Former eBay seller DrSteveW talks to TameBay

I’ve known Steve (eBay ID DrSteveW with over 100,000 feedback) personally for number of years, and he’s been well known in eBay circles including on the PowerSeller forum and as a regular speaker at eBay Universities.

It’s no surprise in today’s troubled economic times that many businesses (my own included) are finding trading more challanging than in the past and sadly Retrowarez (the company behind the DrSteveW eBay ID), has ceased trading. Today Steve shared some of the reasons for this with TameBay:

The demise of Limited and associated eBay ID DrSteveW

There has been a lot of criticism over the eBay ID DrsteveW, and a lot of accusations, speculations and wild rumours have been circulated. Regrettably though the company Retrowarez (who were behind DrSteveW and a number of eBay Ids), through a series of circumstances beyond the company’s control is, at the time of writing, in the process of being liquidated.

Retrowarez hasn’t had an easy time of it in recent months. The DVD and video games industry has been afflicted with a number of dilemmas, many of which were difficult to recover from. There’s a bit of history behind this, so bear with me.

This all starts with Woolworths. Back in the VHS era Woolworths was a major player in home entertainment retail and as a result of their increased turnover, volume of sales and the like Woolworths ran their own wholesale operation supplying home entertainment products to other retailers. This company was called Entertainment UK, or EUK as it was commonly referred to by most DVD companies.

It’s worth noting at this point that EUK was owned by Woolworths (Not by the Woolworths group, Woolworths parent company), which is why EUK went under as it was a Woolworth’s “asset”. Tesco was supplied with DVDs by EUK. Tesco decided the “price wasn’t right” and moved to a company called Handleman UK (who are owned by the Walmart Group and not surprisingly supplied DVDs to ASDA). EUK lost 40% of their business overnight.

How did EUK deal with this? Simple, they bought two other companies. One called Total Home Entertainment (THE) and Bertrams (book wholesaler). THE had the account for Sainsburys. EUK then laid off over 700 staff at THE and eventually sold off THE’s Newcastle Under Lyme premises.

This action was the first domino in a long line of dominos waiting to topple over. The only major wholesaler left (apart from EUK of course, and they wouldn’t deal with with just “anybody”) was S Golds in London. With this reducing of the wholesale market and supply chain there were now too few suppliers offering the same old tired product over and over.

Zavvi also went under (as anyone who has read this so far probably knows) owing a lot of money to a lot of companies, but very noticeably to our main and favourite supplier Pinnacle Vision in Sidcup. We soldiered on as best we could and tried to deal with the backlog that was forming behind us.

I myself injected many thousands of pounds into Retrowarez so we could purchase stock from non traditional sources at higher prices but the final straw came with the demise of the fulfilment company we used to despatch the bulk of our stock.

With our fulfilment company out of the loop we have thousands of items of stock literally “stuck” in their warehouse and the administrators aren’t “letting it go” anytime soon. So basically we found Retrowarez up the proverbial creek without the proverbial paddle.

Essentially we lost over 20 out of the 26 suppliers (DVDs, Games, books etc) that we regularly used in under a year through no fault of our own. The DVD industry is not a great industry to be in right now. So we got to the “enough is enough” stage and the company had little cashflow left and as the company’s single biggest creditor (via the director’s loan account etc) I simply couldn’t put myself on the line as well as the company. I have to live as well, and pay the mortgage etc, like everyone else.

So it was time to call it a day, and we opted for liquidation. I realise there’s some disappointed buyers out there and not everybody has their DVD and/or a refund. HOWEVER, their issue is with Retrowarez as a company and not with me personally and some have understood this quite clearly. As one buyer who called me stated “there’s always a risk when you deal with a limited company, they are LIMITED for a reason”.

To those of you still want to criticise me/Retrowarez/etc I say this to you “it could be you next year, then the boot will be on the other foot and you will understand”. If there was no facility for limited liability companies in law then there would be a lot less companies, nobody would want to start a company without some “protection”.

To those of you who have contacted me and asked of my well being (I have had some very serious health concerns in recent years) I thank you, and I thank you for your concern. We are all well, Karen, David and Rose have all found new positions, and I myself am job hunting .

There are also other reasons for our demise, which are eBay related, but I will discuss eBay in a separate article as this is getting a bit long winded now.

