In eBay's early years, the online marketplace was known as a collector's den, a bargain hunter's paradise and a place where anyonefrom the local antiques dealer to your Uncle Joecould go to build a business, whether as a full-time pursuit or a supplement to their regular income.
Though that part of eBay is somewhat harder to find these days, it still exists. And it's the eBay Wanda Harvell knows and loves.
As wanda_h_1956, Harvell has found a comfortable niche in seasonal apparel and accessories, such as scarves, gloves and hats. Her listings can be found mainly during the fall and winter months when these items are most in demand.
"I usually start in the fall, when I can get good bulk buys on cold-weather merchandise," says Harvell. "I've found that gloves sell really well on eBay."
Auctiva has saved me about 90 percent of my listing fees
Harvell discovered the online trading site in 2005, after hearing friends talk about the great values they'd found there. She joined hoping to cut expenses by purchasing everyday items at a discount. But soon, she decided to try her hand at selling to supplement the family's income from her husband Don's disability pay and sales of her handcrafted jewelry.
"Now it's what we do to make ends meet," she says. Though her total sales rarely amount to more than $150 a month, "every little bit helps," she concedes.
Cutting costs with Auctiva
"That's why I love Auctiva. I can use it to make my listings look professional; I can set them up and wait to post them, for no extra chargeand the site helps me keep check of everything," Harvell explains.
Being able to include supersized images for free has also been a saving grace, she notes, because buyers want to see as much detail of an item as possible before they commit to a purchase.
"I didn't know about Auctiva for a long time. Back in those days, it cost me $4 to $6 an item to list on eBay, depending on how many pictures I put in. Now it's only 35 cents," Harvell says. "Auctiva has saved me about 90 percent of my listing fees."
She has also found that using the Auctiva scrolling gallery storefront helped boost traffic to her listings. After setting up Wanda's This & That Store on Auctiva, she had 48 new visitors in a matter of days.
Understanding the market
I try to price things at what I would want to buy them for
A full-time artisan for more than 15 years, Harvell's many travels to sell her jewelry designs at large arts and crafts shows have taught her a thing or two about merchandising.
"Price, price, pricepeople want low prices," she reports. "Most of the time, I list items on eBay for about half the retail value. Buyers are really attracted to bargains, so I try to find the things that I can offer the best deals on.
"You really have to work your brain sometimes to figure out what the right price point is. Some sellers start things at a penny, but then you look and the shipping is $15. That just doesn't seem right to me," she explains. "I try to price things at what I would want to buy them for."
A few times, Harvell tried listing her jewelry on eBay but found that the market was flooded. So now she promotes her original pieces mainly at jewelry and artifact shows and on her off-eBay store.
And at certain times of the year, she can be found at store closeouts and clearance sales, hunting for deeply discountedbut never factory-second or damagedmerchandise to sell on eBay.
Hard to stay away
Harvell sometimes worries that smaller merchants like herself are being left behind amid eBay's many changes. A run-in with a non-paying bidder a few months ago seemed to be the final straw.
"For a while I stopped listing. I just was fed up," she says. "But Christmas was coming and I needed extra cash. So I decided to try it one more time. So far I haven't had any problems.
"When you're trying to make ends meet, it's hard to stay away," she admits. "But I know there are still a lot of good people on eBay, so I'll just stick with it."
Browse Harvell's eBay listings here.
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Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.