Ginger McSwain of The Dress Garden
With the bleak economy dampening online sales, many smaller merchants might be inclined to pull back or even bail out. But Ginger McSwain of The Dress Garden is seizing the opportunity to expand her business, both on eBay and off.
"The key for me is you never say 'die,'" she says. "You keep learning and teaching yourself new things."
McSwain has been selling on eBay for three years—and on a full-time basis for the past year—yet in many ways, she feels like she's just getting started. That's largely because The Dress Garden is in the midst of transitioning from selling "anything and everything" related to ladies' apparel to specializing in dresses to better reflect the name.
At the same time, she's decided to expand the business to a site off of eBay at TheDressGarden.com, as well as open a second eBay Store, Reminiscent Vintage, which will focus on vintage apparel.
"I feel like I need three of me right now," McSwain laughs. "But Auctiva has made the difference for me.
As I started using Auctiva, I started seeing my eBay sales grow and my business thrive
"When I first started using Auctiva's eBay listing tools I reached PowerSeller status right away. I went to Silver almost immediately," she says. "For pre-owned ladies' clothing, I thought that was just fabulous. I really felt like Auctiva was instrumental in helping me reach that level."
McSwain tried several services before Auctiva, but found them to be cumbersome, "and the support was awful," she remembers. "About two years ago, I found Auctiva. Frankly, I thought I would get better service from a company I had to pay for, so I was stunned at what a great service it was.
"As I started using Auctiva, I started seeing my eBay sales grow and my business thrive," she continues. "The tools have been really helpful to me in refining my business processes."
For instance, McSwain analyzes what sells best on which days of the week and during which time of day. Using Auctiva's scheduler allows her to time all of her listings for maximum sell-through and profit.
Additionally, using Auctiva's customizable folders enables her to sort and keep careful track of inventory, as well as organize items to collect sales tax on. She has also recently learned how to customize Auctiva's templates.
"For me, it's a matter of how much time can I save," she says of learning and implementing additional features. "I'm using Auctiva heavily as I gear up more and try to drive traffic to my off-eBay site."
A new outfit
Before 2006, McSwain never envisioned herself as a retail entrepreneur—she's a paralegal by trade. But when her work-at-home position suddenly shifted back to full-time in the office, she decided she'd rather look for another career that would allow her to work a flexible schedule and would let her be home with the kids.
"When I was looking around for other options, I remember thinking, 'What's eBay all about?'" she recalls. "I had honestly never been on eBay before then, but I sat down and logged in and thought, 'OK, I'm in, now what do I do?'"
I try to keep learning and figure out how to take my business to the next level
After selling a few things from around the house, she decided to find an inventory source and start a business around something she loves—women's fashion.
Since her husband hobbies as a licensed auctioneer, she was already immersed in the world of vintage items, which became the impetus for spinning off the Reminiscent Vintage store.
The new store won't be ready to open for a few more months—McSwain has 180 items sitting in Auctiva's scheduler while she develops the storefront design.
Her off-eBay shop is a work in progress, as well, McSwain says, with only a fraction of the inventory she'd like to have stocked for the grand opening. "Over the next couple of months, I'll open the doors and really work on marketing over there," she says.
"It's not to replace eBay, because eBay is still vital to my business," she continues. "It's a good marketing tool, and it can be a profitable part of a good sales strategy. But I don't think it needs to be the only strategy you have for growing your business."
Though sales are down somewhat from last year, McSwain remains optimistic.
"This economy is putting a terrible strain on not just me, but all eBay sellers—but I'm not willing to say, 'This isn't working anymore,'" she asserts. "I just try to keep learning and figure out how to take my business to the next level. I read the Auctiva Community boards and I devour everything I get through Auctiva Education."
With three stores to manage, McSwain has a lot on her plate, but she's also trying to learn more about market analysis. Social networking is on her list of things to try to boost traffic, but it'll have to wait for now.
"It's a lot to juggle," she admits. "But I feel like my business will be successful because what you get out of it is directly related to what you put in, in terms of hours and being willing to learn new information to build it."
Visit The Dress Garden on eBay, or at TheDressGarden.com.