Specializing in postcards and antique photographs

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hearts & Heads Early 20th Century Postcard

This is kind of a strange early 20th century postcard - not really sure how to list it, or what to call it, but I'm sure it must be appealing to someone out there.  It is embossed and gilded, and a little strange with a heart shaped back ground and people with heart shaped heads singing in what appears to be snow, but maybe not.  I mean who whould think of such a thing.

Anyway,  click on the title to go to the listing if you're interested.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Our eBay business doing good in June. Why?

By June 20th, maybe even earlier, we already had more sales than we had in the entire month of  May.  That translates to $$, of course.  But the question is, why?  Is it just a random fluctuation, or are we doing something to help things along?  Hard to say.

We are doing some things differently.  Until recently we started every new item off as an auction, with the vast majority being moved to the store as a "buy it now" (BIN) if it didn't sell.  We used auctions to drive traffic to our store.  In March eBay converted the store inventory item type to fixed price (a different item type), which - understatement coming - changed the game a bit.  Suddenly, there were millions upon millions of extra items as part of the core search.  All those store inventory items which were not part of the core search, suddenly were.  Some people, according to the forums, are finding their items are buried behind hundreds of other similar items, making it very unlikely that they'd be found buy a buyer searching for them.

Well that's interesting.  eBay's default search is something called "Best Match".  Although it's possible to guess some of the logic that goes into the algorithm to determine Best Match search position, for the most part it is a mystery.   It's possible to change the default search - I regularly change it to lowest price or ending soonest, depending, but most people, maybe as many as 80% or more, do not.  They may not realize they can, or even care.  Anyway, search position is very important.

So these are some of our ideas and some things we've been doing.   I don't know if they make a difference or not.  June's been good, but who knows about July?

1.  We don't sell anything sold by the "superstores".  We're just two people, we can't compete and don't want to compete with a big business.  If "Buy" ever gets in to postcards and antique photos, I guess we're screwed.

2.  We've been making our titles more relevant.  We can see reports and find out which keywords are used most often to access our listings, and we're making sure those keywords are there.

3.  The only sort order we can control is the "lowest price + shipping" one, so I make sure our items are competitive price wise, should someone else be selling the same thing.

4.  We've been updating our item specifics - making them as detailed as possible.  Supposedly this will help in search.

5.  We list all our fixed price items as "good to cancel" because it saves a lot of work.  But for the last few weeks we've been manually ending some older items which were about to roll over to the next month & relisting them (checking the title & item specifics of course).  This gives it a new item id, eBay sees it as a completely new item, and I think completely new items will do better in "Best Match" than an item that has been sitting around for a few months.

6.  More and more we're offering Free Shipping on individual postcards.   I don't know, maybe it's psychological.  A $2.99  postcard with free shipping costs more than a  $0.99 postcard with $1.25 shipping.  But it has been drilled into my head by eBay powers that be among others that buyers want free shipping.  So free shipping it is, when it is economically feasible, because I suspect they may know what they're talking about.  I am a little cynical about it though - eBay does not collect fees on shipping charges, so an increase in price and free shipping benefits them.

7.  Although we still start most of our listings off as auctions, we're listing more directly to fixed price.  I suspect this is what the corporation wants us to do.  

So, June is doing much better than May.  Our best month of 2010 to this point has been January, and it's quite possible June will be better - we'll have to see.  The big question is why.  Is it a random thing? Or is it because of some of the changes we're making?  I wish I knew.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

CDV Photo - A Girl In White

I relisted this photo as an auction today.  It has been around for awhile, first as an auction, then store inventory, then fixed price (no more store inventory).  It was ending shortly, so I thought I'd try it as an auction again and give it some more life. 

I think it is an interesting expressive photo.  The girl, looks to be early teens, is in profile, looking slightly down.  Her arms are folded, and there is a ring on the 3rd finger of her left hand. 

There is no writing on the photo - no identification, no photographer information, nothing to tell you who this person was or where she came from.   Based on the way the physical cdv looks though, we think it is from the 1880s-90s era. 

It's one of those photos I look at and wonder about.

Click on the title to go to the listing in our eBay store.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sometimes I wish I'd gotten that MBA.....

Just before I received my Bachelors in History from good ol' Morehead State University in Kentucky, I was invited by the business school to study for an MBA.  I scoffed at it.  I had reason to - I had passed the GRE & been accepted to the graduate school in History & awarded a graduate assistantship, which at the time meant a stately sum of $240 a month, a very small (and shared) office, and you got to be gophers for the profs, all the while working towards a masters. 

