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Tue Aug 31 2010 15:13:44

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

By: Ina Steiner

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The new head of eBay's Developers Program wrote an interesting post about an opportunity for sellers and developers on eBay. Sparked by a conversation about Boy Scout uniforms for sale on eBay, Serge writes about the potential size of that opportunity for sellers and does some back-of-the-envelope calculations.

I think it would be interesting to walk through the challenges for sellers and try to get a realistic model. Serge uses a an example in which a user sells 481 units per week for 52 weeks. Even if you expanded to all kinds of uniforms and spread your business out over other channels besides eBay, is that number realistic? What about the labor involved - 3 minutes per uniform - I don't see time for all the other associated tasks with the business.

I thought I'd throw it out to readers to see if experienced sellers think this is A, a good opportunity, and B, if the numbers add up. Share your back-of-the-envelope calculations and let us know what you think. (And if you're an eBay developer, feel free to jump in to the conversation as well.)




Comments (18) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: NullApps This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Aug 31 16:38:58 2010

I read this yesterday and don't think it is realistic from a developer's perspective.  I'm usually a strong supporter of the eBay Developer's Program but I think they are setting expectations too high with this one.

It isn't realistic for a seller app.  No one is going to pay you a $0.25 for each order just because you wrote them an inventory management app.  They'll go with something that is a lot cheaper like $9.99 per month.  Also would a developer seriously consider writing an app that only does inventory management for boy scout uniforms?  Why restrict it to this particular niche?

I doubt it is realistic from a buyer app perspective either.  Basically you'd create a niche site that uses ePN ads to generate income.  The idea being that every time someone visits your site and clicks on a link to eBay you get paid some amount of money that constantly changes based on your perceived performance.  You'd need to average 1095 clicks per day at $0.25 per click to get that kind of number.  As far as I know people buying such uniforms tend to buy them at the beginning of the school year.  I've heard that ePN doesn't treat seasonal sellers well.  The mobile app idea probably isn't a bad one though.

As a seller on eBay I'd never buy and sell such a physically large product with such a low ROI.  Especially not something in the used clothing category.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Ooops I'm Naru'd Again

Tue Aug 31 17:57:13 2010

''Imagine that an enterprising Seller visits his local Boy Scout troop asking parents if they’d like to consign their previously-loved uniforms for sale on eBay''

Careful now you're talking like the eBay of yesterday...remember where the eBay of the future is...in wear houses!

What a joke.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

This user has validated their user name. by: Nan
Web Site

Tue Aug 31 18:36:13 2010

Serge forgot to factor in the sell-through-rate. What is it, about 30% ?
It looks like the only one that would make any money off this deal would be the software developer. Big surprise.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: RicRoe

Tue Aug 31 19:20:54 2010

I used to think hair-brained concepts were the exclusive property of eBay management...now I am not so sure.

An application this specialized limits sellers to the niche of Boy Scouts...maybe it is expandable to Girl Scouts, but beyond that the app is so specialized that there is a very narrow market for both sellers and buyers.

I can see it now... seller drives up to a Boy Scout car wash and tries to interest them in obtaining their uniform needs from them. Or maybe, a neighborhood Girl Scout stops by selling cookies and the tables get turned with the homeowner trying to interest the scout and her parent in buying...picture the poor girl running away with her parent screaming "wait for me!!!".

Maybe a small handful of sellers might think this is an opportunity, but I see it as a time waster for all parties concerned.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: fat frog

Tue Aug 31 20:45:09 2010

They are residing in the Donnaho dream world.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Digby
Web Site

Tue Aug 31 21:06:49 2010

Those back of an envelope calcs are all very well. I often do them.
But they never come true.
Where does he get 481 sales a week from ! For just one niche !

And those uniforms are being sold now (in shops etc) so those retailers are just going to lay down and let all their sales go to ebay !
I doubt it.


Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: On Lies and Secrets This user has validated their user name.

Tue Aug 31 23:31:43 2010

I am not an expert on scouting, but from my limited understanding of Boy Scout uniforms, the developer's back of the envelope calculation is grossly inaccurate because it fails to take into account the actual rules about boy scout troop uniforms and because it fails to take into account the pre-existing customs by those in the scouting organization about how uniforms are acquired.  This inaccuracy indicates that the developer has little understanding about the product that s/he is proposing to be sold.

I was recently in Washington D.C. this summer for a meeting and went sightseeing on the National Mall only to find it overwhelmed with Boy Scouts (apparently it was their 100 year celebration or something like that).  I had never seen so many scouts together in one place in my life before.  There were scouts there from all over the U.S.  Individual troops of scouts were dressed identically, but some details of dress actually varied from troop to troop.  I think there is a standard description of a uniform, but that individual troops have some latitude for individualization.  That is, each troop can have its own identity which they can partly express through their uniform (all of the scouts within a troop must match, but different troops can have variations that are up to specific troop leaders to define).  So there are probably a large number of differ permutations and combinations of uniforms. I don't think there is a single uniform that all troops must necessarily purchase, so it may be very costly to keep track of the minutiae of details for each individual troop in the US; the back of the envelope calculation was too flawed in that it failed to take into account differences between troops.

