It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
when you see their store.
Take a look at the ornaments glistening on the page
with dancing girls, Santa themes and more.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas,
thanks to Flounce Around.
It's the prettiest site to see, décor for any tree;
a winter playground.
Mother-daughter duo Florence and Robin Sousa decided to open their eBay shop, Flounce Around the House, in 2002. But before it became Christmas year-round, the pair went through a lot of trial and error. They began by selling things they no longer wanted, and then started doing commission sales.
We found selling individual items was very time intensive, so we researched products we could sell in multiples
"We found selling individual items was very time intensive, so we researched products we could sell in multiples," Robin Sousa says.
They tried different niches, including food, clothing, toys, candles and collectibles. But it was the ornaments that outsold all the other categories, every year, Sousa notes.
Flounce Around the House specializes mostly in glass ornaments. The Sousa gals go to national gift shows each year to source most of their inventory. They choose a huge selection of themed ornaments, including animals, sports, food and music, not to mention traditional angels, Santas and round balls.
Successful throughout the year
It must be the variety that keeps the store abounding. While November and December are undoubtedly the busiest selling months for Flounce Around, the store sells an average of 50 ornaments a month throughout the year.
It doesn't have to be one special time out of the year for people to share a sentimental keepsake with someone they love.
"Ornaments are personal gifts given between people who know and care about each other," Sousa notes.
Flounce Around the House has many return customers, likely because ornaments are the kinds of purchases collectors return to. But the store relies also on word-of-mouth, in addition to an annual direct mail marketing campaign.
Delicate shipping matter
As you can imagine, shipping delicate glass items can be a tricky business.
We believe we are responsible for the item purchased until our customer takes it out of the shipping box with their own hands
"We believe we are responsible for the item purchased until our customer takes it out of the shipping box with their own hands," Sousa says.
They buy high-quality protective wrapping and boxes from a local vendor, she reports. The packaging material and thick cardboard boxes help the women feel confident their ornaments can withstand whatever abuse each order may encounter in shipping.
Of the thousand or so ornaments they ship around the globe each year, an average of only five break in transit, Sousa reports.
And though that may seem like a small number, it still encourages the eBay sellers to keep quality customer service as their top priority.
"Everything we do is to provide the best possible experience for our customers," Sousa says.
Of course, they will do whatever they can to satisfy the customer who received a broken ornament, but they go beyond just fixing shipment errors.
The gals designed their eBay Store to be relaxing and easy to navigate, Sousa says.
Subscribing to a store on eBay allows sellers to create their own shop categories, so it's easier for customers to find what they're looking for. For example, Flounce Around the House has a "Christmas" category with as many as 500 listings.
If you select the "Ornaments" subcategory, there is still a large selection to search through. But the "Ornaments" subcategory has its own set of 20 subcategories that easily filter results into specific themes. Some of these include "Angels and Fairies," "Garden and Nature" and "Travel."
Creating an efficient shipping area is an ongoing process. As the business expands, we have to rework our storage and processing areas
Flounce Around the House also reaches out to its target market by offering selections in different price ranges, Sousa says.
"Most families have traditions around decorating the Christmas tree and giving ornaments to each other as gifts," Sousa says. "Whether the ornament is a plastic $2 mouse or a $50 Gustav Klimt glass ornament, it is both given and received with love."
And since most of the ornaments are purchased as gifts, Flounce Around the House offers complimentary gift packaging. Sousa says they even ship the order in such a way as to make customers feel like they are unwrapping a gift, themselves.
Challenges help them grow
One of the biggest challenges the Sousa women have had as eBay sellers is learning how to take quality product pictures. They've spent a lot of time figuring out how to use lighting and camera techniques to produce the best effects for a professional photograph.
Flounce Around the House has been a home-based business for more than a decade now, and the Sousas would like to keep it that way for as long as possible. This means they have to keep a disciplined organization system as inventory grows.
Every week, they unpack incoming stock, photograph items and then place them in labeled bins. With 500 different ornaments in their inventory, they need to know exactly where to find a specific item during the busy holiday season.
"Creating an efficient shipping area is also an ongoing process," Sousa adds. "As the business expands, we have to rework our storage and processing areas."
Selling online allows me to keep my full-time job (and benefits), and Florence to enjoy her busy social life
Splitting the work
It may sound like the co-founders of Flounce Around the House are working closely together every day, but the fact is, they live almost an hour away from each other. Yet they found a system that works well for the company.
Florence fields incoming customer calls, updates database information and manages all the Nutcracker Suite Ballet listings. Edward, her husband of 60 years, let her turn the guest bedroom into a shipping room, and he helps with her orders as well.
Robin, on the other hand, works the rest of the inventory around a full-time job. In the morning she prepares orders that were made during the night, and after work she prepares the day's orders. Saturdays are reserved for unpacking and photographing new inventory.
"Selling online allows me to keep my full-time job (and benefits), and Florence to enjoy her busy social life," Sousa notes.
A special time of year
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, a special time of year.
The two feel honored to be a part of a person's Christmas heart, say the gals at Flounce Around the House.