Several big brands including Orange, B&Q and 3 seem to have been underperforming on eBay recently, posing questions about the effectiveness of their stores on the auctioning site.

The companies have been using eBay to sell surplus or reconditioned stock - items that can no longer be sold to high street customers but have huge appeal to bargain hunters.

But Trevor Ginn, head of consulting at eBay service provider Auctioning4u, says sales have slowed for several brands that used to generate ‘moderate volumes’. 

Many have also managed to pick up negative feedback from buyers - mobile firm 3 has a particularly bad score of only 93.3%.

Here are some figures (based on feedback scores) on the number of items sold by five branded eBay stores over the last 12 months:

  • Orange – 5,876
  • Vodafone – 2,900
  • Robert Dyas – 2,006
  • B&Q – 1,504
  • 3 – 251

Trevor believes that these companies could easily be selling more than £1m worth of goods annually on eBay, so why aren’t they selling more than they currently are?

With over 200m users worldwide, and relatively low set up and listings fees, eBay offers a cost-effective solution for retailers to expand their internet presence.

It comes with its risks though, including the danger of brand damage or the cannibalisation of sales from companies’ existing stores and websites.

Of the firms that have eBay stores, some are also making what seem like very obvious mistakes.

Mobile retailer 3 has an eBay shop but for some weird reason has been using it to sell contract phones. To nobody’s surprise apart from perhaps the ever-enthusiastic 3 sales team, this has led to negative feedback from customers that won the auction but were subsequently refused a contract!

In the Orange eBay store, meanwhile, there appears to be far too many similar products on offer, and all of its auctions end within the same four hour period. This combination seems to have had the effect of driving down prices.

Another reason for the low sales could be that companies are treating eBay as a sideline and, as such, have not integrated the auction site with their other e-commerce channels.

If companies only sell on eBay as a side project, the amount of time and effort required to list items for sale – as well as keeping up with questions from buyers and managing the delivery of items - can be a big obstacle.

Trevor suggests that an automated solution may be the answer:

“One issue is that a lot of companies don’t use any decent automation software, which makes it a lot easier to list in bulk. Robert Dyas is a good example of this.”

“The sales are run by one person who has not got the time to load a decent number of Robert Dyas’ 2000 odd SKUs. Subsequently, you get very limited use of the eBay channel.”

B&Q told E-consultancy that it had experimented with automated listing solutions in the trial phase of its eBay store, but had abandoned the experiment and has decided not to use eBay to list surplus stock any longer.

Spokeswoman Alison Yaldren said the company is now selling surplus stock through its stores: “We found that sales were better through our existing clearance routes which don’t incur delivery costs”.

Further reading:

eBay and drop-off shops – interview with Trevor Ginn