Are you an ‘eBayer’ and ‘Amazoner’ or more of a high street shopper?

If you cast your mind back to the middle of March, it was Red Nose Day in aid of Comic Relief. Having had almost two weeks’ notice from school about it being a non-uniform day to support the charity, those that know me well and who are reading this blog will not be surprised to hear that I operate under pressure or in organised chaos! This means that 3 days before my twin’s start asking what they are going to wear.

Now sadly I was not blessed with a creative bone in my body which means that the thought of a non-uniform day fills me with dread. I honestly don’t have the ability to dream up some imaginative outfit and frankly, the kids know this. So I’m frantically ordering a red onesie and a pair of red shorts to keep the kids happy, justifying the expenditure by telling myself that they can wear their purchases on other occasions.

The ‘onesie’ was an easy Amazon purchase and it arrived just in time (literally). The shorts were purchased online from John Lewis and arrived exceptionally quickly by having them sent to a local petrol station for collection. Ingenious as it was a far cheaper option than the next day delivery service!

So these purchases got me thinking about the way in which our shopping patterns have evolved over the last 5 years or so. So I have thought about how I shop and would describe my behaviour in the following way: I shop on Amazon for birthday presents for kids. There is such an array of gifts to purchase that it just makes life extremely easy. It’s also great for buying vouchers and electronic gadgets.

Now whilst I like to think of myself of a selling guru on eBay, in actual fact I don’t actually buy that much on the site! If I am making a purchase it will be an item that has been placed on the website at a buy now price as opposed to being on auction. I have on occasion bid on items but have always taken the view of putting in my highest bid and will do my utmost not be drawn in when I have been outbid on an item.

And then it comes to shopping on the High Street. I want to support our local shops and appreciate having a High Street yet the ease of online shopping also suits my lifestyle. I juggle work and home life and try to fit in as much as possible into my working day – which is whilst my kids are at school. If I remember a late purchase then it just works to buy the item online as it can all happen within minutes, and at the click of a button.

I think that that there is still a place for shops in our lives. The service that you receive, especially on the High Street, really is unrivalled. I try to ensure that I support these shops but do like the freedom that internet shopping provides to make my life easier!

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No time for fooling around in April!

As I sit here at the tail end of a beautiful bank holiday Easter weekend,  I cannot believe that we are already a quarter through the year!  Where exactly has the time gone?!

Many of you may be all too familiar with this – you feel like that hamster in a wheel, just running and running yet never quite getting off. And, whilst our regular readers will know that both Belinda and I are partial to running in an athletic sense, I am actually referring to the relentless feel of life running away without having the complete sense of achievement. Don’t get me wrong as I’m not complaining, just musing about our lives!

I have been reflecting on our year to date so far.  Busy and exciting are two words that instantly spring to mind. Work, as ever, continues to be hugely enjoyable.  The favourite question asked by our clients would be ‘what is the most unusual item that you have sold?’ So far this year we have sold a huge quantity of beautiful furniture covering every spectrum from antiques, to what is regarded as vintage, retro and very contemporary pieces. And we love it all for all sorts of different reasons!  There is no single piece that stands out currently but there is still plenty of time!

I do tend to get very attached to certain pieces of furniture and probably spend too long looking at them and trying to research their history. Whilst it is part of the course that we want the auctions to do well, often we also want to find lovely homes for the pieces that we have sold. There is nothing more satisfying than calling a client on a Monday morning to update them on a successful auction. Once items have been collected it is great to let them know just how ecstatic the buyer is with their item. To many people the idea of parting with their possessions can be very difficult and this definitely eases the pain!

On a personal level, life has been extremely chaotic, mainly in good ways with the odd hiccup along the way! Between us Belinda and I have seven children and a fair number of pets so there is always something interesting or eventful going on! In terms of goals we like to set ourselves we both love our sports, particularly running, skiing, snowboarding and triathlon so there is always plenty to contemplate there!  Each run can be the best or the worst run in the world on a daily basis, but most importantly our sports give us time out from everyone and time to think and let our minds wander. I never underestimate the benefits of how remaining physically active is crucial to a personal and business lives.

It’s been a great few months. I’m looking forward to another busy quarter and long may the sun continue to shine!

 

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So what’s the plan today?

