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Spotlight on three retailers who credit their business to eBay


San Jose, Calif. – Many consumers assume eBay is simply a place to sell or buy used merchandise. However, the online commerce platform is actually robust enough to support a thriving retail business selling new goods.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with three eBay sellers who made the transition to becoming retailers of new merchandise: Ben Werlin, managing partner and founder of South Burlington, Vermont-based Music Store Live; Allister Greenbrier, owner of Fredericksburg, Virginia-based Greenbrier Music; and Nick Martin, founder and president of Boulder, Colorado-based The Pro’s Closet. They shared how they have made the move to new from old on eBay.

Music Store Live

For Ben Werlin, Music Store Live started out as a family affair.

“In 2010, I was between jobs and my brother, who sold used musical goods on EBay and online, wondered how he could afford to hire new employees to help grow the business,” said Werlin. “I said we should partner up and make this a real business. There are opportunities to sell new goods, let’s do both.”

According to Werlin, selling new goods bought from wholesalers offered advantages including having the manufacturers stand behind the products, as well as dealing with fewer sellers, not having to perform any repairs, and selling to consumers at a higher price.

Music Store Live now focuses on selling new merchandise through an appointment-only physical store in South Burlington, as well as third-party marketplaces such as eBay and and its own e-commerce site. The retailer operates all its e-commerce operations from the same Magento platform, but is considering migrating to an open source Odoo e-commerce infrastructure.

For other sellers of used goods on eBay considering moving to a larger business selling new merchandise, Werlin says having a qualified buyer is critical.

“Make sure you buyer really knows their stuff and is a great negotiator,” he advised. “If they know what to look for, what’s available and makes smart purchases, it’s easy to do well.”

Greenbrier Music

Greenbrier Music, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based musical instrument retailer specializing in drums and percussion, launched in 1999 as a way for drum teacher Allister Greenbrier to dispose of excess used equipment. In the early 2000s, he started selling goods on eBay. Today, Greenbrier Music sells new merchandise on its website, third-party marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon Marketplace, and via an appointment-only brick-and-mortar store.

“I realized my time wasn’t being used efficiently selling used goods,” said Greenbrier. “Although the margin on new merchandise is lower overall, it’s much more steady and predictable for each item if you’re a good negotiator and buy at a low price.”

Greenbrier Music has been able to add 25 employees since making the switch to selling new merchandise. The company runs all e-commerce operations on a Kyozou e-commerce platform.

The Pro’s Closet

Boulder, Colorado-based The Pro’s Closet is an online-only seller of new and used bicycles, gear and accessories. The company, which launched in 2007 selling used goods exclusively on eBay and now operates its own e-commerce site, also operates drop-off locations in Boulder and Austin, Texas, with plans to open a third in San Francisco. Like Greenbrier Music, The Pro’s Closet began as a way for founder/president Nick Martin to dispose of surplus merchandise.

“I was a pro cyclist and had a lot of inventory from sponsors I was selling at the end of the season,” said Martin. “I also had relationships with retailers where I’d take my old bikes and trade them in. Bike retailers have a lot of overstock because they have to buy one year in advance and are left with old inventory.”

So combining his surplus sponsor merchandise with overstock he bought at discount from bike retailers and used inventory taken from consumers on a consignment basis, Martin launched The Pro’s Closet. The company uses APIs to connect its SellerVantage e-commerce platform to eBay. Martin discussed some the pros and cons of selling new goods as compared to used goods.

“With new goods, the customer has a clear expectation of what they’re buying and there is a lower percentage of returns,” Martin said. “You have the manufacturer part numbers, so it’s easy to post merchandise online. On the flip side, 40% of our international business is in used goods, which have lower customs and duties than new goods. You can be an expert at both.”

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