Online Auction Site Helps Shoe Lovers Pursue a Trade - Literally
By Greg Holden
The holiday rush is over, but most observers would probably say the recession isn't quite over yet. What can you do if your merchandise doesn't sell online? Trade it. That, at least, is an option one marketplace gives to sellers of online shoes.
IfTheShoeDoesntFit.com, a marketplace for shoe lovers, does a few things differently than its competitors in the ecommerce field. For one thing, its founder, Ellen Simes, takes the time to hand-select the merchants who will offer shoes for sale on her marketplace. For another, those sellers have the opportunity not only to sell but to trade shoes for other items. The practice of bartering is well known as a good way to get through tough economic times. But will it work on the Internet?
Simes, 49, of Springfield, Massachusetts, is betting that it will. She started IfTheShoeDoesntFit.com in June of 2010. The marketplace grew out of her own interest. She likes high-end footwear, but it can be difficult to find shoes that fit her particular size (6.5WW). Nevertheless, she once had 300 pairs of shoes in her own closet. She now estimates she has 125 or so. What did she do with the other 175?
"I tried selling shoes at tag sales and flea markets and quickly realized how time I was spending and how little I was making," Simes explains. "I sold a little on eBay - but admit I found it complex, frustrating and expensive. Plus, I'd go online to sell my shoes and be distracted by everything else on eBay and end up buying something. So I donated some to charity, and then I started If The Shoe Doesn't Fit - a niche auction site for shoes and shoe accessories only. Simple and straightforward."
Some of the straightforward aspects of this shoe marketplace differ slightly from eBay or other venues. For one thing, sellers are charged a $1 listing fee for each pair of shoes, but no final value fee if the item sells. This is in contrast to other venues, which only charge a fee if an item does sell. Simes explains that listing fees are easier to calculate and remember than final value fees. "By creating a simplified site, it gives the everyday person the ability to feel they can be part of it and not be intimidated. You increase the comfort level/confidence factor of that visitor that this is a place they can sell, swap, or shop," she says. For professional sellers who want to list in volume, lower fees are available through stores they can open. Such stores cost $15 per month and get 50 percent off listings with up to nine free auto-relists.
Other features of IfTheShoeDoesntFit.com are dramatically different from other marketplaces and possibly even unique. One is the ability to trade; another, the ability for multiple sellers to manage a single store.
Here's how the trading works: Anyone can swap shoes with anyone else on the site; there are no fees associated with swaps. "When asked to select a type of auction you are listing, you select Swap instead of Fixed Price or Traditional," says Simes. "In the description, you list the shoes you are willing to swap, and what you are looking for - offers, a specific brand, size, etc.. You can state that shipping is paid by each party provided the swap is considered an even exchange, or you can set up some other arrangement. It's a great way for shoe vendors to network and move around what isn't working for them."
The other notable feature, which isn't quite finished as of this writing, is the multi-user store function. A group of independent sellers (or shoe bloggers; there are quite a few) open a store together. Their listings are put on the general site and in the store. Anyone who is part of the store receives a 50 percent discount on sales listings.
"This is great for businesses with multiple locations - they can have all the shops listed with one identity under one umbrella store," comments Simes.
In addition, sellers on any part of the site (not just stores) will soon be able to discount their listings by a percentage of the original price in order to run special sales. Sellers will also be able to enter their Google Analytics code in order to track where their customers are coming from as well.
This ambitious set of features hasn't yet resulted in a large amount of traffic, but Simes - who is an exponent of the motivational icon Dale Carnegie - remains optimistic. "From my Carnegie days there was a saying: "If you're not green and growing, you're ripe and rotting." I love business in general. I love the potential I see for this site, the challenge and the opportunity to learn."
Update 1/13/11: Ellen Simes said the multi-user store is now in effect, and clarified that all sellers are now welcome to sell on IfTheShoeDoesntFit.com, you do not need to be invited.
About the Author
Greg Holden is AuctionBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
About the author:
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
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