Difference between Retail Arbitrage and Dropshipping

Online shopping is one of the fastest−growing business models because of how quickly new technologies are being created. Although most businesses have accepted technology, some stubborn establishments adhere to older methods. Fortunately, when it comes to online retail, businesses have several options. For instance, nowadays, almost all online businesses use drop shipping. It's also worth noting that retail arbitrage has become increasingly common, and most companies are actively engaging in it. Let's compare and contrast retail arbitrage with dropshipping, taking a close look at the pros and cons of each.

What is Retail Arbitrage?

Buying in bulk from a retailer to resell the items on sites like Amazon and eBay is what this term alludes to. In retail arbitrage, a large quantity of a product is bought while the price is extremely low, such as during a clearance sale. Reselling an item can yield a substantial profit for a business owner. Most shoppers need to think more about the fact that retail arbitrage is entirely legitimate and may be exercised in various online marketplaces like Amazon. But it might take some time to gain clearance for specific components from the manufacturer.

The following is a list of some of the benefits of retail arbitrage −

  • Low entry threshold − Since there are few obstacles to the entrance, retail arbitrage is a highly competitive market. Although there are still some costs, such as product investments, account payments, software packages, and presenter fees, the total is far lower than starting a new firm from scratch.

  • A fast method to make money − Most people practice retail arbitrage since it may be a lucrative side business with relatively little time investment. As crucial a consideration as any, this stands alone.

  • Ease of diversification − The retail arbitrage business model does not limit a firm to a single focus. Therefore, businesses may successfully compete in the market and offer a wide range of products. This suggests that a business may still succeed in the market even if one of its products fails, so long as it focuses on its other products.

There are many drawbacks associated with retail arbitrage, including the following −

  • In the case of an inventory shortfall, your business will suffer since you lack direct communication with the manufacturer.

  • Since resellers don't often focus on one brand or type of goods, it might be difficult for them to inspire brand loyalty among their customers. A large client base might risk disappearing if an alternative, cheaper product is not introduced.

  • These retailers have no control over the goods they provide for sale. In most cases, they must agree to purchase the item at a price shown to them.

There is a risk that buying low−quality stock in bulk can lead to losses that are hard to recover from monetarily.

What is Dropshipping?

It's a method of retail fulfillment in which the seller doesn't hold stock but instead has a third party ship items directly to customers from the manufacturer. Typically, the "third party" is a manufacturer or a distributor. This means the vendor has no physical contact with the goods being sold. Dropshipping is a popular retail strategy employed by many online businesses today.

The benefits of dropshipping are outlined in the following paragraphs.

  • Having a low inventory cost is critical since it is the single largest factor in the entire cost of launching a business. Dropshipping companies save money by only stocking their shelves with products that their clients actively purchase. In addition, this reduces the expense of old stock.

  • Low barriers to entry − Dropshipping is the best option for small businesses with limited capital. A properly implemented firm may launch with zero initial equity investment.

  • Entrepreneurs may offer and test a large range of items with no risk since they only acquire what a buyer intends to buy.

  • Expenses for order fulfillment that are relatively low − Costs associated with processing orders can add up quickly, especially if many products are involved. Costs linked with inventory management, packing, and transporting goods might be included here. Because a third party is in charge of handling all of these tasks, dropshipping helps businesses save money.

Despite its many advantages, dropshipping is not without its drawbacks −

  • The lack of ability to manage delivery timeframes and order fulfillment − When a corporation outsources its order fulfillment, it gives up control over those processes. Unfortunately, this can lead to many unhappy clients who stop buying from you. As a result, dropshipping requires the participation of trustworthy commercial associates.

  • Due to the higher overhead, drop shipping businesses typically have lower profit margins. Small−business owners typically pay more for single or limited−quantity purchases than for bulk orders. As a result, there will be less money left over after expenses.

  • Over−reliance on the stock held by other people − While it's great that you can ship out brand−new items rapidly and at minimal cost, you have no say over what your distributors have in stock. This means that your business will feel the effects if they have a supply shortage. This can cause delays in production and even cause businesses to lose customers.

  • Poor customer service − Problems with dropshipping abound, including improper shipments, broken goods, and long delays in receiving orders. If issues of this sort arise, it is more likely that a firm will lose a client to a competitor due to poor customer service, regardless of who is at fault.

Similarities: Retail arbitrage and Dropshipping

  • In all versions, resellers must rely on third parties to provide stock.

  • Developing a brand in any of these markets is difficult.

Differences: Retail Arbitrage and Dropshipping

The following table highlights how Retail Arbitrage is different from Dropshipping −

Characteristics Retail Arbitrage Dropshipping
Definition Retail arbitrage refers to the practice of buying products from one retailer with the intention of reselling them at a higher price on another market, typically an online one such as Amazon or eBay. The term "dropshipping" is used to describe a method of retail fulfillment in which the seller does not retain inventory on hand but instead has the product sent directly to the customer from a wholesaler or manufacturer.
Start−up costs When partaking in retail arbitrage, a substantial cash outlay is required to keep an inventory. Starting a dropshipping business requires no upfront investment because your orders will be fulfilled by a third party.
Profit margin It's possible to make a lot of money quickly with retail arbitrage. There isn't much money to be made in dropshipping at first, but it changes as time goes on.
Risks involved Higher risk is involved in retail arbitrage since the buyer has the aim of reselling the product. There is less danger involved with dropshipping because the third party controls all parts of order fulfillment.


Retail arbitrage refers to buying products from one retailer with the intention of reselling them at a higher price on another market, typically an online one such as Amazon or eBay. Keeping inventory requires a significant time commitment, as well as a high level of financial and personal risk.

However, "dropshipping" is a specific method of retail fulfillment in which the seller does not hold any inventory but instead has a third party ship the product directly to the buyer from the manufacturer. Because an outside party handles all customer orders, reselling businesses requires no upfront capital. However, it initially provides a small profit, but that changes over time. Retail arbitrage and dropshipping are two popular methods for reselling products with unique operations.

Updated on: 29-Nov-2022


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started