Buying & Selling Amazon FBA Businesses: What Our $3,650,106.28 Case Study Found Out in 2017
In January 2017 we released a data-driven analysis of the Amazon FBA market. At the time, Amazon FBA businesses were selling for around a 20x multiple, on average, and we concluded it was an awesome time to be on the buy side of the market.
Amazon FBA was still really ramping up and, similar to when affiliate sites first started hitting the buy-and-sell market, sellers were getting pretty low multiples as investors began to learn about the business model.
Flash forward almost eight months later, and the market is starting to see a shift; the average multiple for a sold Amazon FBA business now sits at 23x, or 23 times the net monthly profit of that business.
On average, the majority of online businesses will sell for a 20–50x multiple, with anything above 40x being on the extreme high end of pricing. While most brokerages get their data scraped once a year, resulting in reports detailing what multiples businesses are selling at, what the reports don’t tell you is that those prices aren’t the whole story.
The majority of those studies use what we in the industry call “list prices” (look at other broker terminology here). List price is what the broker has deemed the business is worth; they try to sell the business at that price.
What these annual studies miss is the more important price: the “sales price” or what the business is ACTUALLY sold for. The studies aren’t at fault — most brokerages just aren’t willing to share what the actual sales prices are for the businesses they’ve sold.
Luckily for you, we’re going share both the list price and the sales price.
Buyers now understand Amazon FBA businesses much better (if you don’t know about Amazon FBA, read our newbie post here that covers the business model). Competition for purchasing these businesses has increased, as evidenced by the increase in sales prices for these businesses, along with the increase in their list prices.
Let’s take a deep dive into the FBA deals we’ve done here at Empire Flippers over the last few months and the takeaways we discovered during an analysis of those deals.
What 19 Amazon FBA Businesses and $3,650,106.28 Worth of Deals Tells Us
For this research, we analyzed the sales of 19 Amazon FBA businesses from January through September 2017. Before we get into the deal specifics, let’s first look take a look at the current popularity of Amazon FBA using good old Google Trends:
This image shows January through September 2017, with between 40 to 80 search terms at any given time. You can see that Amazon FBA search popularity is pretty stable for this time period.
Here’s the historic trend:
As you can see, over the last five years searches for the phrase “Amazon FBA” have grown significantly. While there is a little downturn happening, I don’t see interest in Amazon FBA flatlining anytime soon. In fact, with new markets coming online such as Amazon Australia and Amazon Singapore, I believe overall the Amazon FBA business model is only going to continue to grow.
Let’s look at the niches these 19 deals participated in:
Here’s the Breakdown on Amazon FBA Niches We’ve Sold:
- 6 Home & Kitchen
- 1 Automotive
- 2 Fitness
- 1 Toys & Games
- 3 Sports
- 1 Home Improvement
- 1 Baby Care
- 1 Outdoor & Patio
- 1 DIY & Crafts
- 2 Health & Personal Care
Our last data-driven analysis showed no clear niche winner. This time we had more deals to look at, and one surprising (or unsurprising, depending on how familiar you are with the niche) leader is the Home and Kitchen space.
Last time, while there were no definite winners, there were plenty of sales in the health-related niche. This time is no different, with three Sports, two Health & Personal care, and two Fitness-specific FBA businesses being sold on our marketplace. If you consider these types of business together, Health as a whole remains the leading niche.
As far as Home & Kitchen goes, it makes sense for it to be a common niche considering just how many products it covers — entire niche content sites are often built around just a FEW items in that space after all, such as toasters or woks.
I expect we will continue to see Health overall being a leading category, most likely followed by Home & Kitchen, which could be related to healthy living through items such as blenders or juicers.
With niches out of the way, what other statistics were we able to pull from looking at these 19 deals?
