25 years ago today, on the 22nd of November 1996, a man sat down at his computer in Chingford in the UK and registered on a website. In doing so, he became the man who changed British retail forever. The website was eBay, the man was Graham Forsdyke, and ever since he has retailed on his eBay ID, gf-attic.
eBay had barely opened having launched just 50 days earlier. There was no eBay UK so Graham registered on eBay.com and when the UK site opened Graham became one of the first to be transitioned to the British eBay site. As Graham was already a PowerSeller on eBay.com, he then became the first UK eBay PowerSeller.
Graham Forsdyke wasn’t quite the first member of eBay UK, records from a quarter of a century ago are a bit sketchy but we believe the first eBay UK member to have been cheshirecat, although that eBay ID no longer exists today. What we do definitively know is that Graham was the first UK eBay PowerSeller (although no longer a PowerSeller as the programme has since been discontinued).
Other active eBay IDs from 25 years ago include suezeeq2, moondust, stephenfrye, roballsopp, and baah55, who all still buy on eBay. The amazing thing is that after a quarter of a century Graham still actively sells on eBay today. Now in his mid-80s, every business trading on eBay today has Graham to be thankful for, as it was he who helped make eBay the success it is in Britain today.
Graham fondly remembers the early days when there were so few eBay PowerSellers that they would regularly meet up in a pub and someone from eBay HQ would come down and sprinkle some largesse – maybe a month’s free eBay listings or a similar perk. Trading online in those days was very different from today and let’s not forget eBay was then a text only site, auctions only (no fixed price listings), no images on listings, and not even a payment system. Back in the early days the only way international trade happened was literally envelopes of dollars being posted across the Atlantic with trust that the seller would then ship the item in return. Then BillPoint came along, later to be replaced with PayPal. In more recent years Graham has had to get to grips with eBay payments which has in turn replaced PayPal as the default eBay payment system.
For Graham, eBay has become so routine that every Sunday he sits down to stick a few listings on and every Monday he logs in to see how the last week’s auctions performed and to do his packing and shipping. He no longer needs to run his eBay business for financial purposes and has scaled back considerably but he says eBay gets to be a habit that’s hard to break so after 25 years he just keeps on selling.
British retail has irrevocably changed thanks to the early eBay advocates. Today eBay, and other marketplaces, are big business opportunities and became even more vital for many during the pandemic. I’m not alone in having spent the last 18 months exclusively shopping online, not even visiting the high street once. This was all made possible because Graham registered on eBay and forged a path which 100s of 1000s of future sellers would later follow.
What were you doing 25 year’s ago, when John Major was Prime Minister, the Spice Girls were releasing their first album ‘Wannabee’, and the Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, were finalising their divorce? I know many eBay sellers today who weren’t even born back then, some were infants, most were still in school. Hardly anyone owned a computer at home in 1996, so even owning a device capable of connecting to the Internet (with a dial up 28.8 kbit/s modem) was the height of modern tech.
A huge congratulations to Graham Forsdyke for his continuous 25 years of selling on eBay and a huge thank you for shining a light on the future of ecommerce. We salute you as a pioneer of British online retail!