Shawn and Angie Cranford are seasoned Amazon sellers with over eight years of selling experience behind them. In the spirit of helping other sellers achieve success on Amazon, the couple created a Facebook group called 3P Community, which they personally monitor. “To us, it’s about helping others who started out in the same place we did,” said Angie. The couple sells in various Amazon marketplace categories including toys, video games, electronics, shoes, clothing and more. “We just started selling clothing. We’re always looking to expand,” added Shawn.
With almost a decade of Amazon selling under their belts, the Cranfords have ridden their share of highs and lows that come with the business. Their lowest low, however, came less than a year ago on New Year’s Eve in 2013.
“Angie and I were out to lunch, just winding down from the craziness of Q4 when I got a call that the power in our warehouse had gone out. I had one of our part time employees head over to check things out. By the time we made our way there, a fire had engulfed the entire place. Anything that wasn’t burned had suffered enough smoke damage that it wasn’t sellable,” said Shawn.
“We probably lost close to $400,000 in retail value of merchandise that day.”
Giving up and starting fresh in another profession was not an option for Shawn and Angie. “We’ve been doing this for so long and we know so much about selling, that it wouldn’t be worth it to us to give it all up and do something else,” said Angie. And so the couple rolled up their sleeves and got back to work.
Shawn & Angie Cranford
They split their fulfillment between FBA and MFN. “About 90 percent of our sales are FBA and 10 percent we ship ourselves,” said Shawn. Learning their lesson the hard way when it comes to Amazon’s buyer-focused return policy when an item ships as FBA, they’ve chosen to reserve the right to use their own discretion when a return is requested for items over $250. “We find this comes in very handy particularly in Q4 when sales increase exponentially.”
During Q4, the couple jumps from shipping about 50 items per day, to around 600 to even 1,000 items per day. “We had a million dollars in sales last year with half of that coming from Q4 and a third from December sales alone,” explained Angie.
To prepare for the busiest season of the year, the couple does implement a few strategies. “Some sellers tend to stock up for Q4 during the summer. We shop for Q4 all year round. Our general philosophy is to buy as many units of a profitable item as we can—hundreds, even. Then we set some aside specifically for Q4,” said Shawn.
Shawn also sheds light on how long Q4 can actually last. “For us, January is still one of our top sales months of the year because the busyness of Q4 can extend past Christmas. We find that people are still exchanging and buying things well into the new year.”
When it comes to price, the couple has found a sweet spot of pricing half a percent above the lowest FBA competition listing. For Q4, this jumps to about 1.8%. They switched to Informed.co over a year ago for their repricing needs. “We were using another repricer, but they were not cloud based so we couldn’t access them from different locations,” explained Angie. “With Informed.co, I can just pull up my account on my phone-even when I’m out shopping.” The Cranfords have created over 30 custom profiles within Informed.co.
Even in the madness that ensues with Q4, the couple remembers that keeping their family—and sanity—intact is the most important thing.
“We try not to work nights and weekends even in Q4 because there’s more to life. Even when we do our shopping, we prefer to shop online because of the convenience of having things shipped directly to your door,” said Shawn.
“We also try to be realistic about when it’s time to slow down FBA shipments and ship ourselves more. For example, when you factor in the time it takes to ship your FBA products to Amazon, and for them to check everything in, if we want things to be available for sale during the days just before Christmas, we try to get our last shipments out by December 14th the latest. Otherwise you lose valuable selling time,” added Angie.
“So we tend to increase our rate of self-fulfilled items on the few days leading up to Christmas.”
Needless to say, 2014 has been a year of rebuilding for the Cranfords. And in their first Q4 since the horrific fire they experienced, Shawn explains that the family is back on track. “We’ve been doing pretty well so far and if we match what we did last year this year, it will be more than what I expected.”