Sunday, April 29, 2012

eBay and Etsy

A couple of months ago we began moving postcards and some other items from eBay to Etsy, with the idea that we'd sell primarily antique photos and such on eBay, and postcards, snapshots and such on Etsy.  We did this as a reaction to an upcoming change eBay is making in how they determine top rated sellers.  Beginning June 1, they're going to require 90% of items shipped have tracking on them, and we currently can't meet that. (I checked & in the last 3 months we mailed just under 52% of our items with delivery confirmation). Because of the way we mail things (and the fact we offer free shipping), we mail all our antique photos with tracking, but for the most part we don't mail postcards that way.  In order to mail postcards that way we'd either have to increase our prices or have a shipping & handling charge on them.  If we wanted to make any kind of a profit, that is.  I'm not sure we could do either and maintain our sales level.

So, not knowing how it would work, we decided to try and sell our postcards and cheaper items we would not normally mail with delivery confirmation on Etsy.  We're moving them over slowly but surely.  We started this on the last day of February, so I guess this is long enough to make some observations.

Etsy is quite a bit different than eBay.  It is a whole different culture.  It is a much more artistic, creative, handmade and craft oriented place.  With their circles, treasury lists and convos, Etsy is much more of a social site than eBay.  Etsy has a section for selling vintage items, which is where we and our postcards fall under.   I'm really not sure Etsy is the best place in the world to list & try to sell postcards.  But we shall see.

There are lots of things I like about Etsy.  I especially like the layout of the listings - it just somehow seems nicer & cleaner than eBay's.  Easier to understand. 

eBay & Etsy have a different language.  eBay has stores, Etsy has shops.  eBay watches items and saves favorite sellers, Etsy favorites items and shops.  eBay has categories, Etsy has sections.  It is quite a bit easier to see item and shop (store) statistics on Etsy than it is on eBay.  eBay has more sophisticated reporting if you're in to that stuff - in fact I'm not sure Etsy has any reporting to speak of, other than the shop stats.

On eBay, it's possible to save favorite sellers, or "watch" an item you're interested in.  There is the same type of thing on Etsy, the difference is on Etsy you can see who "favorites" an item or your shop.  You could, if you wanted, "convo" or contact them.   I've often wondered how many buyers on eBay have us in their "saved sellers" list, and who it is watching my items - I have no clue. 

It's a lot easier to organize your favorite sellers and items on eBay than it is on Etsy.  Also eBay allows you up to 300 categories and sub-categories for the items you're selling.  Etsy only allows 10 sections, with no subsections.

There are no auctions on Etsy. 

Etsy seems to be a bit less expensive to do business on than eBay.  The fee structure is different, so it is hard to compare, but at first glance, it seems less expensive. 

Printing address labels is a lot easier on eBay, especially online labels from the Post Office.

eBay is bigger than Etsy, I suspect a lot bigger, and has a lot more structure to it.  A lot of this structure comes in the form of ever increasingly restrictive rules on sellers, and I'm pretty sure there is a reason for that.  Up to now we've just shrugged and adjusted (well, sometimes maybe not), pretty much doing what ever they wanted, but unless we change something dramatically we will not be able to meet their 90% delivery confirmation rule.  For some stupid reason I'm proud of our top rated seller status.  Providing good customer service just seems natural to me.  We're almost certainly going to lose the TRS status, at least for awhile.

So at any rate we decided to at least partially jump ship, and try to establish our postcard business on Etsy.   eBay is so huge, I'm positive absolutely no one noticed. We're like a flea on an elephant.  Not even.  Put 10 elephants on top of each other, then maybe we'd be like a flea on the mass of 10 elephants.  Probably not even that.  Maybe a flea egg.  Maybe if fleas had fleas, we'd be like a flea on a flea on the mass of 10 elephants.  Not very significant to the survival or profitability of eBay.

