PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Before we order on Amazon, an army of individual shoppers heads out, hunting for deals to stock the company's warehouses.

They're turning big profits by searching big box stores, from Lowe's to Target to Walmart, for items they can flip quickly on Amazon.

The Amazon seller life, officially known as "retail arbitrage," can be lucrative.

Justin and Kristen Herbert moved to Arizona in 2018 with their children, to start new lives as full time Amazon sellers.

They left finance jobs in Los Angeles, for a more family-friendly lifestyle.

In Scottsdale, they could afford a home with a large garage, which they use to store their hauls before shipping.

"Our goal is to gross over seven figures this year. So over a million dollars in sales," Juston said.

Gross sales of a million dollars should yield them a profit of $300,000 to $400,000 this year for the husband and wife, ages 31 and 28.

"If you want to make that happen, anyone can do it. This is a lot of hard work, though," Kristen cautioned.

Over several years, they've developed an efficient system of buying, shipping, and selling, and have learned tricks of the trade.

They follow Amazon's strict guidelines, and have to spend a lot of time removing labels, repackaging and shipping their products.

Fees eat into their profits, from Amazon storage and selling costs, to gas, taxes, and charges from the smartphone apps they use.

Apps, like Inventory Lab, Payability, and BrickSeek, give them an idea of store inventories and sales, plus product prices and profit margins.

The Herbert's each work 40 or 50 hours a week, between shopping, packaging, and shipping.

They also work in wholesale, buying pallets from manufacturers and distributors, to flip in bulk online.

Their goal is to find products which will sell quickly.

"We don't like sitting on product. We like to stay as liquid as possible," Kristen said.

On a recent Sunday, they planned to hit as many Target stores as possible, searching for two specific items their apps told them would both be on clearance, and sell for a much higher price on Amazon.

They found dozens of the board game they were looking for, selling for $7 in Target. The games sell for $18 on Amazon, so after taxes and fees, each will yield a $4 profit.

A second item, Contigo brand water bottles, were a bust. They were all gone from the stores.

Similar Camelbak brand bottles were half off, but after checking the apps, Juston said the profit margin was too small.

"They'll go on sale two more times, so we'll keep watching them, and buy when they're cheaper," he said.

On a clearance shelf, they spotted Aquaman costumes for kids, selling for $8. A check of their apps showed the same costumes selling on Amazon for $31. They bought 15 of them, and will profit $13 each, after taxes and fees.

On a recent trip to Lowes, they found Dyson vacuums for $129 each. The vacuums will sill on Amazon for $340 each, yielding a profit of $142 each, after taxes and fees.

They'll repackage them at home, and ship them to Amazon, via UPS.

Amazon reports more than 50 percent of the company's total unit sales come from third parties, like the Herbert's.

As longtime, established Amazon sellers, the Herbert's get perks from the company. Most importantly, they're given special permission to sell top brand names to Amazon.

"You can't just start selling Nike or Mattel. [Amazon] wants to make sure you're a trusted seller first,'' Juston said.

The Herbert's are teaching the lessons they've learned to people trying to dig out of debt or save for a vacation. They say retail arbitrage is a great option for retirees and stay-at-home parents.

"I worked in financial planning for years, and saw so many people who had to put off retirement because they didn't have enough to live comfortably," Juston said.

They recently started posting video tutorials at www.Youtube.com/FlippingProfits.

"We got an email from a mom who plans to start doing this with her disabled son, and we love that," Kristen said.

Right now, the couple is working to turn a $1,000 investment into a $50,000 profit, to use in an adoption.

They've been open about their adoption plans, and are now hearing from other hopeful parents, who plan to follow their lead.

The Herbert's two young children accompany them on their marathon shopping excursions, which are broken up by trips to the park for the kids to play.

"Working for years in financial planning, we saw people with millions and millions of dollars who were miserable. The money alone won't make people happy," Juston said.

The Hebert's are also giving back to their new hometown, donating a pile of toys to Phoenix Children's Hospital. The combination scooter-skateboards were a big holiday item, and the couple cleaned the shelves in a clearance sale.

Amazon openly posts guidance and policies for sellers online here.

Jared anchors the News at 8 on 3TV, and reports for both 3TV and CBS 5. He frequently contributes to the 3TV franchise series 3TV Originals. 

 


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