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Bestselling products of all time? We’re sailing on a ship of fools if we believe this list.


I wanted to compose a list of the bestselling products of all time and I have failed. It seems impossible to get a straightforward answer to a simple question. I figured someone somewhere would know, and it would be on the internet and I could present the information to you with a flourish. I was deluded.

When you do a search for the bestselling products of all time you get an article from USA Today, that seems to have probably been a Time Magazine article originally, and then you get a couple of hundred bastardizations of the same article. Although it’s a bit snoresville, I can reiterate that the original article lists the bestselling items of all time as:

1. Sony PlayStation – 344 million units
2. Lipitor (a pharmaceutical for heart-related ailments produced by Pfizer) – Total sales: $141 billion
3. Toyota Corolla (car) – Total sales: 40.7 million units
4. Star Wars Movies – Total sales: $4.6 billion
5. Apple iPad Tablet – Total sales: 211 million units
6. Nintendo Mario Bros Video game franchise – Total sales: 262 million units
7. Michael Jackson’s Thriller Album – Total sales: 70 million units
8. Harry Potter Book series – Total sales: 450 million units
9. Apple iPhone – Total sales: 516 million units
10. Rubik’s Cube – Total sales: 350 million units

To determine the best-selling products of all-time, categories of products widely purchased by consumers, and individual products that had the highest sales in their category were reviewed. Some figures were estimated. It’s not a great list – it’s subjective and quite obviously does not include everyday items. In other words, this list is many things, but it is not a list of the bestselling products of all time.

So that, according to the internet is that, but this list of bestselling products of all time certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. I had decided that razors and other disposable items would probably be the bestselling items of all time. Yes, in my head I had pictured zillions of toothbrushes, mugs, biros, cutlery and miscellaneous pieces of plastic. What about plastic water bottles for example?

So I then looked at what China exports – thinking that this would give me a better understanding of consumerism in the 21st century, if not the bestselling products of all time. I found a Daily Telegraph article that informed me that the Top 10 products China manufactures most in the world, include: ships, cement, coal, shoes, personal computers and solar cells. Really? I seriously doubt they export more ships than they do washing up bowls, frankly.

There must be zillions of some disposable items used daily. What are they?


So I searched elsewhere for Chinese exports (working on the basis of my assumption than China is the biggest mass manufacturer of items in the world). I found another article that explained in dollar value the worth of Chinese exports, shipped out of the country in 2015. These included:

Electronic equipment: US$600.3 billion (26.3% of total exports)
Machines, engines, pumps: $364.5 billion (16%)
Furniture, lighting, signs: $98.7 billion (4.3%)
Knit or crochet clothing: $83.8 billion (3.7%)
Clothing (not knit or crochet): $78.5 billion (3.4%)
Medical, technical equipment: $73.8 billion (3.2%)
Plastics: $65.8 billion (2.9%)
Vehicles: $62.7 billion (2.7%)
Iron or steel products: $60.6 billion (2.7%)
Footwear: $53.6 billion (2.3%)

Furniture, lighting and signs were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 66.4% for the 5-year period starting in 2011.

In second place for improving export sales were plastics which rose 44.9%.

Chinese electronic equipment posted the third-fastest gain in value at 34.7%, followed by footwear up by 28.5%.

The slowest-growing among the top 10 Chinese exports was machinery which appreciated a tepid 3% and knit or crochet clothing which was up by 4.6%.

So there you have it. In spite of worldwide concern about the use of plastic, plastic exports were up in 2015 by 44.9%, while crocheted clothing was less popular. Again, what we have here is a list of the value of products shipped, rather than the number of individual items, but that’s what I want to know.

I’ve drawn a blank, but I did find a website which is worth drawing your attention to. Global Sources.com is an interesting website, listing reliable exporters and where to find them. This gave me the closest approximation of the bestselling items of all time! Well no they didn’t, but I did find the most queried products for December 2016.

Of course! One of the bestselling items of all time


The list of most popular houseware products drawn from the most buyer queries for December 2016 included:

Glass tumblers
Ceramic mugs
Disposable paper cups
Glass food jars
Porcelain dinnerware sets
Closet storage boxes
Pet GPS trackers & smart collars
Kitchen towels
Cake molds
Disposable plastic cups
Storage baskets

So if you’re looking to sell products that are in demand, I advise you to check out the lists on Globalsources.com. It’s a really useful resource, and you’ll find lists for all manner of categories. Once you know what’s popular be sure to have a look and see what we have in stock here at Wholesale Clearance UK. It’ll save you export fees if nothing else.

Over to you

Help me out here! What everyday products do you think have sold the most units (not value) over the past twenty years or so? Join in the conversation below or head over to Facebook.

2 Responses to “Bestselling products of all time”

Peter HockettFebruary 27th, 2017 at 10:25 am

Surely it must be Toilet Paper! Its a product used throughout the developed world, disposable (obviously), and used by most people of all ages and genders at least once a day. Not a very glamorous product I know, but I challenge anyone to suggest a product more worthy of the title “Best selling product of all time” lol

Alan SaundersApril 1st, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Peter is may be right – remember the Great Japanese Toilet Tissue Shortage! But, even if you count by kilos rather than by grains I guess rice would be the top contender.

The above figures are for Chinese exports, a country that size must also have a huge internal market.
Under ‘steel goods’ I bought a ‘Sabatier’, Richardsons of Sheffield kitchen knife for a quarter of the old Sabatier prices. The very small print said ‘Made in China’. Similarly, a Honda generator is five times the price of a Chinese, like-for-like copy. Clearly turnover is not the best measure. Surely, what most of us are looking for is the best profit margin.

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