- Neil Lassen has been selling merchandise online for about 10 years, and consults for other sellers.
- He says competition is fierce, so successful sellers need to find a niche.
- Popular items for him include adult coloring books, novelty T-shirts, political gear, and puzzles.
Neil Lassen was a college student in his early 20s working at Target when he decided he wanted to learn how to make money online. He decided to learn more about ecommerce as a side hustle — specifically about selling physical merchandise on platforms like Amazon and Etsy.
Today, about 10 years later, Lassen has a thriving online business and provides consulting services to others who want to find the same success that he did selling goods online.
Lassen told Insider that the key to make a lot of sales is “finding your niche,” because competition in online merchandise sales is very high.
“There’s a niche for everything, though,” he continued. “Every little tiny thing that you’d think would make no sense? There’s typically a market out there for that.”
He shared with Insider five items on Amazon that he’s found always sell incredibly well, based on his decade of experience selling items online.
1. Coloring books for adults
According to Lassen, one of the “higher margin” book genres on Amazon is coloring books. He added that any kind of coloring books will do well, whether for kids or adults, but added that adult-themed coloring books are surprisingly popular.
“I had no idea when I got started that there were so many adult-related coloring books,” Lassen said. These coloring can be targeted toward different, specific demographics.
“Imagine you’re a nurse, and you’re really upset after work because of all these people that you’re dealing with in the middle of the day,” Lassen said, giving an example. “You just want to sit down and color things that are related to nurses … but that have like, swearing all over them.”
“I’ve seen stuff like that sell incredibly well because it resonates with people,” he continued.
2. Novelty T-shirts
According to Lassen, novelty t-shirts are a really big seller online and have been high-sellers consistently.
“I have certain T-shirts on Amazon that are just hilarious, and they’re bought as gag gifts,” he said. “They’re going to continuously sell, and I don’t see that going away.”
Lassen added that people respond and buy them if the shirt “gets a rise out of people.” When he wore a novelty T-shirt that said “Have you tried trying” to the gym, multiple people stopped to laugh and ask him where he got the shirt.
“People will comment on it: ‘Where did you get that? I need one of those for my daughter. I need one of those for my son,” he said. “That’d be really great for someone I know,’ — go on Amazon and search for it.”
3. Merchandise with political or religious messaging
Merchandise with political and sometimes religious messaging can get a lot of traction on Amazon, but you have to tread carefully if you want to get into this niche. “You really have to pay attention to copyright and trademarking,” Lassen said. “You can’t just put Bernie’s [Sanders] face on there and sell it to everyone.”
Lassen said that Merch by Amazon takes intellectual property very seriously, and will take things down if you’re not authorized to use the images for your merch. However, generalized political messaging is fair game.
Lassen said that there’s a market for all sorts of political messaging merchandise, whether it’s right wing, left wing, libertarian, or even merchandise for apolitical people who are sick of hearing about politics. “That does really well pretty much all year, if it’s somehow relevant to some event going on in the world or some sort political position that’s going on in the world,” said Lassen.
Items that tackle religion also sell really well — even stuff you wouldn’t expect. One product Lassen found sold really well was a shirt that said “Jesus is a mushroom.”
4. Seasonal holiday items
Lassen said that depending on the time of year, seasonal holiday items can do really well for online merchandisers.
“Every single holiday — 4th of July, Easter, Christmas … but those aren’t really evergreen products,” Lassen said. “So people will put some up, hopefully sell a bunch of them, and then it’ll drop off until next year.”
Currently, we are in a season that Lassen said is particularly lucrative — LGBTQ Pride season. “Pride month always kills it on Amazon. Those items just speak to people and they fly off the shelves,” Lassen said.
According to Lassen, puzzles, mazes, hangman, crosswords, and Sudoku are all really hot sellers on Amazon, which he credits to the pandemic. “Those spiked in the pandemic and they’re just staying up there, doing ridiculous amounts of volume,” he said.
However, he added that breaking into this kind of online merchandising can be hard because of how particularly fierce the competition is in this area. “There are a lot of products out there,” Lassen said. “So you really have to niche them down.”