What I’ve Learned so Far From Opening my First eBay Store

After running a vintage shop on Etsy for about a year and a half I decided recently to open a second shop on eBay. I was inspired by the Scavenger Life podcasts by eBay entrepreneurs Jay and Ryanne, who offer a weekly update into the nitty-gritty of growing their online resale and property rental businesses. These guys immediately seemed like kindred spirits. Unapologetically frugal and thrifty, willing to work hard to avoid the corporate 9-5 lifestyle, and determined to live on their own terms. And, as the name implies, they love scavenging for deals and finding cool stuff. Perhaps most importantly, they enjoy what they’re doing. Like them, I don’t think I could sell big stockpiles of the same widgets over and over just to make money; there has to be some joy in the work.

Opening an eBay shop is part of an overall shift in our business model (my husband and I are partners in this venture). We stock our new shop, which we’ve dubbed, FindzShop, with items purchased at estate and yard sales and other scavenging hotspots throughout our corner of the Northeast. Our “edge” is living in Connecticut, a state with a rich history and a steady stream of older residents in the process of closing up their family homes and selling possessions accumulated over many decades.

Connecticut is experiencing a massive transfer of wealth as older residents pack up and move out.

Jay and Ryanne touched on this phenomenon in their recent podcast,  “The Biggest Transfer of Wealth in Human History.” Basically, Baby Boomers and their parents who lived during the post-WWII economic boom accumulated massive piles of stuff in an era of cheap college tuition and plentiful middle-class jobs. They’re now getting rid of much of that stuff and it’s created a golden opportunity for vintage resellers that will likely continue for the next couple of decades.

I’ve already benefitted from this trend with my Etsy shop, where most of my items come from estate or tag sales in Connecticut. I was fairly pleased with my first year on Etsy as sales steadily increased and I learned more about what items sell and how to get found in search results. However, sales have slowed lately, for whatever reason, and I began to look around for other venues. I’ve been wary of eBay seller fees but Jay and Ryanne make a good case for paying more to reach a much broader market. My tentative plan is to keep the Etsy store open but pare it down to a more curated selection of higher end items. “FindzShop” opened last week on eBay and I’ve had a few sales–some involving items that have been languishing in my Etsy shop for months. I’m currently on a whirlwind listing spree to get up to the initial 250 items allowed in a basic shop. Transaction fees aside, I’m seeing a few key advantages of eBay over Etsy:

  1. You don’t have to be a “Maker.” Etsy started as a marketplace for crafts and handmade goods and that’s still how it’s best known. Vintage sellers make up a smaller although growing segment of its shops, but we are like the poor stepchildren when it comes to marketing and promotion by Etsy. There are 50 artisan soap makers, basket weavers, and the like featured in
    For sellers, eBay has some significant advantages over Etsy.

    Etsy’s promotions for every 1 vintage shop. Nothing against those shops, but it’s hard for us vintage sellers to get noticed.

  2. You don’t have to sell vintage items. Often I come across cool items at estate sales that aren’t necessarily vintage, defined as at least 20 years old. These are forbidden on Etsy and your items can be removed if found in violation. There are no such restrictions on eBay; you just have to be honest about what you’re selling.
  3. There are way more shoppers on eBay. There are just significantly more potential buyers, especially for designer or highly sought after items.
  4. It’s much easier to list. Etsy has been gradually improving its seller tools but it’s still a fairly cumbersome interface. In contrast, listing in an eBay store is faster and simpler. A couple of examples: you can make draft listings to finish later and it saves your work as you go. This should be true with Etsy but I’ve found that the “save as draft” command only works if you’ve already put in all the information–ie, if I haven’t added photos yet I get a popup saying I have to do that before saving. That seems to defeat the whole purpose of a “draft!” Another example: you have to add SEO tags on Etsy and are limited to 13 whereas eBay prompts you with categories/features while also allowing you to add your own. I could go on but suffice it to say that eBay is the runaway winner when it comes to technological sophistication.
  5. It’s easier to get found. Since I started on Etsy I’ve become much better at creating searchable titles and tags but it’s still difficult to get found. Try typing in a slightly misspelled word into the search box and you’ll see what I mean. While places like eBay or Amazon automatically intuit what you mean, Etsy will come up blank. In general, the search algorithm is mystifying for sellers and buyers. Type in “midcentury lampshade,” for example, and get a completely different set of results than you got using the same search term an hour ago. Does the system favor newer shops? Do your items get featured on a rotating basis? Do renewals, number of listings, number of sales, reviews, etc, factor into the results? No one seems to know.

These are a few of my thoughts so far but it’s only been a week so I’m keeping an open mind about the pros and cons of selling on both venues. Next week, I’ll share what’s selling in the eBay shop as I ramp up the inventory. Stay tuned and if you’re a reseller, please share your own experiences and thoughts!