Christina Santia, Auntie Tina's Attic
In the beginning, there were Beanie Babies. Then along came Pokémon, followed by sports collectibles, furniture, antiques and glassware. These things and more now overflow from Auntie Tina's Attic.
"I have six storage units full of items I've collected over the years," laughs Auntie Tina, also known as Christina Santia.
An antiques collector for more than 30 years, Santia says it was those wildly popular little beanbag bears that initially sent her to eBay, back in the earliest days of the auction site.
By the time the Beanie craze calmed down, Pokémon had come to the fore, and Santia had decided to make eBay a permanent outpost for selling her interesting finds. She soon began expanding her selection, at every opportunity scouring yard sales and thrift stores for potential inventory.
"I love to find treasures. I must've gotten the spark for treasure hunting from watching 'Antiques Roadshow,'" she says. "To later be able to resell things to someone else to enjoy makes them that much more special."
There's more focus on customer service and making sure that both sellers and buyers are taken care of
Time to refocus, rebuild
Santia's collections eventually outgrew her closet space, and then her garage. So she expanded Auntie Tina's Attic to a brick-and-mortar shop to give items "a place to live," she says.
After 15 years and two relocations, Santia recently closed the shop to focus purely on eBay, where the overhead is lower, the audience is broader and the traffic is more consistent.
"For a long time, in-store sales were steady. I had enough business to pay the rent and buy more stock," she says. "But when the economy got bad, people stopped coming in and buying."
eBay sales also slowed for a while, but now seem to be on the upswing after some recent policy changes within the marketplace.
"Back when I first started on eBay, it was simple and it was profitable. There were plenty of buyers for as many sellers as wanted to be there," Santia muses. "Then things got complicated and, for a while, it was hard to make any money. Now it seems like it's turning around. There's more focus on customer service and making sure that both sellers and buyers are taken care of. I've had some very nice customer service people help me resolve problems."
Though average selling prices have declined, Santia reports she's had quite a bit of success with "local pickup" sales for larger items that previously would have been showcased in the physical shop. In one recent transaction, a buyer drove nearly 100 miles to retrieve an item.
Tooled up for growth
Auntie Tina's Attic typically runs about 25 listings a week, and rings up as much as $1,200 a month in sales. Having closed the brick-and-mortar shop, Santia now hopes to gradually increase listings to 100 a week.
Santia employs a few people who photograph items, write descriptions and upload listings to Auctiva. She takes care of editing the listings before posting or scheduling them, and handles all customer correspondence and packing and shipping.
"I learned not to let anybody pack for you—you lose quality control," Santia notes.
Santia began using Auctiva's eBay listing tools about two years ago so she could add professional-looking templates and additional images to her listings without tacking on fees. She adds a minimum of four images, and as many as 20, she says.
I find that Auctiva is a really good value. I don't think people realize how much you can do with the tools; there are just so many features
Santia finds that the features she regularly uses are not only convenient and save her money, but they are easy to use.
"That's the main thing for me," she remarks. "Auctiva's tools are easier to use even than the same services on eBay.
"It seems like whenever Auctiva comes out with a cool new feature, eBay will go and introduce that next. It's nice to know Auctiva is ahead of the curve," she adds.
"I find that Auctiva is a really good value. I don't think people realize how much you can do with the tools; there are just so many features," she says. "The Education articles are very helpful, and I just discovered the consignment tools—I wish I'd know about them back when I was taking consignments."
Not waiting for spring to tidy up
Santia plans to spend the summer organizing her stock to get a better handle on meeting her growth objectives.
With all those storage units brimming over, where do you begin? "Right now, we're just opening boxes and putting stuff out there in lots," she says.
"I'd like to get organized enough so that I'm putting things out seasonally," she continues. "I'm just getting my Fourth of July things organized now, a week before the holiday. My goal is to get seasonal items out at least three weeks ahead of time.
"I'm getting there," she says. "By Christmas I should have that tightened up."
Santia hopes to continue growing her eBay business and looks to other successful sellers for inspiration.
"I see these people with $20,000 a month in sales, and the seller who just logged 2 million feedbacks. That gives me hope that it can be done," she says. "If I can hire enough people to help get the local economy going, that will be awesome."