| eBay Drop-off Stores Go International
By Elisabeth Townsend
October 13, 2004
Since 2003, eBay drop-off stores have sprung up all over the world including Australia, Canada, England, and Germany. Some of the new players include SellStuffEasy Ltd., SoldSmart International, and Dropshop Ltd., and all have plans for expansion. Like U.S. stores, they're aiming primarily for individual customers who haven't tried online auction selling on eBay. But they're also setting their sights on business customers handling direct sales, liquidation, and excess stock.
Taking items on consignment, they manage all standard aspects of the sale. Fees vary from about 20-32 percent. Although these stores sell a range of electronics as do American drop-off stores, there are a few surprises.
SellStuffEasy Ltd., England
"SellStuffEasy, eBay made easy" is the name that Henderson and his partner Benjamin Nel created when they were trying to think of ways to make selling on eBay easy for people.
Though SellStuffEasy only opened in March 2004 and is one of the first drop-off stores in England, it has outgrown its current store and is buying a larger one in North London. Expecting 200,000 - 300,000 pounds turnover in the next year, and despite expensive retail space, they plan to expand their London-based operation with four or more stores in the city in the next year or two. And there is another competitor in London, Auctioning4u.com (http://www.auctioning4u.com).
SellStuffEasy has some business customers, offering sales & liquidations services, but it has focused on consumer sales. There are differences from the American market.
According to Henderson, eBay isn't as popular in the United Kingdom as in the U.S. or Germany. That continues to present special marketing challenges in convincing people to use online auctioning. SellStuffEasy advertised with Google AdWords. They also distributed leaflets, but Henderson concluded that the English don't like direct marketing.
Another difference is "the majority of people [in London] do not drive," wrote Henderson. Most customers would prefer to call the store to arrange a sale and then want their items picked up; a service the company offers for a 15-pound fee within London. Even so, some do visit their store.
Either way, it seems to be working. "At least 65 percent of our customers are repeat customers or friends that they have recommended," said Henderson.
Successful sales have included electronics such as flat screen monitors, printers, computer peripherals, etc., and designer clothing and accessories. Henderson anticipates growth in both areas.
SoldSmart International, Australia
In business since 2002 and based in Sydney, SoldSmart is the first company in Australia to offer drop-off stores, and concentrates only on eBay Australia, the largest auction site in the country. The company also manages branded sites for customers, sells items for individual customers, and has corporate clients.
SoldSmart is profitable and "attracting interest from our local venture capital community," said Popyrin. In the last nine months, they have been growing an average rate of 24 percent a month. In the top ten sellers on eBay in Australia, they're dedicated to managing their growth by improving their operations, especially their software systems and processes.
Dropshop Ltd., Germany
Open for business since October 2003, Dropshop, the first retailer in the country, concentrates on eBay Germany, the largest auction platform in Germany, yet it does sell some on Germany's version of Amazon.
Though Dropshop works with businesses, it focuses on the consumer market. Currently, all goods delivered to their sites in retail shopping areas are handled by professional photographers, listers, and shippers in their Bavarian hub. They too offer pick-up services.
Founder, CEO, and Chairman Bart Swanson believes that knowing what to refuse is one of the challenges for Dropshop and said they "only accept items that we believe will sell on eBay for greater than 50 euros." Plus, he wants to deliver a "good customer experience, both for the buyer and the (product) owner," including a high-quality item description.
They plan to expand too, according to Swanson, with "several new stores in Munich, and...(in) several additional metro areas in the next six months." According to their Web site, "Dropshop Ltd. has the financial backing from global venture capital firms Benchmark Capital and Index Ventures, who have been behind ecommerce consumer powerhouses such as eBay and Betfair."
No wonder they've attracted venture capital. "Several of the founders of Dropshop worked for many years building Amazon in Europe, and were involved in launching the Amazon auction platform and zShops in both Germany and the UK," Swanson explained.
"We became very familiar with the eBay system, and at the time worked with lots of power sellers," Swanson said. "Given the hassles of listing, starting a service to help consumer and businesses seemed logical."
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