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

Graham Charlton

Published 21 February, 2007 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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Comments (4)

James Scott

James Scott, Managing Director at ChannelAdvisor UK Ltd

Hi Graham - James Scott from ChannelAdvisor UK here.

I found your post on 'big business on eBay' very interesting but don't fully agree with some of Trevor's comments. I've posted some of my thoughts on our ChannelAdvisor blog:

Keep up the good work - you have a great blog!

over 11 years ago

Trevor Ginn

Trevor Ginn, Managing Director at Hello Baby

having Read James' post on the channel advisor blog, i would broadly agree with his comments. Obviously having a strategy is important, but considering in Channel advisor's case, the ecommerce strategy is enabled by their software (and you can't get their strategic advice with out going for their sofware), I think that the two are pretty tightly connected

over 11 years ago


Pat Sherlock

Interesting article. I find lots of correlation between comments here and what we find when we talk to leading brand names about selling on eBay. (Declaration of interest: co-founder of a company that sells etail/eBay solutions to large companies)
- They don't see eBay as a 'real' marketplace
- They fear channel / brand / image conflict
- If they do decide to do it themselves they dedicate no more than a 'skunkworks' team to it ...and that invariable fails or at least doesn't suceed spectacularly

We literally sell millions of pounds worth of products across all of the european eBay platforms for some leading brands who have recognised that when done properly and with a highly leveraged suite of selling/fulfillment systems it can be a very rewarding marketplace. If you browse our eBay Stores you'll recognise some of those brands readily - so my contention is that there are quite a few big brands who are doing business on eBay and very successfully as well.

Pat Sherlock

over 11 years ago


Hugh Walter

Has anybody considered that for some of these company's; eBay might be highly unsuitable?

Three of the examples are mobile 'phone providers, they are already supplying independent and smaller multi-brand 'High Street' retail chains, not to mention the Retail Park giants, plus having their own chains of single brand stores and some sort of existing e-commerce, usually attached to their own website and linked to the likes of Amazon, and the various 'best of' sites.

With eBay awash with new (unwanted present) 'phones, nearly new (went for the 3 month upgrade) and every kind or quality of old or second hand unit, going right back to late 80's bricks, I would have thought it obvious that putting factory product next to the above would be problematical. A fixed price will be competing with lower priced similar items - on the same page - while a low or 99p start price may well result in a £50+ ($100+) model going for er...99p!

There is also the factor to consider that people in general have given up on that late 90's thing of frantically upgrading their handset every few months to 'stay fashionable', a situation recognised by the industry, which has tried to move from fashion hooks to value-added 'functionality' (although this has not been helped by the abject failure of any service provider to deliver more than a fraction of G3 promises) in order to maintain the sort of revenue streams they are used to.

Talking of revenue, whether you look at a service provider, say; Vodafone, or a manufacturer such as Nokia, their yearly turnover tends to be measured in tens - if not - hundreds of millions £Stirling (billions even), and the £1 million Trevor talks of, is something I'm sure they can miss without loosing too much sleep! Especially if chasing it will further saturate an already saturated market.

While I don't feel able to comment in depth on Robert Dyas, I would say the Guildford store is not a patch on what it was 20 years ago (when you could find everything, the range now slimmed down and very 'Big Brand' commercial), and while I'm not aware Dyas are struggling like other retailers (Boots, Woolworth's, WHSmith, BHS et al.), the time may be coming when closing down the high street operation in favour of a 100% on-line presence may be the bitter pill of the 21st century's 'wired world'. In which case they may well look at forming an in-house eBay arm, with trained listing staff as part of their 're-birth'.

B&Q on the other hand seems such an unlikely candidate for eBay, power-tools apart, when you want a bag or two of sand, you want a bag or two of sand - usually at 7.30 on a Saturday evening, in my experience! The beauty of B&Q is that they stay open 'till 9, so you just go and get your sand, paint, timber or fence panel, looking for it on ebay isn't going to help at all.

about 11 years ago

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