Profile: Vintage Flair

Collectors turn hobby into thriving eBay enterprise.

by staff writer
- Aug 07, 2008

As an inveterate collector and estate-sale aficionado, Richard Kelly believed it was a natural step to open a shop centered on collectibles and one-of-a-kind items. Together with his girlfriend, Cindy Gilbert—who brings 25 years of experience running a pawn shop—Kelly operates Kellyclanstore on eBay, where items for sale range from vintage glassware and antique dolls to record albums and sports memorabilia.

"We love to go to auctions," says Kelly. "[Gilbert] has been into collectibles a long time, and I've always loved retro and vintage stuff myself. It got to the point where we just had too much stuff. We decided it was time to try and clear out some of the clutter. It started out small, and it's turning into something that feasibly could become an income for us."

The couple spends their weekends attending estate sales to acquire items to sell on eBay. During the week, Gilbert sorts through the merchandise and creates listings. Kelly mainly handles the packaging and shipping end.

Though the business is still in its infancy, Kellyclanstore has grown to house between 200 and 300 items, and ring up sales of a few hundred dollars a week, according to Kelly.

"Our goal for the first year is to turn a profit of $10,000 to $15,000, and I think we'll hit that pretty easily," Kelly says. "We'd like to bring in $50,000 a year. From what we've seen so far, it looks like that's a reasonable goal."

Despite a business climate at eBay that lately seems to favor high-volume merchants over sellers of unique, used and collectible items, Kellyclanstore has flourished since its opening in April 2008. Kelly attributes much of that growth to his Auctiva Store blog—a free feature of every Auctiva account.

"I couldn't believe the difference the blog made," Kelly says. "From the time I started out, for every ad I would post I wrote a blog right away. That alone increased my store traffic by about 150 percent."

Using Omniture, a statistical report received as a benefit of his eBay Store subscription, Kelly determined that initial traffic to his store via search engines was 8 percent to 9 percent. Since blogging with Auctiva, search engine referrals have grown to more than 26 percent of total traffic.

"In June we had 2,000 people come through the store. This month [July] we're going to be over 6,000," he says.

Between its global exposure and relatively low business risk, eBay's online platform provides an exceptional return on investment

At this pace, the store is "starting to take up a lot of our time," laughs Kelly, who also works full time outside the home, while Gilbert—a full-time student—holds down a part-time job. "But that's really our goal, to make it so one of us can run this full time; there's not a lot of job security out there anymore, so we'd like to be able to build this into something big enough that we can support ourselves on."

Kelly and Gilbert originally considered opening a brick-and-mortar store, but ultimately decided an online store made more sense—and eBay was the natural choice for a venue. Between its global exposure and relatively low business risk, eBay's online platform provides a far better return on investment, Kelly says.

Even so, he notes, without the tools and services provided by Auctiva, eBay's value proposition goes way down. In fact, there's almost no Auctiva feature that Kelly isn't using.

"I like the fact that I can purchase [discount] shipping insurance through Auctiva, and the free eBay picture hosting—that's probably the biggest thing for us. I like the way images can be handled and managed; you can put them into categories, and they upload super fast," he says, enumerating the long list of reasons he uses Auctiva. "The free templates have made a huge difference in our sales, just being able to set up professional-looking listings.

"And the domain name was dirt cheap," he adds. "eBay is charging me $15.95 a month for just a basic store—I'm only paying about $7 a year through Auctiva.

"In fact, if it wasn't for the exposure eBay brings, we would probably just forgo eBay altogether," admits Kelly, echoing the sentiment of countless other sellers who've grown weary of the auction site's fee hikes and policy changes. "The fees on eBay eat you up, especially when you're just starting out. When you're putting all your listings in a store and not selling a lot of stuff right away, it takes a big percentage of your sales just to cover the fees."

For the time being, at least, Kelly is optimistic about the long-term prospects for Kellyclanstore. "The more energy you have for it and the more you put into it, it does pay dividends quite rapidly," he says. "Things are going in the right direction."

About the Author

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.

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