– Steve

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Bless you Steve for explaining, Let's hope it silences some of the critics, Good luck with the job hunting Suz x

Suz • 14th July 2009 •

Thanks Suz, some will still criticise, but such is life.

Steve Antony Williams • 14th July 2009 •

Best wishes Steve, I look forward to your eBay article as and when. John

John • 14th July 2009 •

I'm writing it right now, will send it to Chris tomorrow.

Steve Antony Williams • 14th July 2009 •

Glad you spoke up Steve, one particular thread on the PS board was getting a bit sad, I guess some people have nothing better to do. Good luck for the future.

whirly • 14th July 2009 •

I am glad I no longer have access to the PS board given what Whirly has written I think I would just get upset! Good luck on your new adventure Steve :o)

Kiss • 14th July 2009 •

Well Steve, its good to read that you are OK healthwise.

bicyclerubber • 14th July 2009 •

Steve , I guessed straight away what had happened ,don't take it to heart lots of companys have gone under this year .. Good Luck Steve . Rach I miss you & Sue & Goth :sad:

Sarah • 14th July 2009 •

Rach its me Gorgeousgalz lol.

Sarah • 14th July 2009 •

good luck in the future Steve

Thingimijigs • 14th July 2009 •

fair comments

TracyL • 14th July 2009 •

I'm sorry to hear of your woes. It has truly been a dread set of circumstances leading to your company's demise. I wish you all the best.

Debs • 14th July 2009 •

Ps.... What you said about your stock being trapped by the demise of your fulfilment house sent a chill down my spine, as we've been recently setting up meetings with a few. I'm don't know about the legalities of such situations, but I find it shocking that the administrators would not let you have your own property. Your sorry situation has now made me think we need to have an expert assess the financial risks of any companies on our shortlist.

Debs • 14th July 2009 •

Getting the property isn't the problem, it's just "when". When Prism Leisure went into administration it took 2 years to get it all sorted.

Steve Antony Williams • 14th July 2009 •

Steve, I know only too well how our industry went down like a pack of cards over Xmas, it was like watching s train crash in Slow Motion. What should have been my biggest Xmas ever, ended up being the worst. EUK / Woolworths, Pinnacle, and on Xmas eve Zavvi too. Let's not also forget the many smaller company's and labels and dealers who went down with this lot as well, some right away, others managing to struggle on for a while. From what I know it's well into the hundreds, Artist, labels, wholesalers, distributors, shops, etc. of all sizes. From one person operations to national chains. To see all our biggest industry figures fail so fast, so totally and together was something that was unprecedented, it caught everyone by suprise. I do have a good idea how you must be feeling right now, nearly been there myself six months ago, and it's a soul destroying feeling. Don't blame yourself, there really was nothing more that you could have done. On a personal level I'm rebuilding from a point where I was two years ago, that's how far the Xmas fiasco set me back. It's not easy, but this time it will be far more resilient than it would have been built on the old structure and ways of the industry. I wish you the best of luck in whatever you do in the future and I'm sure you'll soon find your true vocation in life and something you enjoy.

Richard • 14th July 2009 •

Take care Steve,look after yourself. Rosie xxx

Rosie • 15th July 2009 •

Anybody who puts their money into a company has to be respected, as not many have the bottle to do this. There are always risks, and we all have the bankers and Gordon Brown to thank for this *****ed up economy that we are all having to endure. As a former computer games industry worker, I know how tough EUK, THE and Pinnacle were to deal with. They always ground the prices to the floor, which is why alot of small publishers went out of business when a key game release was not as big a success as we wanted. Then there are the retailers - the big high st 2 and the supermarkets...they give the stuff away and then expect the publishers to pick up the tab in lower buy prices. Also their key trick was to buy say 10,000 units, the publisher would manufacturer them, pay royaltis to Sony etc, then they would ring up 3 days after release and say we want to return 5000 units, as they did not sell well....the real reason was their store staff left them in the cage for most of the weekend! You are best out of the games and DVD businss Steve - leave it to Tesco and least then this mismatched society can justify spending more time in their gastly superstores.

