Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun Apr 5 2020 10:19:35

Survey Finds Pandemic Takes a Toll on Small Sellers

By: Ina Steiner

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The COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on more than half of small online sellers, according to a survey of EcommerceBytes readers that ran from March 29 - April 2, 2020. 

Asked, "Overall, how has the COVID-19 outbreak impacted your online sales," 60% of respondents said their sales decreased. 

However, 21% said their sales had increased, while 16% said they saw no change. Four percent of respondents said they didn't know.

Sellers elaborated in the comments section. One seller who was experiencing a bump in sales said, "It seems to have increased, but I'm not sure it will last. There have to be a lot of people out there that are soon going to realize that they can't keep spending money on a hobby just because they have time on their hands."

A seller who saw about a 10% increase in sales overall wrote, "I sell auto parts, so it's refreshing to see people still wanting, and thinking, it's OK to work on their own vehicles."

But another wrote, "I think people are afraid of sellers sending a package from a Covid-19 positive home....I know I worry, too, and have cut way down on ordering online."

The increase or decrease in sales sellers reported experiencing wasn't always consistent - some sellers described an initial increase or decrease in early March followed by the opposite pattern later in the month. One seller described their sales pattern as a roller coaster.

What's Selling (and What's Not)
We also asked sellers if they were seeing a difference in the *types* of items customers were purchasing from them, asking them to answer yes if they had seen a change up or down in certain types of products:

- 24% answered yes;

- 64% answered no;

- 12% said "don't know."

Some items selling well according to sellers' comments were puzzles & games; DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs; plumbing, electrical, home fix-up, repair type; bidets; expensive fine jewelry and sterling jewelry; model trains; and Easter items. Items selling poorly included antiques; costume jewelry; party supplies; and handbags.

A number of sellers indicated in the comments sections that they were seeing greater sales of low-priced goods as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

"Lots of games, puzzles, household, kitchen, craft stuff, garden stuff," one respondent wrote.

"I am pleasantly surprised that people are buying stuff that are not essential," wrote another. "I thought to myself that no one will be buying antiques or collectibles but they are still are. I want to thank the customers for thinking of us as this time."

Product Sourcing Opportunities - and Challenges
One seller saw an opportunity not only to continue their efforts to expand their business through diversification, but through product sourcing: "I will also continue to leverage this opportunity to source more product for the future by taking advantage of the current declining market values and coupled with the increased amount of willing sellers."

Another wrote, "Online buyers are still very cheap. However, I've scooped up a few deals to resell later in the year at shows where people spend money."

On the other hand, some worried about supplies drying up. A craft supplies seller who saw an increase in sales said they were concerned because "some wholesalers have closed until further notice."

Product sourcing also posed a challenge for a seller who sources at retail stores: "I am shut down as my product is purchased in retail stores, and they are obviously closed."

Increased Returns
Some sellers said they were experiencing more returns in the current environment. "More scammers and returns, which is normal at the start of a recession/depression," said one.

"Have also had an increase in returns on Amazon - "bought by mistake" & "no longer needed," wrote an Amazon seller. "Basically buyer's remorse." 

"Large amount of non paying bidders and cancel requests," said another seller.

While it's anecdotal, it's an indication that returns increased as shoppers began to fear economic challenges ahead. Congress was negotiating the CARES Act in March, and it was signed into law on March 27th.

Operations
Some sellers struggled to comply with local restrictions and cope with workforce issues. One seller said they shut down operations for 3 days because of a county-wide stay at home order, but reopened after getting clarification that warehouse/ fulfillment businesses could be open. "We only have our shipping team working on a volunteer basis with $2/hr. hazard pay," the seller explained.

Impact of Marketplace Changes
Comments revealed some of the challenges sellers faced by marketplace changes. For example, one seller said eBay's promotion in which it gave Store sellers 50,000 additional free listings for the months of March and April had the potential to have a negative impact on sales: "I sell postcards and sellers routinely flood the category with penny listings, free shipping. When that happens, my sales decrease. With the 50K free listings for store owners in my category it could potentially put me completely out of business. There are over 500K new listings in the category as of yesterday, since eBay started the promo."

