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Sat May 21 2011 23:08:08

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

By: Ina Steiner

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In 2008, eBay made changes that resulted in a crisis for its number-one seller in the Japanese prints category. Fuji Arts founder Bill Fagan found his sales plummeting and was weeks away from having to lay off employees.

In Sunday's AuctionBytes Update newsletter, Kenneth Corbin explores Fagan's experience on eBay and his decision to get off eBay and focus entirely on his own online auction website.

What might surprise outsiders is that Fuji Arts sold entirely in the auction format on eBay, not fixed price. And what's also surprising is that it was able to create its own successful auction site.

I talked to Bill Fagan by phone and email - he describes his business as a big player in a small esoteric field. He said he always knew the fatal flaw in his business was that he depended on the eBay platform. "I recognized that but ignored it." But he did not entirely ignore it - he built his own website in the spring of 2008, and "messed around" with it in the summer.

So when sales "plummeted overnight" on eBay in 2008 thanks to eBay's Best Match search algorithm and its policy to restrict search results to displaying a maximum of 10 listings from any one seller, his own site was waiting for him.

Fagan's story can serve as a lesson for any online seller who relies entirely on one marketplace.  You can read more in this AuctionBytes article, and we invite you to discuss it here on the blog.




Comments (38) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: Charlie W.
Web Site

Sat May 21 23:46:58 2011

I like the idea of using the eBay savings and applying it toward Google adwords promotions.

That's a very inspiring article and it's good to see how Mr. Fagan's determination helped him to overcome the challenges that now face so many sellers.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: Phil DeBasquet

Sun May 22 00:05:10 2011

While his exact moves are not suited to little guys, one can see the seeds of ebay's self destruction in his story. The exodus is on.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: Sayonara eBay

Sun May 22 00:05:50 2011

What a refreshing, positive account of a business success. Mr. Fagan had all of the right attitudes and with hard work and preparation became more successful than he was under Big Daddy eBay.

And he illustrates that eBay just doesn't get it.  Didn't get it then, doesn't get it now as far as sellers are concerned.

It would be a great idea to study this account in business school.  Maybe if eBay management had read such an account, we wouldn't have the small/mid-size seller exodus we are now witnessing.

And they come back a year later asking him to sign up again.

That's SO eBay!  

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: John

Sun May 22 00:11:28 2011

Good Article Ina, and Kenneth. I hope you link it to the eBay stock page on Monday.

It would be good to let some of these narrow minded investors see just what type of business they are wasting their money on.

A little Monday Morning Maniac indigestion for Donahoe wouldn't be bad either.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Sun May 22 00:26:18 2011

Mr Donahoe has been holding the exit door open so all the ''noise'' could leave, and Mr Fagan walked through that door and never looked back. I bet he thanks John Donahoe for showing him the path to greater sales, higher profits and bigger success than he would have achieved had he tried to survive on eBay.

How interesting that eBay called and tried to re engage a seller they had driven off, and the seller refused the overture as too little, too late.

It is stories like this as well as those of thousands of smaller sellers who have abandoned eBay for greener pastures that illustrate why eBay fails to show significant growth in sales despite adding Diamond Sellers, mobile etc...

John Donahoe has been the worst thing to hit eBay since joining the company as heir apparent to Meg Whitman in 2005. It is no coincidence that eBays decline coincides with Mr Donahoes tenure as both CEO designate and finally CEO in 2008.

Sellers can and do find success outside of eBay as Mr Fagan has proven. John Donahoe's failed innovations nearly decimated his business, and Mr Fagan took that opportunity to let go of a successful past with eBay never look back.

Perhaps, if eBay had been listening to their sellers back in 2008, instead of blindly plodding on with one failed innovation after another, Mr Fagan's success just might have happened under eBay's umbrella.

Congratulations to Mr Fagan on his successful transformation and escape from the mess eBay has turned itself into.

Hopefully other sellers will find similar success as eBay transforms itself into the next AOL and innovates itself into irrelevency.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: visa decline

Sun May 22 01:09:50 2011

Yes, very gratifying.

My own business on eBay in the past six months or so has really faltered considerably, and the year before it, somehow, had managed to remain a viable sales venue despite my lack of attention to it.

In the past three months, my sales have dipped by 50%...quite more dramatically than its previous sales drops and I'm clear on the reasons--
1) I'm too busy to administer and maintain my store
2) There's too much of a cash draw out of the business which (at this time) garners no return because there's no money to reinvest in the business
3) eBay sucks..well, to put it more gently, their policies hold the sellers in more contempt and disdain than ever, bleed more profit and margin from them, and well...that's enough.

I am glad to hear that Fuji Arts is doing well--and I'm sure that I could, as well, but were I to re-energize my business now...it would NOT be on ebay!

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: Joe Average

Sun May 22 01:41:38 2011

What does it say about eBay's corporate culture when they steadfastly cling to bad ideas?  Stubbornness is not innovative.

"Best Match" is but one example of their failure to listen to their customers and then adapt.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Sun May 22 04:27:45 2011

The real lesson from this story is that it shows just how desperate eBay has become that they are now asking such merchants to please "come back"; the shame of it all is that, apparently, these headless turkeys still don't understand why these merchants left in the first place.

Enron / eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: Christopher Rose
Web Site

Sun May 22 06:37:25 2011

As a relatively small online seller, stories such as the Fuji Arts experience are very discouraging to people using eBay.