As a rule, I don’t ever like to talk on behalf of anyone else. However, I can say with some certainty that Marla & I both love trading on eBay!

Sundays evenings are usually a time for most people to be relaxing. There’s a precarious balance between enjoying the remaining few hours of what’s left of the weekend and at the same time, casting your thoughts to the week ahead.

Sunday evenings don’t work like that for AuctionGirl! One of the team will be on standby, ready to work. Our auctions are usually all finishing minutes apart over the space of a couple of hours. And there is still a thrill to be had from the final minutes – or often seconds for those who have sniping software! The tension on a Sunday evening can often be huge! There will be the occasion where we will be shouting at our screens, trying our hardest to see the item creep up in price (just a bit more)! And, then there are times where eBay does not get updated fast enough and an item will jump up in price significantly without us seeing this take place! Thanks to every possible gadget – computer, tablet and phone – and we sometimes still miss out on the best bit happening!

Moving onto late Sunday evening, our minds are turning towards the work that needs to be done the following day. This will involve packing items that are to be sent out in the post and also arranging collections with buyers from items that they have purchased.

And once Monday is out of the way and we have updated our clients on how their items sold, the eBay junkies are then thinking to the week ahead. Our thoughts then start turning towards the next batch of items that need to be photographed and listings written for the following week. And so the excitement builds again!

I think that one of the best parts of the job is that every day is different. Last week I went to see a client who had used us a few years ago. Photographing her items only took a few minutes but we were actually chatting for much longer than that as it was just lovely catching up. Following the appointment I had every intention to write her listings but it didn’t happen. I received a call from another returning client who I hadn’t seen in over  a year and so stopped in to view those items(great retro pieces coming for sale in the next couple of weeks incidentally)!

So no two days are usually ever the same. It’s a really juggle between seeing client’s finding time to write listings and also be strategic and think about the future. And when you get the call where a client has a tight turn around and is moving in ten days then all the planning in the world will just go out of the window! Fortunately I love what I do. Would I ever want it any other way? No, of course not!

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How can eBay work for business?

The AuctionGirl blog is designed to talk about our personal experiences of selling over several years. This week I am sharing thoughts on how eBay can work for businesses. Please do let me know about your own experiences as well, whether they are good or bad, and if you would like more details on the service we provide then please do get in touch.

For me and my business partner, eBay is what we do! We sell on behalf of client’s so it is a service for those who lack the time or expertise to trade on eBay themselves. What do we sell is usually the very first question that we are asked. Well, this can be almost anything from huge lots of office furniture, to kitchens and designer handbags. The list of items that we have sold in five and a half years of trading is long and varied.

It’s really important to look and be able to recognise what will sell well on eBay. Yet, we will regularly come across items that we have not sold before. We will then undertake extensive research in order to work out the value. This is actually one of my favourite parts of the job, spending time researching and using social media to try and ascertain what is potentially being offered.

Some private individuals have no interest in seeing what eBay has to offer, either as a buyer or seller. Yet, as a business, from a selling perspective, I feel that there are a whole host of real opportunities out there that are worth investigating and seeing what eBay has to offer.

We have had a great deal of success over the last couple of years selling surplus office furniture for our client’s (such as desks, chairs, pedestals and cupboards). We don’t just think about the easiest way of selling the items but will concentrate on how to best sell everything in order to maximise profits and the chances of having numerous successful auctions. Businesses are often up against tight timescales and we are extremely mindful of this as it can have an impact on the most effective way to sell all surplus items.

And at some point in every office there is a need to upgrade technical equipment. This may be anything from changing computer screens, keyboards, telephone systems or printers. The list of possibilities here really is endless! Now, due to changes and updates in technology such items do not tend to hold their value yet there is still a market out there for these pieces. If you take a monitor for instance, if it is required for a really straightforward purpose (as opposed to something graphics related) then the latest most up to date model is just not needed. It’s a waste. So before thinking that all the technical equipment needs to be binned, it’s worth having a think about seeing if there is any value.

Another great way that businesses can use eBay is to sell surplus stock. This doesn’t have to be the latest items but if you are looking to clear space then why not sell some goods that have been lurking around on the shelves for a while? If you are realistic about a price that you would like to achieve per unit then eBay is a massive market place and well worth investigating.