Anyway, at this point we have 638 items on Etsy (all of which would have been on eBay), and move more everyday.  When we're done, we'll have in the neighborhood of 2,000 items on Etsy.  They'll be mostly postcards, snapshots, trade cards with some antique photos in the mix.  I'm not sure how many items we'll have on eBay, but I suspect in the neighborhood of 1500, about half of what we used to have.  For the most part they will be various ilks of antique photos.  Once those number are established, we'll build from there.

It won't happen by June, when this 90% rule takes effect.  We'll lose our beloved top rated seller status, even though we're just as dependable as we've always been.

Anyway, this is the projection,  assuming things work as planned.  That is a big assumption, the jury is still out on Etsy.  What's important is the bottom line, translated as sales.  Right now sales on Etsy are dismal, and I'm not surprised by that.   For April, we usually sell more in a single day on eBay than we did for the entire month on Etsy.  In fact the entire months sales on Etsy for April, would make a below average sales day for us on eBay (also in April).  Not good, but it's early yet.

It takes awhile to make a profit. We've been selling on eBay since 2006 & I suppose we're pretty well established in the world of postcard & antique photo sellers there.  We have a fair amount of sales anyway, with a fair amount of repeat customers, and we make money every month.   We jumped into Etsy with no customer base, no exposure whatsoever, and obviously we're not the only one selling these items there.  So it doesn't surprise me that after 2 months sales are not good.  We have to stick it out for awhile, keep plugging away, keep learning, use the site the way it's intended to be used, and hopefully the sales will come.  There is a lot of potential, and I'm optimistic.

At some point - not exactly sure when, but at some point, we'll make a go/no go decision concerning Etsy.  If worse comes to worse, we'll regroup at that time figure things out and soldier on.  But one thing at a time.  Right now we're concentrating on making Etsy work. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Thoughts

Just another post of a short series of stuff.

I still like twitter better than facebook, I think (still) because it's more anonymous.  In twitter I literally only know a handful of people I follow or who follow me - a half dozen (it was so hard not to type half a dozen) at most.  In facebook almost everyone I follow or who follows me are family or friends.  I don't want family and friends finding out about the real me.  I mean, who would?

Are there degrees of identical-ness?  I made a comment the other evening that two items were "barely identical", which seemed silly at the time.  Its like being barely pregnant.  However, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.  Everything that is identical is just barely identical, because if one minute thing was different, they would not be identical.

Still not comfortable with the difference between affect and effect, no matter how many times it gets explained to me.

I still continue to read, but I'm behind in updating my reading in this blog.  And heaven help me, I picked up another Robert Ludlum book, but only because someone literally left a bunch of books on our porch (we have kind of a reciprocal agreement going - I think).

Here in Western North Carolina, we're on the edge of a storm.  I believe it is passing to the east of us, and heading north, which means it will be bad for those in it's way.  Here it is just overcast, cool, off and on sprinkles, and a very lazy day for Pickles the Dog.

I tweeted about this yesterday.  On TV there is a show about million dollar rooms.  Some guy was bragging about how he'd spent over a million dollars just on the entry foyer to his home.  Another had a $250,000 bullet proof window in one of his rooms.  And here I am happy as a clam when I sell a postcard for $5.00.

Actually a couple of weeks ago we sold a CDV for about $50.00, and I was 10 times happier than a clam - even though it's possible it was worth quite a bit more than that.  

It's interesting he felt the need to have a bullet proof window.  But this is the USA so it figures.  And I bet, just like in the case of identical-ness, or even more so, there are different degrees of bullet proof-ness.  What I'm saying is, it all depends on how badly someone wants to shoot a bullet though his window.  Since this IS the USA, I'm sure there is a gun and a bullet for the job, no matter the window.

We continue to move postcards from eBay to Etsy - more on that grand experiment later.

I miss having a cat.  I'm not sure a cat would mix well with Pickles though.

Enough.  Done.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Our eBay (& Etsy) Month - March 2012

March was a good month, not great, but it continued a series of above average months for us.  It also was the start of a bold new experiment, where we are slowly but surely moving our postcards, snapshots & trade cards to etsy, concentrating our antique photo sales on eBay.

