Paul Connor began his eBay selling venture in 2005 in the back room of a family restaurant he owned, as a way to keep the establishment afloat.
Business at the 5-year-old Iowa eatery was beginning to slow, and an entire room sat full of unused, unwanted and unneeded restaurant equipment, recalls Connor, now the owner of EZ Sell USA Consignment Center on eBay.
Auction sites were in their prime, Connor explains, so he and his business associate decided to sell those surplus items on eBay. They cleared the room in two months, having sold $3,000 worth of products. After seeing how profitable eBay could be, the duo hung a sign outside the restaurant's back door that read, "We'll sell stuff for you on eBay."
And with that, EZ Sell USA was born.
On eBay, you can find the handful of people who know what an item is and want to buy it
Big-ticket items kick off sales
In 2006, the restaurant closed permanently, and Connor's full-time job became selling on eBay. The first things he sold then were the remaining restaurant supplies from his eatery, including 35 ticket-redemption games that had filled the establishment's game room.
Though he could have sold the games locally for $20,000, "I knew they were worth more," the now Top-rated seller recalls. They sold on eBay for $50,000.
Connor wasn't surprised the games sold. He says the mass audience eBay provides makes it a great marketplace to sell items, even those that are attractive only to a small niche.
"On eBay, you can find the handful of people who know what an item is and want to buy it," he says.
Two people wanted to buy his games, and flew to Iowa to walk through the restaurant and see the games for themselves. The man who bought them was looking to open a restaurant similar to the one Connor previously owned. The buyer knew he was getting the games for a steal—another great appeal of auction sites like eBay. New machines would have cost him more than $100,000, Connor explains.
"We loaded them onto a semi, and I rode with the driver to deliver them," he adds. "Free delivery anywhere in the lower 48 was part of the deal."
The following year, Connor decided to focus on selling other people's stuff for them, knowing that not everyone who wants to sell something online has the time to photograph products and create listings. It proved to be a good decision. Today, Connor's business includes 12 employees, and lots of inventory.
Connor's team posts about 100 listings a week. The aim is to turn over $5,000 in sales a week—and they're getting close to reaching that goal, he says.
But growth has taken time, dedication and hard work, the seller notes. EZ Sell USA went through the process of becoming a Registered eBay Drop-off Location for people who want to sell items on eBay but lack the time or know how to do it. Connor has also done a lot of advertising locally to attract clients.
He's built a strong relationship with two local newspapers, The Golden View and Flash, and writes a regular column for the papers called "What's it Worth on eBay?"
In these columns, Connor discusses some of the finds his clients bring in, and values they garner on eBay. He also takes out ads in the papers to spread the word about his business, he notes.
These columns have helped establish a good reputation for Connor's business and spread the word about his consignment shop—and they've gotten people thinking about the items they have in their house, and what they might be worth.
"They get people thinking, 'Hey, I have one of those, or Aunt Sue has one of those. I saw it when I was a kid,'" he says, adding that if the item sells for a lot, readers (aka potential clients), might bring in something similar to the shop.
The fun part of it is taking the photo, doing the listing and finding the value where, before, there was none
Connor's brick-and-mortar shop, where people can drop off their items to have them resold on eBay, also happens to be on one of the busiest intersections in his city, giving him even greater visibility.
Recently, Connor has seen a lot of interesting items come in for consignment, including antiques and collectibles, fine china and silver, musical instruments, miniature horse figures and porcelain dolls. He's also seen his share of items that aren't valuable but that people bring in, thinking they are.
His crew has recently received so much new inventory that, while it used to take 10 days from the time people dropped off their goods to have them listed, today it takes about a month to get items live on eBay, he says.
A crew of experts
That's not to say that Connor isn't working as hard as he can. He is. He even enlists the help of listing specialists, who photograph items, write descriptions and post listings. These specialists work part time and on commission.
They each have their own area of expertise. One woman, for example, is a retired jeweler and handles the jewelry listings. Another person is a car model guru and handles these as well as electronics. Having experts on hand is always beneficial, but it's especially helpful in a consignment business, Connor says.
"We're always dealing with new and different things," he explains. "Some of them have similarities and others you say, 'Where'd you find this?'"
One woman, a repeat client of Connor's, recently brought in a flower arrangement made of silk flowers. The piece is as big as half of Connor's counter, he says, and cost the woman $700 at retail. Now Connor will try to sell it on eBay.
"I don't know if it's going to sell on eBay, but we're going to give it a shot," he notes. "The fun part of it is taking the photo, doing the listing and finding the value where, before, there was none."
But first, he and his experts will have to research the arrangement to give it the best possibility for a sale, and to put it in front of the right buyers.
'All levels of clients'
However, not all items people bring to Connor's shop fetch a profit. Connor knows some items won't sell at all, and he only accepts item for consignment that have a perceived profit of at least $50. The time and labor required to sell anything for less wouldn't be cost efficient, he says.
"Some [items] we find value in, some of it, we can't," he notes. "That's the hard part."
The tough economic times can make it even tougher to be a consignor, as some people who stop by Connor's shop are looking to unload a few items to make ends meet.
"Some people come in here and ask you to help them pay this month's rent or this month's mortgage, and my heart goes out to them," he says. "You see all levels of clients when you do what we do."
We use Auctiva exclusively for our listings. We use any and all the features we can. They're all valuable
Still, Connor does his best to get his clients' items sold. Great photos that show a product in its true form are essential, and Auctiva's image hosting has helped Connor and his crew to provide buyers with "essentially unlimited" photos of items at no extra charge, he says.
But Auctiva, as a whole, has been invaluable to Connor's business, he adds.
"We use Auctiva exclusively for our listings," he says. "We use the lister, the profiles, the scheduler, and any and all [the features] we can. They're all valuable."
The consignment feature is also very helpful, allowing Connor to print reports so he knows how much he needs to pay each client.
Short, accurate descriptions have also helped him draw in buyers, Connor points out. People won't take the time to read long listings filled with fluff, he says. He knows this firsthand, based on the number of questions he gets on his listings.
"If they read through the entire description, they would find the answer," he explains.
He suggests that sellers keep this in mind, and keep their descriptions brief, focused and to the point. He also reminds sellers the importance of getting the right keywords in a listing title to make sure the listings get in front of the right people.
Visit EZ Sell USA Consignment Center.