Here’s a Quick Business Data Snapshot:
- Deals Made: 19
- Average Time Sold: 74 days (64 without an outlier)
- Average Sale Price Multiple: 23
- Average List Price Multiple: 26
- Average Sale Deal Size: $192,110
- Average List Deal Size: $223,952
The first thing that may stand out to you is the average time — around 74 days — it takes to sell an Amazon FBA business. Now that includes an outlier — businesses that take an unusual length of time for us to sell, such as our $1.7 million Amazon FBA deal (read the case study here).
Even if we remove that outlier, though, the average time for an Amazon FBA business to go from live on our marketplace into the hands of a new owner is 64 days, on average. The timeline is a bit longer than our overall marketplace average, which hovers more around the 45 day mark.
There are a few reasons why Amazon FBA businesses take longer to sell.
First of all, there are more moving parts to Amazon FBA businesses than to traditional affiliate content sites, where, typically, the only real ongoing cost is ordering new content. With Amazon FBA businesses, there might be multiple suppliers, logistic systems, and more advanced customer service systems (the majority of affiliate content sites have zero customer service expenses).
It’s worth noting that the average deal size is $192,110, but if we remove the outlier, the average deal size is still $108,339.24. That firmly puts Amazon FBA businesses close to our average deal size marketplace-wide, which is $115,103.62 (read more about our overall marketplace in our last quarterly report).
Any deal we make on our marketplace above the $75k mark is rarely completely paid for upfront by the buyer. Typically, there needs to be deal structuring that works for both the buyer and the seller. The additional negotiation also adds time to to get the deal done and the business sold.
Out of the total sales price of $3,650,106.28 for these 19 deals, we received $2,661,406.28 in upfront payment for the businesses.
That figure is 73 percent of the full sales price (for all deals combined) and serves as a reminder that when you sell a six- or seven-figure business, don’t expect to receive 100% of the sales price right away. It is more than likely you will only be able to sell the business using some form of deal structuring.
For sellers sitting on a $100k+ Amazon FBA business and wanting to sell it, then you should prepare yourself for this added time necessary for negotiations and deal structuring.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this data is that we are still firmly in a buyer’s market for Amazon FBA businesses based off the sales multiples we are seeing. While the average Amazon FBA business is listed at a 26 multiple, they are being sold only at a 23 multiple. As far as multiples go, this is somewhat lower than the multiples other monetization methods are selling at.
True, the average multiple has grown from 20x to 23x since last December, which is a 15 percent increase in sales value. But it is still early days for an FBA business when it comes to making a profitable exit, because it is still a buyer’s market and demand has yet to grow enough to further increase the sales multiple.
If you’re a buyer with a good war chest, now is a FANTASTIC time to scour our marketplace and really look for great deals. The value of these businesses is likely to only continue to increase. As more buyers enter the market, the pendulum will eventually swing into a seller’s market where an FBA business will be sold for multiples closer to the 28–33x range.
Many buyers are purchasing Amazon FBA businesses as a way to quickly jumpstart real brands. Buyers love the fact that the business manages a physical, tangible product, and already has all the logistics handled. It is a simple matter for them to open up a Shopify store with full-blown marketing funnels to start selling their product through multiple channels with their own store. Or, since the product is already made and shown to be a winner, buyers will often expand the business by getting the products onto other marketplaces like Walmart, Home Depot, Houzz, or Jet.
Right now, as a buyer, you can get first mover advantage in getting these businesses at a pretty good discount.
For a seller, this information might dishearten you or lead you to not sell your business at all. Why sell now when you can just wait 8–12 months and see a potential 15 percent or more increase into your business’s value? Not to mention that 8–12 months of added business track record and potential growth could also seriously increase your business value.
I have a few thoughts on that, which I’ll include below, but first I wanted to give you some general advice, whether you wait to sell your business or decide to jump right in and submit your business for sale with us in the short term.
For this next section, I’ve recruited our business advisors to give their input.
Collectively, these two advisors have sold millions of dollars worth of Amazon FBA businesses and will give you a good picture on what you SHOULD do before selling your business, while also giving you hard-won insights into the FBA market itself.