Hopefully a combination of building out my own sites, which I have not yet done, and perhaps using other auction sites and Amazon will be worthwhile, despite the extra work involved.

It would have been interesting to read more about how Fuji Arts built out their site. Was it created from scratch or built using a particular shopping platform?

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: Gena Cornett
Web Site

Sun May 22 09:22:02 2011

Once again, a rebuttal to those cheerleaders who say you can't get the same traffic and sales anywhere else but eBay.  That might have been true 10 years ago, it's certainly not true now.  eBay sellers would be wise to branch out and not put all their eggs in the eBay basket.  It's a big world out there, full of opportunities, if you're willing to explore and take advantage of them.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: anyone out there

Sun May 22 09:42:17 2011

In reality if you don't have 1000's of items for sale and are just a hobby seller you are done, finished.

When you have 1000's of items for sale and go off ebay to your own website it is so much easier to sell your product. If you are a hobby seller you will get lost in that crowd.

Hobby sellers = those with less than 10,000 sales a year are not wanted by ebay. All they do is take up bandwith which ebay wants for the diamonds. They just can't come out and say no to the small seller so they will make it almost impossible to sell.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: My Own Website Not Quite Paying My Bills Yet

Sun May 22 10:24:03 2011



I hope Al from Kansas reads this story.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: JoyfulA

Sun May 22 12:24:36 2011

In these mean times, how heartwarming to read about a business owner horrified about the prospect of laying off employees. May he live long and continue to prosper!

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: William Fagan
Web Site

Sun May 22 12:42:22 2011

Thanks for all all the positive comments. Greatly appreciated! It was a scary experience in many ways. But, also very rewarding in the end.

I was "horrified" at the prospect of layoffs. The Fuji Arts team is like my extended family. Any employee showing devotion to the company gets the same in return. That's my firm commitment.

Bill Fagan

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: CK

Sun May 22 13:09:30 2011

Ina,

You could do a regular featured article on sellers that have successfully transitioned off ebay, using their success ''secrets'' to make it work.

Very inspiring, and congrats to Fuji Arts!

Thanks.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: florida33549 This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Sun May 22 15:57:35 2011

It's so nice to read articles like this. Being a small time seller it gives me hope there are other avenues now that feebay no longer wants small sellers.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: Here Again

Sun May 22 18:38:42 2011

Thank you for a positive article showcasing a seller who left eBay in the dust.  It is a positive reinforcement for those of us trying to do the same.

I used to have over 1,000 items listed at any one time on eBay.  Now I have closed my store there and use the free 50 auctions to maintain only about 12 items on any given day.

The results so far:

1. I only pay eBay fees when something sells (no listing fees, a lower FVF than with an eBay store and no store subscription fee), saving me money every month that I put into my other venues.

2. I am becoming more successful at using eBay simply as a source of new customers to send to my other venues for add-on and repeat sales.

3. Oddly enough, I am selling more items on eBay (even though I list only a small percentage of what I used to) and for higher prices.  I still do not understand why, but I'm happier with the more revenue (at lower costs) to put toward my other venues.

I cannot imagine that eBay will ever contact me to ask me to come back as a store owner.  I am just one of those too-small sellers that they have proven by their actions that they do not respect and do not want.  If I ever received the call, I would have a seriously good laugh as I say, thanks, but no thanks.

Again, thank you for more proof that life beyond eBay does in fact exist for an ever increasing number of sellers.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: Smitty This user has validated their user name.

Mon May 23 00:38:04 2011

I hope each of you backtracked via Ina's link and Kenneth Corbin's link to Bill Fagan's site.

http://fujiarts.com/cgi-bin/main.pl

I did and even though I have NO interest in what Bill is hawking, I came away quite impressed. This guy is the real deal.

In the Kenneth Corbin column Bill stated, ''Because of our volume in the category, after that rule was implemented we literally occupied every single item slot on pages 30 - 50. Their largest seller in the category was forced to the back, which to me was completely illogical, We paid for those listings and we were getting negative placement based on the 10-item-per-page requirement.''

Which is absolutely correct. Just about everything ebay has done under JD's stewardship has been illogical.

Is there anyone left standing, besides JD, who doesn't understand that ''best match'' is a total failure?

Now back to what most impressed me about Bill's site. He has what he has termed a ''soft closing'' to the auctions on the site.

''This system allows for all customers to have the opportunity to post their bids before an item ends. It eliminates sniping and more closely replicates the typical, live floor auction where bidding will continue past the schedule close time until bidders are done.

Specifically, each auction will close either at the time stated on its listing page or five minutes after the last bid is placed, whichever occurs last. You can post an early maximum proxy bid and let the auction run rather than worrying about bidding in the last few seconds or being concerned about being outbid by someone a few seconds before the item closes and losing the item.''

This is the only way that online auctions should be run but ebay has resisted the idea from day one. Meg or one of her minions told me so in an email about 10 years ago.

Lastly, Bill's ebay rep contacting him about returning made me think of Made_off sending a newsletter from the joint to his former customers advising them of his latest fiduciary services.

Smitty

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: another side of the coin

Mon May 23 01:58:39 2011

So nice to hear an uplifting, heartfelt success story from a seller who was able to break away from eBay. It put a smile on my face and gave me some hope that there is life after eBay. Just goes to show that success can be found with heart and integrity, not by greed and thievery.

Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay   Fuji Arts' Best Match Dilemma Leads to Success off eBay

by: Digby
Web Site

Mon May 23 04:50:52 2011

19 comments so far.
Not one in support of ebay.

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