EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 112 - February 08, 2004 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 9

Report from Germany: Starting an eBay Consignment Business

By Mark O'Neill

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A recent report by eBay concluded that eBay Germany was its most lucrative operation outside the United States. More and more Germans are turning into eBay fanatics as times get tougher and money gets tighter. The need for a bargain, rather than paying full price, becomes as imperative as ever.

In the midst of this climate, you would think that auction consignment businesses in Germany would be in the middle of a booming business. Well think again. Times are so economically tight in Germany that Germans are not willing to even pay commission to a consignment company, even if they still get up to 70% of the money made from a sale.

Part of it was explained to me by a German friend who said, quite simply, Germans are a race of people that like to do things for themselves. By their very nature, Germans like to portray themselves as strong, fiercely independent, able to do whatever they want to do without help or interference from others. They especially don't like the idea of handing over at least 30% of their money to a company for something as basic as listing an auction. They would rather buy a computer, do a computer-training course and learn themselves the hard way. Or alternatively pull out their own teeth with a set of pliers and no anaesthetic.

But I'm not giving up with the consignment business as I do see areas of opportunity - namely the U.S. Military in Wurzburg and small businesses with minimal advertising budgets. Those in the north of Germany have the British military (what is left of it) to do business with, but down here in Wurzburg, this is U.S. Military country. Soldiers need to sell things quickly if they are shipping out soon.

I heard a report only today that said that soldiers were abandoning their cars in parking lots and then going away on deployment knowing they were never coming back to Germany. Instead of selling the car and making some money, they just dump the car in a parking lot and forget about it. Other soldiers though, being told that they are going to Iraq in a month or two, may suddenly want to get rid of a few things, and that is where I am going to step in.

A quick look at the U.S. Army newspaper shows two pages of classified ads where soldiers are advertising "urgent sales due to deployment." My immediate thought is "I could turn those adverts into eBay auctions." Soldiers need to sell everything - furniture, cars, pets, electronic equipment, even the carpets on their floors. You name it, they want it sold before they leave the country. Plus if they are in military training all day, they won't have time to set up eBay auctions themselves, answer sellers' questions, post items, etc.

The other area where there are possibilities are small businesses in the town, whose budgets and gross takings may not be enough for advertising themselves or exposing their product to a wider audience. Many small-business owners are working long hours and therefore are not inclined to sit in front of a computer and check out eBay. I am intending in the next few weeks to send out "on spec" sales letters to gauge possible interest. I'll keep you updated how it works out.

eBay Germany Trading Assistant Resources

eBay Germany Trading Assistant Page:

eBay Germany Trading Assistants Forum

eBay Germany Marketing Tools

eBay Germany Trading Assistants - More Information

eBay Drop-off Store in Munich, Germany

About the author:

Mark O'Neill is Managing Editor of the popular tech blog, He is a Scotsman, now living the ex-pat life in Wurzburg, Germany. You can also find him on MarkO'

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