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eBay Success & Failures

Take a trip out with friends – it may be a lovely walk or a long lunch – and I can almost guarantee that at some point there will be someone in the crowd who mentions something related to eBay. The story may well be about buying or selling but there is always someone around who has a tale to tell. It then usually catapults into a fully blown conversation involving favourite success and failure stories that people just love recalling.

The success stories out there will often relate to one of two things. Firstly, it’s natural to love a bargain and I am always happy to hear a tale where a buyer has been able to purchase an item at a price that they are really happy with. And the feeling of euphoria about eBay will often occur when someone has managed to sell something successfully. I’m always telling friends that eBay selling is not rocket science but in my opinion, the eBay user interface is not particularly user friendly and it can be quite quirky.

I tried helping a friend sell some items last week. She popped round with her iPhone in hand and asked me how to change location as she did not actually have the item she was selling with her. I actually could not work out the eBay app on her phone.

Euphoria will also strike home when you manage to sell something at a stonking price or are just content with the price achieved and that the goods have found a new home and are out of your way!

Then we move onto the eBay failures. This will usually involve stories where people have experienced nothing but a nightmare from start to finish. They think they have sold something only to be messed around incessantly on collection or worse still, not be paid for the item that was won.

Incidentally, my own personal bug bear is selling something, being paid for the item and then having no success on contacting the buyer to arrange the collection. As someone who acts as an intermediary, this almost frustrates me more than anything else! Fast payment is always appreciated but the sales process for us is not completed until the items have been dispatched and feedback has been received.

The failures as a buyer can often be disappointment at receiving something that was not as described or worse still, receiving a fake item or no item at all!

More often than not, people recount to us the stories which are just about how they found the entire eBay experience total aggravation! This will be because the other party (irrespective of whether they are a buyer or seller) is behaving in a dishonest fashion and this usually involves a deal being reneged on.

The disappointment about the failures is that in truth, eBay does actually work as it should. Think about this – when you have a good retail shopping experience do you ask for the manager and congratulate them on employing helpful staff and providing an excellent stock range? No. But if no-one is helpful and you cannot find what you want, you can be sure that someone will ask to speak to someone in authority! The point I’m making is that the bad stories will always be the ones that everyone hears about and not the successes.

Oh and when you tell you someone that you sell for clients on their behalf on eBay they love recounting their own experiences of eBay trading. The stories are endless but it can often end in us receiving new clients so I can hardly complain!

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Does it matter what you sell at any one time?

As faithful readers will only be too aware, AuctionGirl sell for client’s on eBay. When we make appointments we will always ask our client’s what they are selling. We like to get a gauge of this so that we can take up any necessary research in advance. Or, provide them with stories of having sold such items successfully for other clients.  And what we see in any one given week really does vary from one week to the next.

We will always advise our clients to hold onto items that we perceive are not right for eBay at that point in time. Selling garden furniture, for instance, in January is likely to be bought by a savvy eBay buyer who is looking to get a great item at a bargain price. Selling that item prior to the first bank holiday weekend in the Spring will see the item attain a much higher price.

So what we sell really does vary. There are business sellers out there who prefer to sell like-minded items but we are unable to work in that way on the basis that we almost never know what we will be asked to sell from one week to the next.

So I often wonder if sellers receive better prices for selling similar things as opposed to selling almost anything!? Over 5 years of trading I have come to the conclusion that on balance, I don’t think that it actually matters. If you have items that you want to sell then just sell them!

Don’t get me wrong. We know that it definitely works selling similar items where the auctions are ending at the same time. I believe that if you have a listing up for more than one piece of pine furniture for instance, then there is a good possibility that any potentially interested buyer will decide to bid on more than one of those pieces. Being able to collect pieces of furniture from one seller will make the buyer’s life much easier (and the seller won’t be complaining either)!

I think it is great if you want to specialise in one area and would certainly advise those starting out selling on eBay to sell a couple of various products. You can then make your mind up and decide if it works to just sell whatever you have to hand or to specialise.

The theory is the same but also be aware that not everything will sell in the same way. Experienced sellers will use specific software to gauge the success of an item. For instance a mahogany sideboard has a very low chance of selling because there is very little demand for dark wood and very traditional furniture. But if that sideboard is made of oak then you know that there is a good chance of having a really successful auction.

