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EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 311 - May 20, 2012 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 7

eBay's Titanium Sellers: Where Are They Now?


By Julia Wilkinson
EcommerceBytes.com

May 20, 2012
 



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If you fell asleep in 2004 and awoke today, you might be shocked at how much eBay has changed. In today's issue, EcommerceBytes takes a look back at the 50 top sellers on eBay from 2004 to find out if they're still on eBay and asks, where are they now?

A majority of the top 50 of the eBay "Titanium" sellers from a list of the top 500 eBay sellers in 2004 are currently listing no items for sale. EcommerceBytes examined the 2004 Nortica List of eBay Titanium sellers to see if they were still selling on eBay or if they had moved on to something entirely different.

eBay defines a Titanium seller as a PowerSeller who either does $1,800,000 in annual sales, or 180,000 annual transactions, and meets other customer support criteria.

Number one on the list, "JayandMarie," perhaps the most famous of all eBay sellers over the years, put up their business up for auction in March 2004 starting at $5 million dollars, but got no takers. Currently, the "JayandMarie" eBay ID has some 4170 results listed, and a feedback number of 1,030,219, as opposed to 181,680 back in 2004.

Now, according to their website, they also "offer our unsurpassed auction fulfillment services to companies, both large and small, that want to have a brief and exciting eBay experience for themselves and their customers."

Moving On
Some top sellers are no longer selling on eBay at all, but doing something very different. "GlacierBayDVD," ranked #2 on the list, is currently not offering anything for sale, and its owner, Randy Smythe, has moved on to a job as Senior Director, Marketplace for Buy.com. "I'm on the other side of the fence now; moving from being a seller to managing a marketplace," said Smythe. "I have a deeper appreciation for the challenges in managing a marketplace; it's like herding cats!" he said, adding that he will always have a soft spot in his heart for sellers.

In 2004, GlacierBayDVD did $4.6 million in GMV (the value of items sold) on eBay. Smythe says he left eBay when he shut his business down in January of 2006. "A number of factors played into that decision, but chief among them was the fact my category (Movies and Music) became a commodity, and I didn't see any future in selling that type of product long-term. I was also not in the financial condition to re-organize and rebuild, selling different product."

The "Glacierbaydvd" id shows as having 358,405 feedback ratings as of when it left, and is NARU - "No longer a registered user." (See Ina Steiner's interview with Smythe about his departure from eBay in this 2006 article.)

Is Smythe happier doing what he does today? "I don't sell any longer. I love what I do today, but occasionally miss the independence of owning my own business," he said.

Under New Management: Justdeals
In the case of "JustDeals.com," the company was taken over by new people, and renamed "justdeals" on eBay, as well as from its own website at JustDeals.com.

JustDeals.com Operation Manager Rocky Ghoreishi affirms that the company is still selling on eBay. "We have been in wholesale business for about 18 years, but back two years ago we took over JustDeals and started the eBay account about year and half ago. So we are still fairly young," he said.

Above: JustDeals Store on eBay.

Ghoreishi says the justdeals eBay account has grown rapidly in the past 18 months, increasing its feedback to 32,000 to date and serving thousands of customers. Besides selling from eBay and its own website, he says they also partner with lots of affiliates.

Ghoreishi says eBay receives more traffic than almost any other ecommerce web site, "so we can't ignore selling there." But he says there are a few drawbacks to selling on eBay as well.

"Even though the traffic is much higher on eBay versus our web site, there's also a lot of competition. But really, what it comes down to whether we are selling on eBay or Justdeals.com, is the price and of course the product we have for sale. One would think sales would be much higher on eBay all of the time versus that of own site, but that's not always the case," he says.

"Because of the competition on eBay, sometimes our product gets drowned out, but that same item sells out on our site." But, he says, eBay is a great marketing platform for them and gives them a lot of exposure.

"The strategy is this, source hot-selling product at a great price and you'll do fine," advises Ghoreishi. "The tough part is really how do you set yourself apart from you competition? What we have done is really work hard at becoming a top-rated seller, which isn't easy, and focused on providing excellent customer service."