JP • 15th July 2009 •

Steve Sorry about your situation, it really sucks. I only hope that somebody at ebay reflects upon the collapse of your company and realise that unless they start to seriously support sellers, more sellers will go the same way. The snowball effect of losing supplier after supplier broke your company. Will ebay realise before its too late that losing seller after seller will break them. OK it’s not going to happen overnight, but the writing is on the wall. Best of luck for the future

Glenn • 15th July 2009 •

Steve - I'm so sorry to hear of your circumstances and the path that you have been forced to take of late. It can't have been fun and its to your credit that you are prepared to share your experiences with a wider audience. From my time at eBay I know we had a few heated discussions and also a few fun ones over a beer which I always enjoyed. You were certainly always passionate which I respect over most qualities so I am confident you'll bounce back soon. Regards Jamie

vzaar Jamie • 15th July 2009 •

Look forward to reading your ebay article Steve, All the very best for the future.

Colin Battison • 15th July 2009 •

I hope you bounce back Steve. All those years in ecommerce add up to a lot of experience. It would be a shame to walk away from it, unless it is making you unhappy. Mark (classic)

Mark T • 15th July 2009 •

Hi Steve ! It beats me why you were selling in the first place , with your qualifications you should have been a million miles from retail !?!? maybe now you will get a good professional job and we will see you interviewed on newsnight or similar over the next few years... all the best Jon

stickymcglue • 15th July 2009 •

I could never go back to working for someone else, wild horses...

Bigpoppa • 15th July 2009 •

When is the last time you went on holiday? Take some time off, get on the next plane to New Zealand or something. Put some space between you and all this to get some perspective before you go looking for your next source of income. Sell your car and rent your house out if you have to. JMO.

Ellen Kunec • 15th July 2009 •

I have 5 interviewws coming up, first one tomorrow. some of these are for £40k+ so it's not all bad.

Steve Antony Williams • 15th July 2009 •

Dr Steve , I shall miss you from Catalyst. I found myself in a similar situation to you when got taken out by Apple. I really suggest you buy and read this book: Time to find new cheese.

Barry Mann • 15th July 2009 •

I have every respect for anyone who goes out on their own and makes a fist of things, but a quick look at the great and good Docs feedback says he was still trading when things were going bad. You enjoyed the good times and have left alot of people let down by the looks of things,shocked that people here are backing this loser.

John • 15th July 2009 •

I feel for you John and know where u r coming from, my company which trades on ebay went bust on 24th may we had a new company set up ready to take over after the liquidation and trying other selling platforms aswell as ebay this time. as far comment 27 - thats life we did it - its tough - you have not run a business as a ltd company and not been in this position. Leave steve alone - the guy has been to hell and back gud luk 4 the future bud

Terry • 16th July 2009 •

interesting article. thanks never know until you try....seems to me were part of a bigger problem and you never could have succeeded problem is people always buy the cheapest and dont think that every shop is either a tesco or asda....good luck to you..I KNOW you will be successfull hopefully on ebay....

J B • 16th July 2009 •

Thanks for the article, I must admit I was reading it all the way through, thinking where's the ebay angle i.e. I'm sure they helped in the demise. The problem with ebay (I know Steve had bigger problems) is there is no breathing space, you have a small hiccup (maybe even a postal strike) and everything takes a hit, DSR's etc. I hope you adjust okay from being your own boss to working for someone else, you often forget how much of a knob people (your boss) can be and the politics that goes on in the workplace. I look forward to reading your next article.

Big AL • 16th July 2009 •

Steve, you are not alone. I've been through it as well. It feels terrible when you are in the middle of it and soon there is a great amount of fear as to what the future holds. I made it through it and you will also. It was a painful experience but the pain doesn't last forever.

Randy Smythe • 17th July 2009 •

Comment edited by moderator Steve, you're still selling though, on ebay under [removed] and [removed] Surely that must be full-time?

elvis • 17th July 2009 •

Elvis, there are quite a few sellers called Steve on eBay, and neither of the people you mentioned is the author of this post.

Sue Bailey • 17th July 2009 •

Public apology on other drstevew thread :oops:

elvis • 17th July 2009 •

Best of luck Steve

Stresco Online • 18th July 2009 •

Sorry to hear what happened to you Steve, having been finished off by the demise of Golds, I understand your pain. Hope all is well with you.

Mark • 10th August 2009 •