Advice for Selling an Amazon FBA Business from Two Professionals in the Trenches
These business advisors help negotiate deals on a daily basis and have seen the completion of far more deals than what we’ve covered in this case study. There is a lot of wisdom in what they have to say.
Without further ado, let me introduce you to them and the advice they have for you:
What is Your Top Tip for Selling an Amazon FBA Business?
I think most buyers are looking for risk mitigation, especially in the FBA space. When possible, look for opportunities to develop more SKUs and place your products on additional countries’ Amazon marketplaces (i.e., expanding from just the U.S. market into Amazon’s E.U. or Canadian markets).
Where Do You See the Amazon FBA Space Going?
I think it is going to continue to grow and continue to get harder and harder for new players to enter. Building a trusted brand and finding a way to offer additional value to your customers is going to become more and more important as the market’s competitive landscape grows more fierce.
What is Your Top Tip for Selling an Amazon FBA Business?
Don’t wait for your business to decline to think about selling. You can sell your stable or growing business for more than you can a declining business. The valuation is not the only thing that matters when you think about selling your business. Leverage matters as well. You’ll likely have both a higher multiple and more leverage if you choose the right time to sell the business.
Yes, you may forego the income from profitable months, but at the end of the day you’ll have a larger pool of capital sooner to start your next project. The opportunity cost is your time and the time value of money.
Where Do You See the Amazon FBA Space Going?
Up and to the right.
Amazon is going to keep expanding into new markets for FBA sellers to tackle; Australia being the most imminent. The competition is going to ramp up quickly and it will be difficult for new players to get in on the game before long, especially in big niches.
Extra Tip: Pull your Amazon reports (by SKU, inventory, ACOS and PPC stats) from Amazon Seller Central every single month since Amazon doesn’t let you go farther back than three months for most of these.
Why Sell an Amazon FBA Business At All in a Buyer’s Market?
As I mentioned above, you could just wait a few months and see another 15 percent increase in average sales prices for FBA businesses. Those few months could expand your business to new heights, plus you add whole months to your overall track record that could seriously raise your multiple.
So why sell now?
Well, you shouldn’t sell the business. You should wait if you want to get the best price possible.
Unless… (there’s that caveat)
You have an actual REASON to sell the business. Even at 23x, selling your FBA business means you’re collecting almost TWO YEARS of profit upfront in one nice lump sum (or pretty close to it depending on your negotiations).
Is there an opportunity to invest in real estate? Something personal in your life that requires that kind of money? Then it might be worth it not to wait, since money now has more power than money later.
If you’re like the vast majority of our sellers, then one of the main reasons to sell the business is because you have another project you’re working on that is taking up all of your time. Rather than allow your old business to get covered in dust, degrade in profitability, and ultimately be worth less… why not sell the business during its prime, while you can get as much money as possible out of it?
One thing Alex said above is that the Amazon FBA space is going to keep getting tougher when it comes to competition. If you sold your FBA business now, you could use that capital to reinvest into growing another FBA business in a far more competitive (and lucrative) space, and have an edge over anyone else just starting out in that space.
After all, you will have a war chest to be able to spend more on:
- Product development
- Amount of product you can order
- Customer Service
This kind of influx of capital can even unseat the authority in certain niches if you use it wisely to compete in that market.
Right now it’s a good buyer’s market, and there are a lot of investors out there hungry for this style of business. If you have a good plan of what to do with the capital to leverage it into more lucrative opportunities for yourself, then even in a buyer’s market it is still a good time to make that profitable exit.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you.
Do you have a good plan in place of what to do with the capital? If not, then the best route might be to wait before selling and you’ll benefit from an overall increase in sales multiple, which in turn will give you a higher valuation.
If you’re curious as to where your business sits right now, check out our free valuation tool to get a rough estimate of what your asset is worth.
Photo credit: jordache