Buying and selling top quality UK government surplus gear is an unmissable money making opportunity for the shrewd entrepreneur. Every year the UK government spends billions of pounds buying equipment and stock for its many departments and ministries, which has to be disposed of once it has served its purpose. It is usually sold off at bargain basement prices, and the healthy retail prices you can charge make this venture extremely profitable.
Think again if you have visions of buying up Chieftain tanks (low mileage, one careful owner) or thousands of fashionable pullovers in any colour you like so long as its green. Not all UK government surplus is ex-army, nor is it utilitarian in any way. Often it is perfectly ordinary equipment of the type you would find in any supermarket or department store. Given UK government purchasing specifications, it is usually of premium quality.
A look at the catalogues of some recent surplus sales reveals all sorts of interesting stock - three piece suites, cookers, microwaves, office equipment, cars, power tools, computers and much more besides. Some of it admittedly is used, but equally some of it has never been taken out of the original packaging.
So now you know what UK government surplus is, here's how to go about buying and selling it...
FINDING OUT ABOUT SALES
You can telephone any UK government department or public body and ask them how they dispose of their surplus stocks.
You'll find that most UK government surplus sales are held by an agency or contractor rather than the UK government department themselves. This organisation will be authorised to handle all disposals, usually in the form of direct sales, sale by tender, and sale by auction.
To the small trader, the best way of buying UK government surplus is by auction. They offer you the chance to buy small lots at low prices, unlike the tendering system which often requires you to bid for hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of surplus at a time.
The next step is to obtain details of forthcoming sale dates and venues, which are held at depots all over the country on a regular basis. A professional firm of auctioneers will usually be appointed to conduct the sale and you can obtain a catalogue direct from them.
BUYING SUCCESSFULLY AT AUCTIONS
Once you have obtained sale catalogues for the kind of goods you are interested in, you will be able to decide which sales you want to attend, when and where they are being held, and which lots are of most interest. If you wish to inspect the goods you can usually make an individual appointment before the sale day.
Bidding in surplus auctions is conducted in the same way as any other auction. Anyone is entitled to bid (be sure to register with the clerk and obtain a bidding card before the sale commences) and the amount you have bid is payable by cash or bank draft on the fall of the hammer. Any lots you purchase must be removed from the venue within a specified time limit, which in the case of most sales is 21 days. If you do not want to bid yourself, or are unable to travel to the sale, most auctioneers will accept a fixed bid by post which they will then make at the sale on your behalf. This must be accompanied by a deposit of 25 per cent of the amount you have bid.
BUYING BARGAINS FROM THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
The Ministry of Defence offers some of the best potential for the small entrepreneur. They dispose of huge quantities of equipment and supplies annually. Much of this is non-military in nature, some new or nearly new, offering plenty of scope to be purchased and resold on the civilian market.
MOD sales are administered by the Disposal Sales Agency (DSA). They in turn have various contractors who handle different types of surplus and dispose of them in various different ways, including by auction. For example, clothing, textiles, motor spares, furniture and computers are all handled separately, by different contractors. Reductions in the British Forces in Germany (BFG) have meant massive surplus stocks of equipment and supplies from these sources are also disposed of on a regular basis.
The DSA also has a dial a fax service and a recorded information service providing more information, including particulars of forthcoming sales. Premium rate charges apply. A good place to start is: www.airforce-technology.com/contractors/platforms/index.html
HOW TO PROFIT FROM SURPLUS STOCKS
Many purchasers use UK government disposals as a way of bagging a bargain for their own personal use. So, if you are looking for a car, van or truck, computer or office equipment, or new machinery or equipment for your factory, then you may be able to obtain it at a surplus sale for a fraction of its retail value. However, you can see that even greater rewards are on offer when you buy UK government surplus for resale on the commercial market.
Obviously, the method by which you turn a profit depends to some extent on the kind of equipment and stock you have purchased. All it takes is a little imagination and you could be buying surplus items for pounds and reselling them for hundreds! Here are some suggestions:
Classified Ads - Good for reselling cars, vans, trucks, etc.
Market Stalls - Ideal for reselling clothing, footwear, electrical equipment
Boot Sales - Can be used to resell tools, equipment and spare parts
Mail Order - Can be used for reselling household goods, linens, textiles, appliances, clothing
Retail Shops - A possibility if you are buying larger quantities of surplus. Ideal for reselling furnishings, computers, office equipment, camping equipment and so on.
Once you have gained a little experience in surplus sales, then it is very easy to upscale your operation and buy even bigger and more lucrative lots. Many of the larger companies involved in UK government surplus supply retailers, wholesalers and industry in general, and there is also a lucrative export trade to be exploited. So, as I said at the beginning, this is an unmissable opportunity for the shrewd entrepreneur.