Karen Holt, East Lane Avenue
East Lane Avenue is a place that holds fond memories for Karen Holt, which is why her eBay Store now bears its name. "It was the street I lived on in college," she muses. "I always thought it was an interesting name."
But if the store's title calls to mind a time in Holt's life of youthful discovery, its theme reflects the culmination of that journey, a sense of ease—and of home.
East Lane Avenue, the store, features name-brand home and garden products with casual sophistication—items Holt describes as "quality merchandise at a reasonable price." Inventory varies, but typically includes brand-name draperies and window treatments, bed and bath decor, kitchen and bath fixtures and hardware, and collectibles.
In a way, opening East Lane Avenue represents a homecoming for Holt, who began her online endeavors as an eBay buyer some 12 years ago. A foray into selling on the site became "hot and heavy" in 2007, she says, and she was hooked. Though she eventually grew restless and left to explore alternative sites, Holt returned to eBay last fall and decided to settle in for a long stay. In February, she opened her eBay Store and quickly achieved Top-rated Seller status.
I was so happy when I came back to find that all my information was still there in Auctiva
"I think, as far as buyer traffic, eBay is still the best place to sell online," she says.
But just for good measure, Holt markets her eBay listings on her Facebook Page. To post items, she simply enters the eBay item description and link in the "What's on your mind?" field, and the item displays on her "wall" for fans—and anyone visiting her page—to see.
"I'm not sure how effective it is in terms of sales, but so far it's free, so it can't hurt," she notes. "I'm hoping to grow my Facebook fan base to increase my visibility."
Holt's niche is home décor and accessories, items that both appeal to her and have a good track record of selling on eBay. Window treatments and bedding are always hot sellers, she notes. The key is to source products at a cost that's low enough to allow a reasonable profit on resale, which takes some finesse.
"Ultimately, most of your profit is in the buy," she explains, noting that there are exceptions to every rule. "Some items don't have a lot of margin, but I'll sell them anyway because they sell well and drive a lot of traffic. I wouldn't call them 'loss leaders' because I won't sell anything for a loss. But by the time you pay selling fees, there's not a lot left.
"Shower curtain rings are a good example. Who'd guess they'd be so popular? But for some reason, they're a really good draw, she says.
"Many of the items I have are discontinued or out of stock at retail, and people need to match something they have in their home, like cabinet hardware," she continues. "I'm not selling the kind of products I can just order another thousand of. I'm always on the hunt for something new."
Like an old friend
When she returned to eBay, Holt also renewed her account with Auctiva—and was relieved to learn she wouldn't have to start from scratch.
"I was so happy when I came back to find that all my information was still there in Auctiva," she says.
Holt first became an Auctiva user when it was a free site, but still she finds Auctiva's suite of eBay listing tools to be a good value for the price. Among the many features she uses, two of her favorites are still free to all users: the Auctiva storefront and Scrolling Gallery.
"I change what's scrolling in my gallery daily. I make sure to select exactly which 16 listings I want to have scrolling," she explains. "I want to have the most profitable or most interesting items showing.
I usually list fixed-price listings for 10 days. I feel like I get more eyes on a shorter listing
"I also keep my free Auctiva Store up to date and accurate. I keep everything organized by setting up custom categories, which are not necessarily the same as the categories in my eBay Store."
Holt adds that she always purchases Auctiva Shipping Insurance for higher-priced transactions, though, fortunately, she's never had to file a claim.
The next level
Although her free Auctiva Store provides a private, customizable showcase for all her eBay listings, Holt decided to take the additional step to open a Premium-level eBay Store in February, when eBay announced its most recent round of pricing changes.
"When I analyzed the cost, it looked like my overall listing fees would be the same. So with the additional marketing and presence you get with an eBay Store, it seemed like a no-brainer," she says.
As a benefit of her eBay Store, Holt sends newsletters to opted-in customers to market her latest listings. She also likes that she can list any item for a 5-cent fee, no matter what the listing duration.
"I usually list fixed-price listings for 10 days. I feel like I get more eyes on a shorter listing," she explains. "The way eBay's Best Match works, 30-day listings usually don't sell until the 30 days are up. I want to turn my inventory faster than that."
While about 80 percent of Holt's listings are fixed-price, she is planning to work more auction listings into the mix to get the boost in visibility auction listings deliver. But mostly, she's just hoping to list more.
"I'd love to be able to do this full time. I like the independence of working for myself from home, but I'll continue on a part time basis for the foreseeable future," she says. "For now, my goal is to increase my sell-through and build up my volume to at least 100 active listings at any given time."