Another seller said Amazon restricted the sale of athletic wear several weeks ago - "This category was my money-maker and I greatly miss the income."

Additional Survey Results
The survey also included questions about sellers' level of satisfaction with ecommerce marketplaces and service providers and shipping services and carriers; if they had changed their selling practices; and their 6-month outlook, where we asked: "Looking forward 6 months, in what shape do you anticipate your online business will be in September 2020?"

Stay tuned for more survey results to come, and thank you to readers for sharing details about how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting you and your business.



Comments (22) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

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This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Sun Apr 5 14:26:43 2020

As more and more lose their jobs, the purchase of unnecessary online items will continue to drop. Other items as was mentioned will increase. But the ratio for a site like ebay will be more on the losing side.

Plus as more and more people 'stock up' on board games and things like that, sales will begin to flatten out for those items.

At the end of the day, ebay is going to lose millions. I wonder when the disingenuous buzz-worded "we love sellers" crap is going to start.

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by: Whatever This user has validated their user name.

Sun Apr 5 14:47:19 2020

thanks for the survey Ina - sitting here adjusting what I'm putting online.

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by: Geetar This user has validated their user name.

Sun Apr 5 18:10:57 2020

IDK, it's been strange. I sell guitar parts. I was doing good jan and febuary. then march slowed down up (down abt 20%) until the end, then it kicked back up. It seems I saw an increase in sales right after the $1200 check was announced. Now it seems the last few day have been slow though. I hope I still do good numbers, but i feel that @NO MORE EBAY is right, as time goes on the sales will decline as these are not necessary items. Thats scary. Not that it would put me out of business, but I have been steadily adding more and more inventory, and doing pretty well. I saw quite a few sellers having big sales, marking down items. I saw no reason to do that now. I would rather wait until I see a decrease in sales to do that. Makes no sense that they would put items on sales when sales have not dropped.


I also have seen another trend witch I dont think has anything to do with the virus. I am starting to sell the items with calculated shipping more that ebay has been hiding previously (they hate calculated shipping). I dont know if this is a change in their policy or just a coincidence.

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by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 6 03:08:56 2020

The impact is impossible to predict since internet sales tax already has us in steady decline but my sales in March were up compared to Jan and Feb.  

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 6 03:24:54 2020

"However, 21% said their sales had increased, "
Since the thrift stores are closed, I've been going to the retail stores that are open like Target and scouring their clearance racks.  The items that are selling are health & beauty replenisables like hair color.

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

Mon Apr 6 03:38:27 2020

I've been having terrific sales, but I know that at any moment the bottom could fall out so I am thankful for the blessings that have come our way at this over the last few weeks. At this point we are actually close to last Aprils total sales! If things keep going like they are, we should hit that point if not more by the 10th, or things can fall off the cliff. It is hard to know. I do have bought and paid for inventory stuck at the source and who knows when we will get it, and in the meantime, I am running way low on some types of inventory. If things slow down, it will give me more time to list, but I would rather be selling than listing. Actually, I have tons of things to do, but dealing with orders takes priority.

Perminate Link for Survey Finds Pandemic Takes a Toll on Small Sellers   Survey Finds Pandemic Takes a Toll on Small Sellers

by: lancecorp This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 6 05:11:15 2020

It's good to see some sellers having much better sales as many have complained of slow sales for month's now. What I do appreciate in this survey is it showing that 60% have had a drop in sales. It makes those of us who have experienced slow sales to feel a bit better knowing we are not alone. Unfortunately on Ebay and many Social Media groups - sellers who are doing poorly rarely comment because they are shot down or made to feel it's their fault from those doing well.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 6 07:36:29 2020

@lancecorp as long as I've been selling on Ebay, there has been years and years of complaints, complaints, complaints.  Some justified and some just bellyachers who have nothing better to do.  If Ebay were to close-up where would those sellers go?

