THE QUESTION FROM A READER:
I have been selling on ebay for the past few years. My only expertise, if I have any, is in old pocket watches.
I have purchased the watches from an ad I placed in a local newspaper. I did great for a year or so, then business dropped off. That is, the availability of the product dropped off. I was a Power Seller for awhile while my volume was up, but I’m having trouble getting inventory now.
In these circumstance, what would you suggest?
Thanks in advance.
First, congrats on finding a niche! It sounds very promising to me.
Regarding your issue:
No matter what you are selling on eBay sometimes inventory issues arise.
I have a few suggestions that I think will get you as much inventory as you can handle!
Since you were able to get an inventory of watches from many people in your area consider contacting your customer base and tell them that you are expanding into other areas.
Some hot areas to consider are:
-antiques (try to specialize)
Use simple creative partnerships that I call “consignment holding shops”.
Here’s how “consignment holding shops” work:
First, you widen the advertising area where you find watches and advertise in cities once thought too far away for your “drive up” consignment business.
DON’T have the watches hand delivered or mailed to you. Instead, use “Consignment holding shops” to smooth out the process.
What are “consignment holding shops”?
In your case it might be a jewelry shop in a “far off” town where you run your classified ad. You’ll need to find a “friendly jeweler” and ask them to hold your customers watches until they sell – that way the customer doesn’t have to mail the watch to you, but the watch is secured while on auction (the first rule of consignment selling – hold the inventory).
Have a couple of simple written agreements made up. One agreement says that you (or the “consignment holding shops”) are taking possession of the watch until the auction is over. The other agreement is between you and the “consignment holding shops” and spells out the terms of your relationship (pay rate, responsibilities etc.)
Another benefit – the watch is shipped once instead of twice (you never touch it).
You’ll have to pay the jewelry shops for their time of course. This may also lead to a good partnership with jewelers who will allow you to be their eBay expert and sell for them.
Trouble finding “consignment holding shops”?
Another option for a “consignment holding shop” partner is any independently owned pack and ship facility. A lot of them are doing a lot of business because of eBay – and they understand the process of securing packages, taking digital photos, and waiting on successful auction transactions to close. A simple yellow pages search should lead to plenty of possible partners.
Another possible use of “consignment holding shops”: I’ve been talking latelyÂ with a very successful powerseller who sees the consignemt opportunity as a great way to run a general consignment business on eBay, but the store front businesses that sell items on eBay for you seem to be struggling. They struggle because they spendÂ a lot of time talking to customers about their “junk”. Consider this idea though: instead of spending your days talking to a steady stream of people bringing you “yard sale” junk you can simply pick up the “good stuff” once per week at your “consignment holding shop” partner site and all other customers have to come back and pick up their own junk without any difficult lengthy conversations. Once you have a successful relationship with a consignment partner why not try to expand and sell other “high ticket” items?
As you’ve been doing, research and be a bit of an expert on the items you solicit and continue to grow your mailing list. Only good things can happen when you have a large mailing list!
If you do start to expand into different areas of expertise I suggest you have a different and distinctly themed eBay account for each specialty. Position yourself as “The number one used watch seller on eBay” with your current account – this will help you approach your partners with confidence and a professional image.
Finally, consider getting a website where you explain your business and grow your mailing list. Taking that step is certain to pay off in many ways.Â My buddy Terry Gibbs started out selling model trains on eBay using many of the ideas mentioned above. He’s now grown that business into a HUGE online empire.