If You’re Looking for Products to Buy and Sell Home, Go to Sampeng Market in Bangkok…
I enjoy reading blogs about living in Thailand. And I’ve come across some very interesting posts about how tourists can make money while traveling around Thailand.
But (and there always is a but) it’s not going to be easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. However, there are frequent visitors to Thailand who do this for a living and do well.
One of the ways you can earn some cash from your travels around Thailand is by purchasing products that you can sell back home. Let’s face it, lots of stuff these days are made and produced from factories all over Southeast Asia. Even things from China end up in Sampeng at reasonable costs.
It’s a fact that many foreign travelers in Thailand buy all sorts of odds and ends with the purpose of resale back in their home country. It’s certainly not a new and modern concept. Think about Marco Polo and the Silk Road. Except you get to fly back home with suit cases full of goodies minus the horse and camel caravans.
Where’s Sampeng and Why’s it So Special…
Sampeng Market is located right in Bangkok’s Chinatown on Soi Wanit 1. This is a long lane running about 400 meters up. But Sampeng Market itself is wide spread and encompasses northeast of Yaowarat Road which is Chinatown’s main avenue. In this area you’ll mostly find clothing including women’s shoes, hand bags, flip flops, towels, cosmetics beauty accessories and a lot more.
You’ll even find some electronics, audio components such as headphones, portable bluetooth speakers, portable battery chargers, selfie sticks and memory cards.
Then there is Sampeng Lane which is really just an extension of Sampeng Market. Although Sampeng Lane is mostly a wholesale fabrics market you can find the same items and accessories as Sampeng Market. Sampeng Lane is quite narrow and it can get claustrophobic especially in the mornings and weekends.
Sampeng has a deep historical significance with many Thai business owners with Chinese roots. Many of the business owners can speak Mandarin and retained their connections with mainland Chinese relatives.
When you walk around Sampeng Market and Sampeng Lane you will see a lot of really old buildings with signs that have Chinese characters. Many of the buildings have been renovated though look the same as when they were built in back in the 1900s. Walking around the area after hours you can’t help but feel like you’ve been teleported back in time.
However, many of the items, hand made goods and Chinese made products you find at Chatuchak probably passed through Sampeng, which is one of the most well known wholesale market in all of Bangkok.
Sampeng Hours of Operation and Best Time to Visit
Sampeng, both the Market and Lane opens early though there is no definitive set hours. It’s not a mall after all. Each and every shop have their own hours but it’s safe to say most shops open around 6am. Closing times vary as well but it’s safe to say most shops close around 7pm to 8pm.
Stores and shops in Sampeng open 7 days a week and if I remember correctly don’t even close on major Thai holidays. I have seen shops close during the Chinese Lunar New Years. Which makes a lot of sense since many shops are operated by Thai Chinese.
For me, the best time to visit Sampeng is before afternoon when the sun gets too hot. However, it’s packed pretty much throughout the day. Many Thai locals that purchase their inventory at Sampeng are just as wise and get there early to replenish their shop inventory while avoiding the hot and humid temperature.
Some shops though have air conditioning. And if you feel a bit over heated, don’t be shy, step into a shop with air conditioning and browse around.
Plenty of water, fresh fruit and fruit juice vendors are all over so there’s no reason not to get your fluids and stay hydrated. Might be a good idea to carry a hand towel too.
Making Money from Products Bought in Sampeng Market
One of the most convenient ways for tourists to make some cash profits is buying goods from one of the many wholesale markets found in Thailand and selling them back home. Bangkok is the city where you can find local made products and even products imported from China.
Sampeng Market located in Bangkok’s Chinatown is one area I think is the best place to find products and goods sold at wholesale prices.
Of course if you’re coming to Thailand for vacation you can’t really buy big and large ticket items like teak coffee tables. Good luck shoving one of those in your check in luggage.
Sampeng Market is a Tchotchke Paradise
You’ll want to sell small ticket items, simple baubles and tchotchke. Stuff that fits neatly in your checked or carry on baggage. And Sampeng Market is just the right place to go for that.
A Very Small Sampling of What You’ll Find in Sampeng Market:
- Wrist Watches
- Inexpensive Jewelry (beads, rings, ear rings, bracelets and necklaces etc…)
- No – Brand Name Women’s Cosmetics
- Cell Phone Cases
- Hand Bags
- Men, Women and Children Clothes
- Small Electronics Accessories
- House Hold Items
The first 5 listed items you can squeeze in to your luggage. There are many more items and products such as large rolls of fabrics and common plastic household goods sold in Sampeng too. But your goal is to find something small which you can sell at least 3x to 5x the cost and fits in your luggage.
Now I say it’s convenient to find items to sell. But I will tell you up front it won’t be easy to sell things online these days unless you have a physical shop location back home already or have a running profitable E-Commerce website or some other online selling presence such as eBay and Etsy etc.
But if you’re into selling at flea markets then you could do okay. You could also be a lot smarter than me and perhaps have better ideas on how to unload the goods for maximum profit.