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by: WhatsUp2656 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 6 10:17:43 2020

I sell new collectibles, home decor, vintage. My sales have not changed. I think the diehard shoppers are finding it online.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: LasVagueness

Mon Apr 6 11:18:43 2020

This is an incredibly sad time. It may take several years to scale and administer a SAFE and working vaccine. We are looking at major social and economic disruption. The misfortune of the projected 20-30% unemployed will soon be the misfortune of the 100%. We all need each other and this will soon become abundantly clear.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: CanBrit

Mon Apr 6 11:53:30 2020

@Moonwishes not sure if you know but the link to your website isn't working.

For myself, sales are down because of me. I find all this isolation a little hard to take. I work out of the house, so that shouldn't affect me, but it's this overall almost depression that makes you just want to do nothing. So many painful stories from families suffering. My husband and I have family in many European countries, mostly all elderly. Hard to get that off your mind.

Right now I just want to crawl under the covers. Maybe it's time for a eBay vacation?

Perminate Link for Survey Finds Pandemic Takes a Toll on Small Sellers   Survey Finds Pandemic Takes a Toll on Small Sellers

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Apr 6 12:27:40 2020

Chicago48 writes: "If Ebay were to close-up where would those sellers go?"

There are many alternatives: eCrater (I know you loathe them); Amazon (not suited for everyone), Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, Ruby Lane, Mercari, Poshmark, Bonanza, or you could open your own web site. Power Sellers Unite used to be a great place to find stats on the different marketplaces, but that site appears to have gone belly up years ago.

Perminate Link for Survey Finds Pandemic Takes a Toll on Small Sellers   Survey Finds Pandemic Takes a Toll on Small Sellers

by: JohnGermaine This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 6 12:38:11 2020

Last month was surprising "normal" and this month is dead, so far.

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This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Mon Apr 6 17:46:53 2020

If eBay were to close up and take their whopping $700 in annual sales, it really wouldn't matter.  I only have to do one or two weekend shows to make that sort of pocket change.  Pretty sure even Craig's List or a yard sale can beat eBay at this point.

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by: lancecorp This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 6 18:56:19 2020

Chicago - no where did I say anything about Ebay shutting down - but because of their antics and the fact so many can't rely on Ebay anymore - more and more sellers I know use multiple platforms to sell on. This past week my friend said if she only sold on Ebay she'd be sweating it as her sales dropped 50%. TG she also posts on Etsy, Grailed and Instagram as the sales on those platforms more than made up for what she was down on Ebay. Ebay is not the only venue anymore and instead of working harder to attract customers and protect their sellers - they throw them under the bus. I'll take less money elsewhere for an item - knowing I have better seller protection. With each sale on Ebay - I sweat it out for 90 days.

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by: Big___Al This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 6 19:57:22 2020

@RKTOYS
Yo... I get the impression from some of your posts that maybe you are in PA and sell at maybe Harrisburg events? I'd like to know more about how to do that. In central PA here, and am despairing that my hoped-for launch of selling many things, but especially die-cast toys, is not going to go over well. I would understand if you don't want any competition, but believe me, I'm a lightweight in that category. Hope you are well!

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by: Big___Al This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 6 19:59:29 2020

@RKTOYS
What I meant to say, was my launch of selling on eBay. Not looking good at this point, if even an experienced seller such as yourself doesn't get much business.

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Tue Apr 7 10:27:58 2020

Over the past 90 days we have sold 316 items for $10,360 om eBay

I doubt that any other site could sell that many used tools!

Hobby sellers can fiddle around and sell on any site, but when you have to depend on online sales for a living there';s NO fooling around with 2 bit sites like eCrater or Bonanza. . .

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by: Sarahmills231 This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Apr 7 10:33:37 2020

I found during this COVID-19 time this article to be of much use on babies and children how to keep them as safe as possible.
https://www.topdogbabies.com/covid-19-how-to-help-babies-children-
keep-safe/

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by: Sarahmills231 This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Apr 7 10:34:11 2020

https://www.topdogbabies.com/covid-19-how-to-help-babies-children-keep
-safe/

The
link is above for baby safety.  

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