Published: July 24, 2001
: One Dealer’s Success Story
While Internet companies may be reeling from the recent economic downturn, online auction spending is heftier than ever, with results for May up a whopping 149 percent from May 2000. According to an AuctionWatch.com report, this month’s Nielsen/Net Ratings and Harris Interactive survey figures reveal online auction sales amounting to $556 million in May – a sum which represents 10 percent of total e-commerce spending.
The leader of the heavy hitters is eBay.com, with 64.3 percent of total revenues. Next in line are ubid.com, with 14.7 percent, and Egghead.com/Onsale.com, with four percent. Most surprising were the meager results racked up by Yahoo Auctions, at 2.4 percent, and Amazon.com, at 2 percent.
One of the most amazing aspects of tracking e-commerce success is the conversion rate, or the actual number of visitors to a site who actually buy something. According to the survey, eBay.com has a conversion rate of 22.5 percent, with 1 in 5 people visiting the site fill up a shopping cart with merchandise they actually purchase.
All of this can mean good news for dealers, as one Connecticut firm’s e-commerce story demonstrates. After its initial opening in a large renovated warehouse in 1995, The Mill Antiques shop has now downsized its inventory and its location to a smaller storefront in Sandy Hook. That may sound counterintuitive in today’s economy, but The Mill’s owners, Sandra Wright and Jane Apuzzo feel it suits their online auction business just fine.
“After 13 years of owning an antiques shop in New Canaan [the Main Street Cellar] we understand group shops where many dealers sell under one roof,” said Wright, “and business could be cyclical. With the advent of the Internet, we really have no need for so much floor space. Many stores are closing because of this phenomenon.”
Like many members of the trade who are torn between the traditional venues of shops and shows and the lure of the Internet, Wright and Apuzzo took on the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” philosophy and jumped on the e-commerce scene, gaining not only a worldwide audience looking for a unique collection of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Americana, but a huge leap in business as well.
Taking their cue from the immediate success of eBay, Wright and Apuzzo began selling their antiques inventory on the site three years ago. The collaboration with eBay now represents 30 percent of the Mill’s overall sales, with 75 percent of all merchandise listed on the Mill’s Web site selling.
“We have a good pricing strategy,” Wright says, “the antiques and collectibles business is so well-suited to the Internet since resources are limitless and it requires no labor in shopping around.”
In the last year alone (1999-2000) The Mill has seen a 100 percent increase in eBay business. “eBay used to represent about 15 percent of our overall business, now it’s about 30 percent and over the next year we will continue to see an increase,” says Wright.
With the increase in sales and e-commerce, Wright says at times her work feels like “UPS – all we seem to do is pack, pack, pack.” But for Wright, there is so much excrdf_Descriptionent to the online auctions it makes the labor a lot of fun as well.
Wright cites a current listing of a hanging Victorian lamp that is up for bid on the Web site that was priced appropriately through cursory research. The lamp’s opening price was $350. Wright received an e-mail from a hungry collector who offered The Mill $3,000 for the lamp under the condition they agree to stop the auction immediately.
“We won’t stop this auction, the lamp has already met it reserve so we will keep going with this…it’s the marketplace that tells you what it’s worth,” she says.
According to Auctionwatch.com’s Michelle Dennehy, Net Ratings’ vice president of e-commerce, Sean Kalder, believes the increase in online auction spending can be attributed to the fact that there are simply more people using the Web than ever, citing an increase of 30 percent more Internet users in the U.S. than there were a year ago.
To check out the Mill Antiques on the Web, go to www.themillantiques.com.
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