So, while March was an above average month for us, we did not sell as much as we did in either of the previous two months.   It is easy to tell why at a glance of a spreadsheet I keep - both our average daily transactions & average items sold per day were down by 1 item a day from the previous month, while the average price we received for items was about the same.  If you sell less, you generally earn less, which is not really that astute an observation.

But again, it was a good month. 

Etsy contributed, but not a whole lot, and we didn't expect it to at this point.  We'll give Etsy until October or so, or maybe to the end of the year, and if it doesn't start paying for itself and then some, we'll call the experiment a failure and start backing off.  Etsy of course is famous for hand made items, but they do allow sales of vintage collectibles and other items, and that is where our postcards fit in.  I don't know if it will be a success for us or not, but we shall see.

March was the end of the 1st quarter.  Our 1st quarter earnings, both gross and net, were roughly 10% higher than 1st quarter of 2011, so that's good.  However, they were about 10% lower (give or take) than our 4th quarter 2011 earnings.  We had a very good 4th quarter last year.    I've noticed that in 3 of the last 4 years we've had a 3rd quarter slump - summer months - so I'll guess I'll be thinking about how to handle that as time goes on.

Our international sales were strong, once again.  Much stronger than our yearly average.  International sales actually got a bit of a boost from Etsy, literally 3/4ths of our sales from that site went to Europe or Canada.

In March, for the first time this year, photo sales were greater than postcard sales.  In fact, the reason that March was not quite a good a month as February is because we sold fewer postcards.   That could be an effect moving things to Etsy, really can't say at this point.  Eventually,  if things work out as planned, photos will take over our eBay business.  If they don't, then postcards will be back there.  I reckon.

April has started off very well eBay-wise, very poor Etsy wise.  It'll be interesting to see how it turns out.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Books I've read lately.

I've been remiss lately in fulfilling my compulsion to write something, anything, about what I read.  I've not even been updating the book on the sidebar.  So, I'll have to mend my ways.  So here's some thoughts on books I've read lately.

I read The Devlin Diaries by Christi Phillips.  It is essentially about two mysteries of sorts, which take place 340 years apart or so.  One is set in the reign of King Charles II, and the other in present day Cambridge.  Its a story of professors, historical research, a 17th century serial killer, the modern day death of a much disliked professor and so on.  I liked it. I thought it was very well written (though I did find an editing error - where her 17th century character replied to the modern day professor), and it was a good story.

I also read The Day I Died by Steve Sjoregren, which is a true story about the author's botched surgery and it's aftermath.  The author is a hard working pastor of a large church in Cincinnati, and seems to be a nice guy.  The operation was scheduled gall bladder surgery.  I know what a person with gall bladder problems goes though, I apparently had gall stones etc and I was sicker than I've ever been in my life.  Pain, vomiting, and more vomiting, even when there was nothing to vomit.  My body found something.  So as much as surgery is not a fun thing to do, I can see the necessity of it. 

So anyway, the surgeon made a mistake right off the bat, making an incision at a wrong angle and too deeply.  The incision ended up cutting through a bowel, and cutting an artery.  The author very nearly bled to death and was technically dead, was revived, and at some point later was technically dead and revived again.

Can someone be technically dead?

He spent a long time heavily medicated, in and out of consciousness, and saw things which he interprets religiously. 

Personally, I'm very glad I didnt read this book before I had gall bladder surgery.

So the first part of the book was interesting.  The last half turned into a motivational type book - how to be a better father, husband, friend, etc.  I really do not like motivational books.  Maybe I have no desire to be motivated.

Next I read Against All Odds by Tom Clancy.  It's about what you would expect - military special forces, people being killed on every page (usually their heads explode), world-wide conspiracies which range from Pakistan/Afghanistan to Mexico & a lot of stereotypes.  It was a fast, easy read, good story and I expect it will be a major motion picture some day.  It's very typical of the type of fiction Tom Clancy writes.