How can I start an online retail business without any inventory?


I apologize in advance if this question has already been asked a thousand times. I did a search and couldn't find anything, nor did the related questions provide any answers to my question.

I tried to order a snowboard from an online store recently and it turned out the store didn't actually have it in stock. So they told me they called a rep for the company that manufactures the snowboard and had the rep send me a snowboard from the manufacturer's inventory, but I still paid the online store. The online store has a brick-and-mortar store where they hold all their inventory, but is that even necessary? Obviously the store gets more business from local residents who enjoy the convenience of visiting and buying from within the store, but could anyone start an online store selling the same equipment without any inventory?

Another example would be the business owner mentioned in Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Work Week that sold Sound Effects Libraries on DVD. He setup a website, collected orders, and sent those orders directly to the manufacturer, who then shipped the DVDs directly to the customers. No inventory needed.

Thanks so much in advance for your wisdom!


asked Jun 11 '11 at 09:05
319 points

3 Answers


It's called drop shipping, and yes, it's 100% possible to do.

answered Jun 11 '11 at 09:36
Kort Pleco
891 points
  • thanks, kort, i'll start looking into it! – Beachrunnerjoe 13 years ago


Yeah, drop shipping is definitely the answer.

You will have to establish relationships with manufacturers to access their drop ship catalogs.

If you have or can get connections directly with manufacturers, that is going to be your best bet. There are a bunch of "We help you easily get started in drop shipping" companies that rip people off. It might take some leg work at the beginning, but could be a good business if you really work at it. Good luck!

answered Jun 11 '11 at 13:13
Rafferty Pendery
466 points
  • p.s. In just looking through a few more of the "easy to get started companies", looks like the most legit. Definitely check them out thoroughly, just a thought. – Rafferty Pendery 13 years ago


Drop shipping is not the only way to do this, there is also affiliate marketing that can be used where you simply just earn your commission from a sale.

answered Oct 15 '11 at 14:34
11 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics: