There was somber news in the industry this week with the announcement that ChannelAdvisor is laying off 20% of its workforce. The company also announced it had raised an additional $20 million - including an undisclosed amount from eBay - bringing ChannelAdvisor's total VC funding to $80 million.
ChannelAdvisor's CEO Scot Wingo is often quoted in the media and speaks frequently to stock analysts covering eBay, and his blog is picked up by the Seeking Alpha website read by the investment community. So I was eager to read his blog for an account of the news beyond his interview with me. Instead, Scot relayed rumors of pending eBay layoffs.
Regardless of whether times are tough for eBay and its employees, as Scot describes, these are definitely tough times for eBay sellers as evidenced by my expanding email inbox. Last year I wrote about the eBay Dance, and I warned of a rocky ride ahead. My predictions about the effects of Best Match and DSRs were unfortunately realized, but even I could not imagine how rocky this year would become for sellers.
There is one more major bombshell that will shake the very core of the eBay seller community this year - a pilot program in which the catalogs of some major manufacturers and retailers will be launched onto the site as early as October with the help of third-part vendors. eBay will reportedly grant these Diamond level PowerSellers special privileges, including zero listing fees and a period in which they will not be subjected to DSR seller standards. The pilot, which I'm dubbing Operation Catalog, is fluid, with one-on-one negotiations taking place with each company.
Operation Catalog won't necessarily affect antiques and collectibles sellers, and sellers of unique items and end-of-life inventory, at least for some time. I'd expect it to affect certain sellers of new product in categories like clothing and electronics, depending on what brands are brought onto the site. Imagine, for example, that you are a shoe seller on eBay, and suddenly Nike's entire catalog of SKUs is competing with your listings. Not only are you competing with the manufacturer of the product you sell, but that competitor is getting free listings and better exposure. It may also leave third-party vendors in the awkward position of explaining to existing customers why some new clients are getting special consideration.
Having watched eBay's platform over the past decade, and having an inkling of what an enormous undertaking this is, I expect to see some glitches ahead. I also expect the move will further incent smaller sellers to diversify. Post a comment on the AuctionBytes Blog.
Finally, some sad news. Our hearts go out to the Kovels over the passing of Ralph, one half of the Ralph-and-Terry Kovel team that changed the antiques world with their publishing accomplishments. Terry and her children are continuing the business, a tribute to Ralph and a consolation to the couple's millions of fans. You can read more about Ralph's tremendous contribution to the antiques and collectibles world in AuctionBytes Newsflash, and click through to the Kovels' blog to leave a message of condolence.
Thanks for reading.