sizes, so having a wholesale shoe supplier ready to ship whatever product you need for a particular order is a distinct advantage.

However, for the very same reasons, dropshipping shoes can be a risky proposition. If you have it on hand, you simply list what's in your inventory and you're safe. But when dropshipping fashion footwear, you have to be on your toes when making your listings, making sure that your supplier can actually handle whatever volume you sell for fast-moving items.

It takes fashion savvy and a shrewd business acumen to determine saturation points for trending products. You've got to know the end of a good run when you see it. You also need to see whether and when the trend has filtered through to wholesale markets.

With that in mind, let's take a look at what's trending in three broad categories: athletic shoes, men's footwear, and ladies' shoes. At the same time, we will be discussing how well they're doing on eBay and whether they would be a profitable product for you to dropship.

Athletic Shoes

Running shoes, sneakers and basketball gear are always popular products, online and offline. According to StatisticBrain.com, athletic shoes make up 30 percent (20 percent men, 10 percent women) of shoe industry sales, and that this is dominated by well-known brands Nike and Adidas.

The trending footwear for athletes in 2014 is maximalist shoes. These are high-cushion footwear, as opposed to minimalist shoes, which have virtually no padding. Running aficionados have an ongoing debate about the pros and cons of both. Whatever the case, maximalist shoes are in right now, and the top pick is the light and airy Hoka Clifton, retailing at $130, followed by New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail, at $110.

We compared how these brands performed on eBay, in the SaleHoo Market Research Lab and these are the results:

athletic shoes performance

If you look at the figures, you will see that there is a lot of competition among sellers for Nike, and also for New Balance, and the success rate is pretty low. Between Nike and Hoka, the latter seems to be performing better. Because both of these shoes are trending, you would think that we have a clear winner here. But remember we said supply is just as important as demand. Most wholesalers are not yet carrying Hoka shoes, so you're going to have a problem with fulfillment. No wonder buyers are snapping it up when a listing comes up!

Of course, if you can find a supplier selling Hoka wholesale, you basically have a corner on the market.

Both Nike and New Balance are popular brands with wholesalers, so you probably won't have a problem there. Seeing that the competition for New Balance is not as intense as for Nike, you may want to forget about wholesale Jordans for a while. However, you also need to consider that New Balance shoes go for significantly less, so it may take you a while to make real money.

Men's Footwear

Leather tasseled loafers, suede derby shoes and espadrilles are popular among men this season. Nothing really very radical, but then again, men's footwear changes very little from season to season, and the classical styles are pretty much the same across the board. Men's casual and dress shoes make up about 15 percent of the sales in the shoe industry, and there is much less seasonality to this niche, compared with shoes for women. The figures for the last few days are quite revealing:

men's shoes performance

As you can see, there is a lot of competition among sellers for loafers, which keeps the average revenue steady. There is less competition for suede derby shoes but the price fluctuates much more widely. Also note that the average sale price is less than half of the Buy It Now price, which indicates that eBay buyers are resistant to the fixed price for this product. However, based on how much these shoes cost even at wholesale, the average sale price will result in a loss rather than profit.

Espadrilles perform in the opposite way. The Buy It Now price (which is the marked up price from the wholesale price) is much lower than the average sale price, which means eBay buyers are willing to bid it up. Espadrilles also perform better than the two other trending styles, plus the supply is extensive. This suggests the shoes may be a good product to dropship on eBay.

Ladies' Shoes

Summer is when the fashionistas shed their winter clothing and heavy boots, donning feet-revealing and ice-incompatible shoes instead. That's when we will really see what new style has been exciting ladies of late. We're looking at three classics: flat sandals, ballet flats and mules.

ladies' shoes performance

The profit potential for ladies' shoes is rather low compared to men's shoes, but as you can see from the number of listings, retailers sell more units, so it evens out in the end.

In terms of sale price vs. Buy it Now, the figures indicate that buyers prefer an auction rather than fixed price mode for the listing, probably because there are many sellers offering similar items to choose from. eBay buyers go there for the bargains, after all. Overall, it is hard to make a sale in ladies' shoes because of fickle buyer behavior and the desire for cheaper products. This means that dropshippers will have to be content with a narrow profit margin to move this type of merchandise.

The average revenue for each type of shoes indicates a more or less consistent performance in the period, with only slight fluctuations. In terms of success rates, ballet flats take the cake, even though they are more expensive than the other items. Mules move significantly slower compared to the other two categories, making them less than desirable as an entry point product for dropshipping.

Supply, Supply, Supply

Whatever the figures show, though, it all boils down to what you can get from your suppliers. No matter how good the conversion is, or how much the product is in demand, as a dropshipper you absolutely need to secure your supply before listing the products. If a product is too much in demand, it's likely that your wholesaler will run out of stock, and then you'll be in hot water.

On the other hand, less popular products don't always make it worth a wholesaler's time, so they aren't even being offered on wholesale listings. Obviously, you will want to list a product you know your suppliers can deliver.

There are only two ways to go: sell the product that may move more slowly but has a steady demand and supply, or have two or more suppliers you can get the products from should one or the other run out. Which option better suits you? Are you the adventurous type? Or do you cross the finish line slow and steady? Let us know in the comments. 

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