Others may disagree with what I have said. I think that if you have a shop and are selling new products then you will be focussed but as sellers who trade on eBay on behalf of our clients we are happy to sell anything. We’re confident of getting the best prices out there and know exactly how eBay works. If you are thinking of selling yourself on eBay then try a few bits and pieces and just give it a go and see what happens! Oh and my top tip would be to be totally truthful about the item that you are selling and its condition.

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A New Year with a fresh approach….

With the holidays firmly behind us, children back at school and family back to work, the house is beginning to return to normal…whatever that may be! We all like to think of the New Year as a time for fresh starts and new beginnings.  It gives us renewed hope, a sense of excitement and somehow we shake off the holiday feeling and enthusiastically get stuck back into our day to day routine.

I love the Christmas & New Year period, don’t get me wrong. We had a really lovely family time. There was plenty of over indulging in food and drink (lots of Prosecco to be precise) and it was thoroughly enjoyable. The fact I can hardly do the zip on my jeans up to day is certainly testament to that!  But it somehow feels different returning to routine after Christmas that it does over the Easter or summer holidays.  I am not big on making resolutions, but I do quite like to have a target or two. My work objective is to continue to see further growth in AuctionGirl and my personal one is to not break any limbs whilst learning to ice skate! (It’s probably worth mention that it’s Marla writing this week’s blog, just for clarification on the skating!)

We aim to consolidate what we have achieved so far over the last five years of trading, always making small changes along the way where needed. We all learn from our mistakes, at least we should learn from them and if we’re not making mistakes along the way then we are definitely not being adventurous enough. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

In the year ahead we are keen to develop our client base even further. Currently we have two sides to our business: we have private clients with individual homes and they use our service to help with a clear out, renovations, moving or quite often, a change in family circumstances. Then there is the commercial side, these are companies looking to sell surplus office furniture due to renovations or having to clear out ends of lines in stock. We have established relations over the last year with interior designers and with the building trade who often go in and renovate buildings and need to clear out the current furniture prior to starting the job. And this is an area where we can clearly assist and are keen to ensure that it grows.

It is all very exciting for us and taking time out in the New Year to do some strategic planning is just as important as dealing with the day to day running of our business.  Even a ten minute think tank is time well spent at the beginning of each day to start formulating a recipe for moving our business forward and to ensure we put plans into place to make this happen!

All that remains for us this week is to wish you a very happy and healthy new year from us all at the AuctionGirl team!

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Christmas Trading

We’re approaching the middle of December and it’s certainly a busy old month. I start each day thinking of all the things that need doing before I even contemplate the day job! The buying of gifts, the organising and the everyday chores – the list is just endless. Then there are one or two party nights out and the following day doesn’t end up being quite as productive as I had possibly hoped! The problem is that I am very mindful of my time because once everyone in the family has left for school this is crucial working time. I also work in the evenings on one or two nights a week – once everyone is home and back from activities I can often sit down and crack on with some work.

December for eBay trading is almost done for us. There are probably ten more days of trading left and then that’s really it. We have to allow for any winning auction items to be paid for and then they are dispatched. It’s undoubtedly the worst month for queuing at the Post Office but it has to be done and that is a huge appeal for many of our clients as to why they use our service.

Last week we placed an advert in a local lifestyle magazine – Optima – and the response has been fantastic. It covers a huge number of areas and the response, in particular in Chorleywood and Rickmansworth has been fantastic. We are now going to appointments in readiness for listing the furniture at the start of January.

Our priorities over the festive season will be to recharge our batteries and take a well-earned rest for a few days. We also need to take some time to plan our advertising for the year ahead and think about how and where our expenditure should be. With an ever growing increase in online marketing, this is an area that we need to explore and continue to invest money in as well.

I’m often asked what happens on eBay over the Christmas period. I would love to provide a definitive answer but the honest truth is that it can still be busy. Personally, I prefer to take a week off. I always worry that if I am selling furniture it will perhaps not attain the best prices as people are distracted with festive activities. Items such as collectibles will always sell. The only exemptions will be where people are moving house and there are the obvious time constraints associated with this.  Very often those buying will be looking for real bargain so unless you have no option I would hold back from selling just for a week that’s all!

