How to Grow an eBay Business, Part 1

Here's the story of how one eBay seller found success.

by Brad and Debra Schepp
- Sep 14, 2010

As the summer winds down, and we all look toward the beginning of the holiday shopping season, now is a good time to look at some ways eBay sellers can boost their businesses and increase their sales volumes.

To help illustrate how some sellers have accomplished this, we'd like to tell you the story of Clare Haines, a successful eBay seller from the United Kingdom. Haines operates the Lingerie Outlet Store on eBay. Her story begins like those of many successful eBay sellers:

For about five years, Haines watched a friend build his eBay business. He kept encouraging her to do the same, but she wasn't ready.

"I had a fantastic job in sales management," she tells us. "Eventually, after having a really bad week at work, I decided to take the plunge, hand in my notice and give it a go."

How many of us dream of just such a moment? Actually, movies and TV shows are full of stories that begin just this way. Fortunately, Haines had the backing and courage necessary to put that dream in place. What she did next may be a bit surprising.

"I spent the first eight months buying and selling anything," she said. "I sold toys, lamps, fishing lines, boots, etc. I was buying from clearance centers, as it was clear buyers were looking for bargains. I finally decided that lingerie would be a good choice, as the shelf life is very short and clearance was big business."

This brings us to the first tip Haines offers to others wishing to follow her example.

I would advise new sellers to keep their job and start by buying and selling on eBay for a bit of fun

Don't quit your day job… yet

"I would advise new sellers to keep their job and start by buying and selling on eBay for a bit of fun," she says. "I would tell them to do the same as I did: Buy lots of different types of products. That way they'll find out what they enjoy and, ultimately, what works. I personally would also try to keep away from anything that might break."

Haines goes on to remind newcomers that they must consider not only what they sell, but also the logistics of storing and shipping the inventory they finally decide to carry.

"It's all very well selling trampolines," she notes. "But where are you going to store them?" As an added tip, Haines recommends new eBay sellers carry consumable items, like vacuum cleaner bags or printer cartridges. "If the product is good and their service is great, the buyer will be back for more."

Haines offers us a refresher on a sage old piece of eBay advice: "Success is in the buying, not the selling," she says. Yes, that's a fact that is clear to any successful seller, but Haines went further to add, "Buy branded products and buy in high quantities." In her experience, buyers want the brands they're familiar with, and if you provide great customer service, they'll be happy to return for more.

Live up to great expectations

As for her approach to customer service, she says: "Think like High Street, not eBay. The customers who buy from eBay expect a great price but want this backed up with a great service. Too many eBayers out there do not provide good service, so this is good news for anyone who is professional. If you can exceed your customers' expectations, they will come back."

To achieve this goal, Haines has a "no quibble money-back guarantee." As long as the item has not been worn when she receives it back, she will refund the money. Her customers are responsible for paying return shipping, but Haines' approach to customer service leaves little for prospective customers to worry about.

"To be honest," she says, "if someone has a real issue with my product, I have not got time to mess around. I ask them what they want and deliver it."

Haines turned to her experiences as an eBay buyer to craft her approach to dealing with customers.

"I recently bought a cap with LED lights. It was advertised as BNWT [brand new, without tags], but when it arrived the lights did not work," she tells us. "I questioned the seller, and he told me his son had been playing with it and wore out the batteries. He told me to go and buy some new ones. When I confronted him he told me to 'get a grip' as it was only £3.99. Needless to say, I pursued this, and eBay came down on him like a ton of bricks.

"We need to get rid of these types of sellers," she adds.

Haines looks at an unhappy customer as an opportunity to build customer loyalty. "If someone is really unhappy and you exceed their expectations, they will come back and buy from you again. I try to take a positive spin off all the bad sellers," she says.

I have grown my business from two items, four items, eight items, etc. I am still doing this now

Appear professional and act the part

To help her store and listings appear professionally done, Haines turned to eBay consultancy As Was. "They knew the eBay law and took keywords very seriously," she reports. "I now have a fantastic template, which buyers respond extremely well to. I would say they were not the cheapest, but the product and service they provide are worth every penny. Proof is in the pudding!"

Professional templates, a professional look and a professional attitude toward her customers have helped Haines's business grow steadily and at a very comfortable pace.

"I grew organically," she explains. "I have grown my business from two items, four items, eight items, etc. I am still doing this now."

Watching her growth and planning for the future have helped Haines see her next steps. "I currently sell four manufacturers. I'm adding another two in September and plan to add a further two by the end of October."

Her long-term goals include continuing to add to her lingerie offerings by either buying product direct from the factory or rebranding clearance lingerie in the United Kingdom.

So, this far into her eBay experience, what has become of Haines' friend who first inspired her to give eBay a try?

"He now has the largest fishing shop in Europe," with more than 3,000 products, she reports. "eBay is his core business, but he also sells on Amazon and has three Web sites."

About the Author

Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book, which Deb co-authored with John Lawson, Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-preneurs: It's Not About Likes—It's About Sales, was recently named the 2015 Small Business Book of the Year in the social media category.

For further information, visit Brad and Deb's website,

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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