The other issue with this example is that I believe tradition governs how some scouts get their uniforms and that some uniform sales may be fundraisers for scouting  - the Boy Scouts  website suggests that a person check with their pack leader for appropriate sources of uniforms.  Their website states:

''Before buying a new uniform, be sure to check with the pack leaders about other options. Some packs have money-earning projects to raise funds to uniform their Cub Scouts, or to provide common emblems such as pack and den numerals. Others may have uniform exchange programs for boys to obtain 'experienced' uniforms.''

http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/CubScouts/Unifo
rm/Parents.aspx

The
business the developer describes fails to take the boy scout culture and traditions into account and may likely hurt scouting by depriving fundraising opportunities to some scout organizations.  

I think there is a culture and tradition to scouting that matters tremendously and I think this specialized type of good requires that a seller have specialized knowledge about the product.  I think it is a poor suggestions for the developer to propose such a thing.

Hopefully someone familiar with scouting can add clarity to this issue. I think the developer is far off-base.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Better Idea

Wed Sep 1 00:53:28 2010

You're better off trying to sell old scout uniforms with all their badges to the collectors market. Older stuff can get good money and can often be found at garage sales.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Ebay's Slow Death This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 1 03:07:52 2010

Business can look really easy and exciting penciled on the back of an envelope. Doing the actual work and trying to make a profit, with many others wanting a piece of your income, is reality.

That Developer is living in La La Land.  He obviously has had no experience with the retail business, the Boy Scouts, or selling on Ebay.

How could anybody take him seriously?

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Marvin

Wed Sep 1 06:00:59 2010

Challenge: Find me anyone selling 25,000 boy scout uniforms a year on ebay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or anyone selling 100 a month let alone 481 a week. I would settle for you finding me anybody on ebay even listing 481 uniforms whether they are selling them or not.

I just did an ebay search for boy scout uniforms in all categories and only 1224 items came up. The numbers just aren't there to support the claims in the article.

Nobody and I mean nobody is doing even a fraction of what the numbers in the article claim. The numbers quoted in the article are not just misleading but totally false, they made them up to sell apps and falsely promote how great ebay is.

Prove me wrong.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Wed Sep 1 09:15:06 2010

There is also an implication that current eBay tools are not up to handling the task - I wonder what eBay's existing third-party developers think of this post.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Dman

Wed Sep 1 09:26:58 2010

Ain’t never going to happen.

As a father and former den leader,  I can honestly tell you that I would have never sold out my local Boy Scout store for some Ebay Seller.  Now I did have the advantage of only being 30 minutes from the store and for others in more rural areas it might be more of a chore to get the a local store.  But the fact of the matter is our Boy Scout organization was like a big family from the den level to the council level, we supported and assisted each other.  Families that could afford new items purchased new items, families that couldn’t would be given items donated from members that had moved on to higher ranks.  The Boy Scouts have a sense of community to them, one that an Ebay seller would have a hard time cracking on a grand scale. I don’t see many scouting families taking dollars away from their local organizations just to save a few dollars on a uniform.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Kevin

Wed Sep 1 10:44:37 2010

It might be a six figure income for ebay, but not any seller.  

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Don't Lie To me.

Wed Sep 1 13:36:59 2010

I think he should sell the back of envelopes as a gag gift, never mind the boy scout uniforms.

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Digby
Web Site

Wed Sep 1 14:00:27 2010

@Marvin

I think your research is correct.

But what about French Maid Uniforms ?

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Doug
Web Site

Wed Sep 1 20:27:48 2010

The www.OfficialUniforms.Org site is designed specifically for discounted Official Scout Uniforms - both old and new.  It taps into online sales and is definitely worth a look!

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: Red Ink Diary This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Sep 2 05:28:27 2010

I think Serge needs to develop this business plan and go for the gusto.

I am assuming that the inventory fairy will be doing the ordering, unpacking, shelving and inventory input data with a wave of her sparkly wand.

The listing leprechauns will be busy too, magically creating perfect listings while Serge sleeps and Caspar the friendly ghost will answer all the lovely customers questions with a smile.

All we inefficient and inferior old has-beens can stand on the sidelines and applaud. Ah! The wonders of technology (with suitably awestruck expressions).

Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?   Boy Scout Uniforms a Six-Figure Business on eBay?

by: another side of the coin

Thu Sep 2 14:06:12 2010

This is what a developer with no actual hands-on experience comes up with? No wonder the site is full of glitches and overcomplicated. If you want to sell snow to Eskimos, you first have to know about snow and who you are marketing to.



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