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Shopster lets you set up your own Web store--to sell somebody else's stuff

Shopster lets you set up your own Web store--to sell somebody else's stuff

If you want to get into e-commerce but don't want to actually do any work, check out Shopster. This site lets you set up your own online store without actually having to own any inventory, ship any boxes, process any credit cards, design any products, deal with customer returns, or do anything else normally associated with keeping a shop. The only thing you need to do is name your store and select items from Shopster's inventory of goods. The rest is fairly automatic and handled by Shopster.

Of course, if you set up a store without giving it much thought, you probably won't make much money. Shopster does let you apply thought to your storefront. You can write your own product blurbs, put products into categories you define, and set your own prices (but you can't sell anything for less than the Shopster warehouse price). You can choose from a few different site designs, too, or dive into the templates and monkey with layouts. You can even create coupons. To a limited extent, Shopster lets you be your own J. Peterman. Here's my store, created with very little thought: rafestore.secure2u.com (note that it will go offline after October 6).

There's something that bothers me about this service, though. It's not what I would consider a true e-commerce solution. You can sell only what Shopster has in its warehouse, which is fairly large, but not Amazon large. This makes it more like an affiliate marketing engine for Shopster's own inventory, with the twist that you get your own storefront and can set your own prices.

Amazon, by the way, has a new affiliate "store" system called aStore. However, you can't set your own prices, and you're paid on a sliding percentage of sales, not on profit.

While it has a smaller inventory, Shopster is more flexible and potentially more profitable for online retailers than aStore. It could be a very useful service if you want to open a branded store quickly, or if you have a particular flair for writing catalog copy and are convinced that your customers won't go elsewhere on the Web to find lower prices on the items you are pitching.

Shopster is thankfully not free (otherwise we'd run the risk of the Web being deluged with Shopster pop-up stores). It costs $39 a month, and there's a $99 set-up fee; additional services (such as the capability to sell more than 4,000 items per store) require an additional fee. You can try Shopster for a week for no charge, but a credit card is required.

If you want to sell your own goods, you'll want another e-commerce solution, such as Shopify, Yahoo Stores, or eBay. Or to sell gift items of your own design, manufactured on demand, check out CafePress or Qoop.