Sometimes I wished I'd taken up the business school's offer, because I have to tell you, the nuts and bolts of crunching numbers business style confuses me.  In this piddly little eBay business we have going, all I can really say is we're not losing money.  But that's about it.

Here's some stuff I do know.

I can tell you, from 2007 until May of this year how much of every dollar earned went toward fees and expenses.  In 2007 it was 44 cents.  In both 2008 & 2009 it was 63 cents.  And so far in 2010 (due to eBay's lowest fees ever) it is 70 cents.  Is that good or bad?   Looked at another way, in 2007 we kept 56% of everything we earned, 37% the next two years, and so far this year 30%.

Another way I looked at it was the amount of money spent on inventory vs the amount of money we ended up with at the end of the year.  I came up with my own little ratio - $$ spent on inventory divided by $$ left over after expenses, and I came up with these numbers:  2007 - .65, 2008 - .43, 2009 - .36 & so far in 2010 - .39.

IS THIS GOOD OR NOT? I don't know.  Somebody tell me.

A large corporation will look you in the eye (they're people now, the supreme court said so) and tell you that they lost money because they didn't make as much as they did during the same period a year ago.  I'm not that sophisticated - I feel that if my income exceeded my expenses, I made money.  If I didn't make as much as I did the previous month, or the previous month a year ago, that doesn't mean I lost money.  I just didn't make as much.  I won't use that as an excuse to layoff Patti Anne.

So I'm going to leave it at that.   If we earn more money than we spend to keep the business going, we made money.  Simple.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Our eBay day

Today was the first of the month after a 3 day weekend, so it was a busy eBay day.  I had several items to package up & ship off, I had to start up a new spreadsheet for June, and figure out final final totals for May, in addition to the normal listings and eBay related housework type activities we do every day. 

May was officially our worst month of 2010, beating out February for that honor by a healthy margin.  This was caused by a combination of eBay's "lowest fees ever" costing us $75-80 a month more than before, and moderately lower sales.   It's not as if we didn't have any sales - we sold things and received money for items every day of the month. And we did make a profit for the month. But sales were down.

There are a lot of unhappy sellers on eBay right now.  I keep up with various eBay discussion boards, auctionbytes.com and other news items about eBay.  Sometimes I learn something, but most of the time it is people posting who are very upset about something. 

Sometimes they have a point - eBay customer service is terrible to the point of non-existent.  If you have a problem and you can't figure it out, you're pretty well SOL.   That's my biggest beef anyway.  Other times it devolves into the same people complaining about the same things. 

Some sellers say their sales have dwindled to almost nothing since the change in the fee structure and especially change to eBay search on March 31st.  We actually did a little better in April than in March, even with the higher fees.  May was a different story, however.

Up to this point, and I consider it unfortunate, we haven't found anything that works as well as eBay.  We've tried other sites, and will continue to try other sites, but so far our sales on non-eBay sites are beyond dismal.  We've kicked around the idea of developing our own website, but so far it's not go out of the kick around stage.

I personally am not as upset about things eBay-wise as some people I've "heard tell" of.  I do have some cynicism tho, and I do fear that their direction is to become an outlet for huge fixed priced online box stores, who sell the same old boring crap you can buy anywhere.  I fear at some point they will actively try to rid their site of sellers like us.  I guess when I think about it objectively, I can't blame them.  It's all about money.  The pittance our little business provides them in fees, the pittance that would be so important to us if we could keep a bit more of it, is nothing to a large corporation.  They can make a lot more money from a huge online box store that sells the same stuff every other huge box store sells.   I'm sure the mega-store "Buy", (buy.com off-eBay), provides eBay more in fees in a day, than we do in a year.  Probably more in a few minutes than we do in a year.   Who would turn that down?

But even if the goal is to gravitate toward these large sellers, what does a large corporation gain from making things more difficult for hundreds of thousands of small sellers?  Money from small sellers adds up, collectively.  So, I don't understand, and I'm not entirely sure that is what they are doing.  A lot of people are absolutely convinced that's what they are doing though. 

Anyway, until they make it impossible for us to make a profit, I guess we'll keep selling.  It's been a long time since we actually lost money in a month.  Hopefully June will be better.