He says a lot of sellers source good product and sell it at a great price, "but they drop the ball on taking care of the customer, and this is where Justdeals exceeds. To date we have a 99.7% positive feedback rating, and in the past 30 days we have well over two thousand transactions with only seven negative feedbacks."

That's a tough accomplishment, he says, "but this is what we do, we provide service to our customers after the sale is over."

Still in the Game
Although many of the sellers in the top 50 of the list of 500 have zero items for sale (19), are "NARU" or "User ID not found" (18) or have undergone other transitions, 13 sellers are still actively selling on eBay under the same User ID and have adjusted their businesses they go along.

Number three, "everydaysource," is still selling, and currently has some 62,339 items listed - mostly electronics such as items in the Cell Phones & Accessories and Computers/Tablets & Networking categories. Their feedback number is now 2,216,692, compared to 133,784 in 2004.

"Swedemom," who was number 32 on the 2004 list, and is owned by Cami Nyquist, is still going strong, though her company has made many adjustments over the years. She had a feedback number of 64,922, and now has around 173,630.

Nyquist runs an eBay Store and now also sells via her own website, SwedeMom.com. You can also find her on Twitter at swedemomcom and on Facebook.

Nyquist says she started selling on eBay in 1999 and says her business grew really rapidly between 1999 and 2000. "You know, in those days I think eBay was friendlier and easy; not so regulatory,...we were all learning together at that time, in a way," she said. Nyquist said she was on PayPal's guidance board at one time, and remembered "going down, being part of meetings."

Above: Swedemom's eBay Storefront.

"It was a hobby for me that turned into a business. We spotted trends. What happened, I think, is we came at a time when the dot coms had a bubble burst in early 2000,...where there were a lot of Internet businesses trying to make things," she said. Nobody was really making money, she said, and so a lot of inventory got distressed. "So we were able to pick up on some of that, some of the companies that take on that kind of inventory,...even some of their infrastructure as far as racking, and things like that. So as far as acquiring inventory, those days were probably even a bit easier because nobody really knew the potential of what we were doing at the time," she said.

To acquire inventory these days, she says, "We work with vendors and private individuals that have collections."

As Swedemom scaled, the company started using proprietary software to run the business, said Nyquist. "We made it ourselves," she said, saying it included a SQL database. "It's evolved into making our business work and managing inventory; connecting with eBay and PayPal," she said.

Rolling with the Changes
"What really frustrates me is the constant changing of the rules," says Nyquist. "It certainly not easy - never ever easy; because there are always changes. Every time they make changes we have to make changes. Even if you do your best, you can get hit with a violation."

The duplicate listing rule has been one of the most frustrating ones in the last year for her company, said Nyquist, "because we have different sizes, in inventory under different part numbers...it's hard for us to identify those." Although the company wrote a script into their software program to prevent violations of this duplicate listing policy, Nyquist says, "You know, I would have thought eBay would have been able to do that with their technology rather than us having to spend to do that."

Another thing Nyquist found frustrating was the uploading of tracking numbers. But she said they now have that automated as well. "It goes on and on,...one time we got a violation for having a...what was it...a beanie baby?" She said the issue was over some beanie toys they sold that came from the Disney Store.

In terms of customer service, Nyquist says eBay used to be much more flexible. "The problems we'd have a year ago would be a couple minutes whereas now you have to make two to four phone calls before you get anybody to answer properly. And they all give different type answers, so there's no consistency," she said.

"And then the fee structure is always a challenge as well," she added. "So yeah...it wasn't easy then; it's not any easier now."

Scaling and De-Scaling
The Swedemom business had, in its peak, an 8000 square-foot warehouse and 45 part-time employees. Then around 2008, "we decided to cut back...because the economy seemed to be getting more difficult and eBay was beginning to become much more difficult," she said. So they cut back the size of the warehouse, and "employees were cut down to basically using contract labor."

