Sunday, January 2, 2011

Our eBay Year - 2010

Well the totals are in - I know that 'cause I figured them out.  And in my continuing effort to make sense of things and have a little bit of predictability I look through the spreadsheet and search for patterns.  I do this off and on as the mood strikes, but the end of a year seems to be an especially good time.

Comparing our 2010 business to our business in 2009 or earlier is like comparing apples & oranges.  That is because we decided to stop doing consignment sales.  In 2009 & 2008 a good chunk of our sales were consignment.  We made some money off of it, and I think we pleased our customers for the most part, but turns out it's a ton of work and extra record keeping, and we just decided to stop doing it, on a large scale anyway.  We might sell something for someone every now and then, but we are not actively seeking consignment customers. 

As a result the vast majority of the money we made on this business this year came as the result of a couple of people sitting at a large folding table in a room in a house listing and selling postcards and antique photos on eBay.  Because we decided to stop doing consignments, our net sales (after expenses) was about $36.00 a month less this year than last.   It's worth it.

Also, eBay made a major change in it's pricing structure at the end of March.  Our immediate adjustment to what amounted to a major increase in fees was to concentrate on fixed priced listings rather than auction listings.  At one time it was not uncommon for us to have 200 or more auctions going a week, now we may only run 20 auctions a week.  The vast majority of our offerings are fixed price buy-it-now listings.  I have a feeling that we did exactly what eBay, for whatever reason, wanted us to do.  It was a major change for us.

We sell a lot of postcards, it is the core of our business right now.  In the May/June time frame we made an adjustment in shipping costs - essentially we offer free shipping on postcard "singles".  Apparently it works - 63% of our postcard sales came in the 2nd half of the year.  The downside is eBay takes more in fees when you offer free shipping.  As a seller I'd get to keep more money if I sold something for $10 with a $2 shipping charge, than I will if I sell something for $12 with free shipping, because eBay charges fees only on the sale price.   As a buyer you've spent $12 either way, but it must be psychological, because it seems that $12 & free shipping will sell more frequently that $10 and any amount of shipping charge. 

Antique Photos, the other major item we sell, seemed to remain pretty steady throughout the year.  We do have a shipping charge on those, and we made no major changes in that this year.

We didn't sell as many postcards this year as last, but that's a bit misleading - last year we sold many more large lots (groups of 200 or 300 postcards) than we did this year.  We decided not to sell as many large lots, because we were not getting the prices that we wanted.   So even though we sold fewer postcards, the price per postcard we received was significantly higher.

The Antique photos were another story though - we sold about 20% more of them this year than last, at a slightly higher price.

I've discovered most of our sales came on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday. 

Most of our postcards sales are of US state and town views, with California leading the way.   No surprise there.

Our best selling non-state topic - art.  Somewhat, but not much of a surprise.

We sell internationally, figuring money is money no matter where it comes from.  This year we sent items to two dozen countries or so, alphabetically from Argentina to Zambia.  Yep, we sent a postcard to continental Africa this year, a first for us.  Canada, Australia, the UK, France & Germany were our best customers.  International sales accounted for about 12% of our overall sales, so it's worth it.

The business has changed quite a bit since we started it, and I wonder how it's going to change this year.  Very little is static, it will be interesting to see.

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