Finding your niche off eBay with an eCommerce website

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Paul Tiernan started out as a “hobby seller” on eBay in 2006. Since then he has created Savvy Row, a successful, independent website selling specialist high-end vintage clothing. He has also set up his own consultancy, TheRetailDetail, to help other sellers make the leap, oh, and completely changed his lifestyle!

Today Paul shares the lessons he learnt along the way from starting on eBay and moving his business from being wholly dependant on eBay to his own successful website.

Tomorrow Paul reveals his top 15 tips to make launching your own eCommerce website a success.

I’d spent the last 20 years in retail, marketing and senior management posts for medium / large companies. I started selling some pieces of vintage clothing on eBay for ‘a bit of pocket money’ and as a bit of light relief from the corporate world. Starting selling on eBay was a genuinely exciting experience; the planning, the anticipation, the nervousness (will anyone really want to buy my items?!), the thrill of the early sales and the pride in offering the best possible service for “my customers”. And, different colour stars to aim for! What more could a seller need?

More pragmatically, eBay is still a great way to test the water, to get started, to get access to a ready-made customer base, and to get some cash flow. Once set up, selling starts quickly and you can sell all sorts of stuff from one ID without customers getting confused. If I started selling items other than vintage clothing then it’s quite likely that I would take the opportunity to “learn a few lessons” on eBay first.

For me, though, there came a tipping point when my selling started to become more than just a hobby. The things which helped me to get started– ready-made marketplace among other sellers, eBay marketing power, and diversity of the site – can actually start to hold you back. Customers aren’t buying from you, they’re buying from eBay. Your items have to fight it out in a sea of similar sellers. Marketing for “small” eBay shops seems to have been reduced. There’s a limit to what you can achieve for your own business within these conditions.

I also started to find that “the numbers” were beginning to look more and more difficult. Fee increases, changes to international visibility, best match issues, low sell through rates vs. high fees. It became clear to me that I needed to build my own brand and that I couldn’t afford to have all of my eggs in one basket. People say to me, “but eBay makes me my living”. Fine but even if your business can handle 20% VAT plus 15% eBay costs of sale, you still could be missing the opportunity to take that business that you’ve worked hard to build up fully under your control and make it even more profitable.

If you’ve built up a full-time business selling niche items on eBay, and this is all starting to sound familiar, you too could be ready to look seriously at launching your own website off eBay. I’m passionate about helping other sellers, so I do hope that at least some of my experience can be useful.

Come back tomorrow for Paul’s 15 top tips for launching your own eCommerce website!

10 Responses

  1. Great story and cracking website/product.

    Do you run a mailing list Paul, would love a pair of size 11 vintage brogues, I’m guessing though that blokes had small feet back in the good old days.

  2. Hi Whirly,

    Thanks for your very kind feedback.

    You’re right about folks being smaller in ‘the old days’, but you never know what might turn up (half of the fun in this game!).

    I’ve set up a ‘saved search’ for you, so that you’ll automatically receive an email about any matching items that we list.

    You’ll receive a confirmation email in the next few minutes – you just need to click the link (or paste it to your browser) to accept and activate your search details.

    Hope this helps. All the best,


  3. we are interested too

    though, we bet its not as easy as it sounds ok you may not have ebay fees though
    there will be marketing costs of some kind,
    you could be selling water in the middle of the Sahara, if no one knew they would die of thirst

  4. Paul,

    I too will be waiting in anticipation of your next installment, for the same reasons you stated in this article, I recently started Medieval Town Square. I was one of the first armour makers to offer new product on ebay in 1999, and since best match my sales instantly dropped 35%. I started and invited mutitudes of merchants from from the reenactment community to sell there, just started 3 weeks ago, but already getting traffic, I will look froward to your article to make our site even better.

    Eric Joseph
    San Diego


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