Nyquist says they still have a business on eBay, but they're trying get out of it a little. "You wake up in fear every morning of potentially not having a business the next day because of some weird policy or hold on something. It hasn't happened that much to us, but we hear a lot of stories about it. We see what can happen and what can't happen; we're trying to diversify now," she said. Although, she adds, "I love working with eBay as far as the ability to go global quickly with it," and the people they got to know along the way.

She says they are working on their standalone website more "to create a little more interest."

From eBay to Websites
Swedemom is certainly not alone in creating or trying to move to a standalone website. A quick look at the Nortica list and you can discern which of the former Titanium sellers now operate their own websites, or operate from there instead of from eBay. Some of them likely had a web presence before they got on eBay. The selling Ids Restaurant.com, foto-walser (http://www.foto-walser.biz/shop/), justdeals.com, eforcity, mrmobile, Alibris, itrimming (itrimming.com), accstation (accstation.com), totalcampus.com, procarparts.com, the_sharper_image (http://www.sharperimage.com/), and abebooks-half (http://www.abebooks.com/), all correspond to websites by the same name. Eforcity.com not only has its own website, but also sells on multiple sites including eBay, Buy.com, and Amazon.com.

But even with her own website, and all the struggles over the years, Nyquist isn't looking to leave eBay. "I'm a competitive person, so I always said to myself that I want to be the last one standing at eBay. You know, I'm not kidding, that's in mind...I've fought the battles. It's a challenge...a learning experience, kind of like pioneering." An Oregon denizen, she says she's been quoted as saying, "It's like being on the Oregon Trail, going off a cliff with your covered wagon, then getting back up."

"In a way we tried to pioneer through this and try to get to the point where we have stability, but it's been a long journey," she said. "I would think a lot of people probably have and didn't get back up and grow from their past."

Comment on the AuctionBytes Blog.

Status of Top 50 Titanium Powersellers from 2004 Nortica 500 List

eBay Titanium Powerseller NARU or Not Found Zero Items Listed Still Actively Selling
Jayandmarie (#1)    

x

Glacierbaydvd (#2)

x

   
Everydaysource (#3)    

x

papier11 (#4)  

x

 
restaurant.com (#5)  

x

 
foto-walser (#6)    

x

trade-company (#7)

x

   
justdeals.com (#8) *    

x

Eforcity (#9)    

x

mr.mobile (#10)    

x

alibris (#11)  

x

 
Fireflyfilmco (#12)

x

   
kmak333 (#13)  

x

 
Itrimming (#14)    

x

Accstation (#15)    

x

sell2all (#16)  

x

 
play_it (#17)  

x

 
totalcampus.com (#18)  

x

 
Buyessex (#19)  

x

 
daniks-world (#20)  

x

 
procarparts.com (#21)  

x

 
the_sharper_image (#22)  

x

 
abebooks-half (#23)

x

   
hoots-loot (#24)

x

   
Videoplanet (#25)  

x

 
bargains4less (#26)  

x

 
Allshewants (#27)    

x

wwwsave-it-smartde (#28)

x

   
Booksxpress (#29)

x

   
Symmic (#30)  

x

 
techmedia-shop (#31)  

x

 
Swedemom (#32)    

x

Casacaiman (#33)

x

   
vge007 (#34)

x

   
www.memoryworld.de (#35)

x

   
Ryanmcc (#36)

x

   
Customerone (#37)

x

   
e-artikel (#38)

x

   
Jewelrybyezra (#39)

x

   
partyman1 (#40)    

x

pugster888 (#41)

x

   
Xcceries (#42)    

x

venize.de (#43)

x

   
olly_trading! (#44)  

x

 
Grapevinehill (#45)    

x

crazyprices-half (#46)

x

   
Gothamcityonline (#47)  

x

 
player004 (#48)  

x

 
foto-kontor (#49)  

x

 
www.airbrushtower.de (#50)

x

   
*Justdeals.com is now selling under the user id "justdeals."

About the author:

Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at YardSalers.net where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.


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