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For fashion retailers, eBay offers a potentially useful channel for them to sell clearance and end of season stock to a large user base. 

This is a tactic that brands have used in the past, and since the launch of its Fashion Outlet a year ago, eBay has attracted a number of high street brands. 

According to eBay, there are more than 4m searches for clothing and shoes every month, and retailers have sold 4.2m pairs of shoes and 4m dresses on its site over the past 12 months. 

One of the retailers using the Fashion Outlet is Office. I spoke to E-commerce manager Al Gerrie about selling on eBay... 

How has selling on eBay worked out for you? 

We've acquired 60,000 new customers through eBay. We've checked carefully for duplication, and these are all new buyers, most of whom would not normally have bought shoes from Office. 

Sales through eBay have passed the £1m mark and are still growing, and year on year growth has been encouraging. On some days, we've sold in excess of 1,000 pairs of shoes.  

Is it just surplus items you are selling via eBay? Are all your items buy it now?

Sometimes it's end of line items, other times we are selling surplus stock. We have more than 5,000 listings on eBay at any one time from a variety of brands. 

We mainly sell on a buy it now basis, but we've been experimenting with the auction format, and we may look at using this for clearance stock. 

Were you worried that selling on eBay would cannibalise sales from other channels? 

We see eBay as an additional and complementary channel, and one which brings with it a different buyer and demographic. 

The typical Office customer is a young women in her 20s and 30s, but the average eBay buyer for Office is looking at men's trainers. It's an audience that we can appeal to more here than elsewhere. 

Were there any concerns that selling discounted shoes on eBay would harm the brand? 

There was some apprehension initially, as we are at the more expensive end of the high street shoe retailers, but now we don't have any issues about selling on eBay. 

I think the general perception of eBay has changed over the last year or so, and it is becoming a popular destination for fashion buyers, it's not all auctions of second-hand goods anymore. 

It's a tremendous place to pick up buyers, as millions of users are on the site at any one time. 

How are you converting eBay buyers into regular customers? 

Unlike Amazon Marketplace, eBay allows retailers to market to customers after purchase, so they're able to opt in and sign up for newsletters. 

We aren't necessarily trying to take these customers off eBay and onto our other channels, we're happy to market back to them through eBay and keep them informed of offers and sales through this channel, driving traffic to our eBay store. 

Of course, we're happy if they come to our website, but any channel is legitimate. 

How do you optimise your position in eBay searches? 

We have to try and achieve the best possible customer service ratings, and there are best practices to follow with use of keywords and product descriptions, as well as product photos.

Also, there is a need for attention to detail when it comes to delivery.

What tools are you using for multiple listings?

We use eSellerPro as an inventory management tool, and it can link across many channels at once, though we are just using it for eBay. 

How is Office performing online in general? What is your multichannel strategy?

We've been experiencing double-digit growth year on year, and online sales figures are very healthy. 

There's an iPhone app on the way in the next few weeks, which is partly designed for customers to use in stores. We also use catalogues to drive sales online, as well as foot traffic into stores. 

Like most online retailers, direct traffic has been declining, and we have to use every channel available to use to drive sales, search, social media and mobile, and that includesl online marketplaces like eBay. 

Graham Charlton

Published 27 April, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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