Jewelry Items Found in Sampeng is the Best Product to Sell
The best product to buy from Sampeng in my most humble opinion is jewelry. You can find all sorts of inexpensive jewelry from real silver necklaces to rhodium or nickel plated ear rings and bracelets. I couldn’t really get photos of those kinds of jewelry and I tried but the owners don’t like having strangers taking photos of their products.
But you don’t have to buy precious metals like silver. You can buy beads and stones and even sea shell type jewelry. You can even find jewelry made from coconuts and other sorts of eco-friendly materials courtesy of mother nature.
I wanted to take some photos of such items but again, shop owners are quite strict when it comes to taking photos of their products.
But I plucked out some photos I found on eBay of inexpensive beaded necklaces you can find at Sampeng’s many shops.
The ones pictured above are listed for sale at around $20USD but at Sampeng you can buy them for around $4USD to $5USD each. Because Sampeng is one of Bangkok’s most popular wholesale market the more you purchase the more the cost per piece drops down. The more you buy the bigger the discount you get.
Wristwatches are Also Good Products to Sell…
Walk around Sampeng’s lanes and you will find many wristwatch shops with tons of variety and styles of watches. The degree of quality on wrist watches is something you should really examine while you’re at those shops. Now I don’t know anything about watches but I do know a few Thai locals who purchase wrist watches from Sampeng to be resold in their home towns outside of Bangkok. And they say the quality is decent. But then again they know about watches.
“I recommend buying cheap kid’s watches with cartoons. If it’s sold cheap enough usually parents won’t complain if it breaks or even if their child loses it.”
And from what they tell me it is best to stay away from watches that are too cheap and by cheap I mean by price. If you find watches in mid range prices those are probably the ones that are better in quality.
As I said I don’t know much about wristwatch quality and craftsmanship but not buying adult watches that are dirt cheap in prices is sound advice.
Sunglasses and Other Fashion Accessories are Good Too…
My suggestion in choosing products to sell from Sampeng is to figure out what would most likely sell in your local area. For example I know a guy from Florida and every time he visits Thailand he always brings back suit cases full of cheap sunglasses, baseball caps and beach hats back home.
He then sells everything at flea markets, to friends and even on eBay. It won’t make him rich but what he did sell the proceeds made up for half of his purchased plane ticket. And that’s not bad.
Figuring out what to sell is also one of the most difficult part of doing this sort of business. But picking the right and proper product for your locality could make selling just a bit easier.
How Much Money You’ll Need and How Much Money You Could Make (Possibly)…
This post is not a how to get rich quick type of blog post. Nothing comes easy especially when you’re selling inexpensive wristwatches, sunglasses and other knick knacks for the very first time. Plus you’ll be competing against every other guy and gal selling the same products either online or at local flea markets. And of course you’ll need money to make money.
I have asked around friends and acquaintances on how much they recommend for a purchasing budget. And the general consensus is $500USD minimum. Which equates to 15000THB (as of writing) and that is a decent budget.
Sampeng is definitely one market you need to haggle and bargain in. The better price you get the healthier your profit margin will be. I also recommend if a certain price does not fit your budget then don’t feel pressured to buy. Move on and find another shop selling the same products. You might get lucky and get a better price somewhere else in Sampeng.
Few Tips as a Buyer at Sampeng Market
Focus on One or Two Items:
As I already mentioned, think about what would be the easiest for you to sell. If the area you live in has a flea market that is visited by many children then maybe buying a bunch of Hello Kitty items or inexpensive kid’s watches with current and popular cartoon themes would be a good idea.
Don’t buy a bunch of odds and ends simply because you think they would all sell. If you want to sell Hello Kitty items it might not be a good idea to sell screw driver sets and headphones next to it. Focusing on a few items within the same product category makes it easier to keep track of inventory too.
Build Rapport with Shop Owners
Many shop owners or at least shop staff can speak some English or they’ll find some way to communicate. But a calculator is the best translator and they always have one available. One of the best ways to get a better discount or preferential treatment is to deal with the same vendor. A lot of shops carry the same products at about the same wholesale prices.
Not all the folks inside these shops will be over-friendly. That’s just their style and because you’re not the only customer they have to deal with. Because there are so many wholesalers in Sampeng you’ll find at least one you can form a good business relationship with.
Shops love repeat buyers though. Ask for their names and remember their faces. Smile and be polite. Learn a few Thai phrases and speaking just a little bit of Thai can go a long way.
You can build rapport by going to a shop and make a purchase at a price that is reasonable to you the first day. Then, go back the next day and purchase some more. You might get a better price. But of course this only makes sense when time permits.
And this also only makes sense if you’re planning on becoming a repeat traveler to Thailand.
Remember, this Won’t Make You Rich…
Buying all sorts of products from Sampeng Market in Bangkok and selling them back home is not for everyone. The act of “selling” is not for everyone. You’d probably have to be an extrovert and being a natural sales person doesn’t hurt.
And it won’t take the place of a full time job if you’ve got one. Most casual travelers I’ve come across in Thailand that do this type of business sell on weekends with full time jobs during the weekdays. It’s just one way to supplement their income and save up for a return trip to Thailand.
This wont’ be easy but if you’re willing to put in the work you could make back enough money to pay for another ticket back to Thailand. I personally know people who’ve done just that and are truly happy.