So yes a bit of time off will be perfect. Mind you, thinking about it, I shall be catering for the masses so I expect that by the start of January I may well be skipping back to the office in readiness for the month ahead!

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Exercise – the necessary evil!

I am typing this blog feeling incredibly lethargic. It’s the middle of the afternoon and I feel like I could crawl into bed. The heating is on because it is so cold but it’s making me feel drowsy. It’s December and the last thing I should be thinking about is getting forty winks in the middle of the afternoon. The list of jobs that need doing – in between working – range from festive shopping to buying dog food to filling out forms for school. I bumped into someone I knew at the supermarket last night. We didn’t need words to speak because the look that we gave each other really said it all. It’s the beginning of the working week and we both looked weary and exhausted!

I had a really busy weekend with my ten year old daughter participating in a cheerleading competition. She was competing for two days at Crystal Palace which in mileage terms is really not that far away but trying to get there from home can be quite a challenge. Anyway, the good news was that her squad did fantastically well and they won first place in both categories that they were competing in. The bad news for me though was that sitting in the National Arena on hard plastic seats for several hours each day really was not helpful to my health! It was very hot and humid and with little to do whilst waiting for teams to compete, I found myself grazing through all the food that I had brought with.

So come Monday morning with a happy child and a busy weekend over I was looking forward to getting back to work. The first thing that I wanted to do was go for a run. I went onto the treadmill and had to turn it off after a couple of minutes. I was in agony with my back. It was bizarre because it wasn’t like I had been doing something that gave me the injury – I was just in incredible agony. I came off the treadmill and instead, decided to take my dogs for a walk. The desire to have some fresh air after having been stuck in an indoor arena for two days was immense.

Day two and my back still feels sore but I still feel lethargic and I think it is because I have done no exercise for 4 days. I struggle to fit it in yet I know it really clears my head especially when I have a day ahead working in front of the computer for several hours. It is really important to fit in the exercise and I feel like I am missing the endorphins.

It’s easy to quantify how exercise makes a difference to your body as you can see the results. It’s not so easier seeing the impact of how exercise affects your persona and mind. I know realise that it provides me with a clearer perspective and gives my working day a fresh perspective. Coupled with the rapidly approaching party season, some late nights out and lots of festive food and drink I’m really hoping the exercise regime can recommence tomorrow. Whether it does or not… I’ll have to let you know!

 

 

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Sink or swim that is the question?!

Quite how we’ve almost arrived at the end of November I just don’t know and I’m just not sure if I’m sinking or swimming at this point in time!

Since the kids went back to school in September, the term has just flown by. There are the endless journeys to and from football training coupled with the seven hours of cheerleading that my daughter partakes in on a weekly basis. And not forgetting the school netball and girl’s football matches coupled with local team Sunday league football (times 2) for the boys. Sometimes, it just seems relentless.

Last week was totally exhausting. Imagine the scene: I had spent an afternoon driving around for my various kids and finally, arriving home four hours after school pick, I felt totally done in! I turned up at the front door and I was looking forward to hanging up my chauffeur’s hat for that particular evening. Unbelievably my other half was home before me and far earlier than expected. I was rather surprised to see him open the door and even more shocked to be greeted with a glass of red wine (honestly, not by favourite tipple but the thought was there)! And, as you can imagine it went down a treat!

You see I love driving around but do think that I miss the lighter evenings. I can’t help but feel that driving around from one activity to another is harder work once the clocks have gone back. Well moan over I guess. Before we know it we’ll be at the shortest day which is less than a month away!

I’m tending to glaze over the fact the festive season is just around the corner. It will happen and all come together, just like it does every year! I know I need to balance some high street shopping to support the many fabulous local businesses in the community with some easy no brainer shopping from the warmth of my office.

I’m desperately trying to put aside some thinking time to think about www.AuctionGirl.co.uk  and how to take the business forward in 2015. I have to confess that I’m not very good at finding time to do this but know that I should! I have all the ideas in my head but need to try and make some sense out of all of them. The tail end of the year often seems like a naturally good time to do that but then perhaps it isn’t because there is so much going on. And why start trying to be thoughtful and come up with new business challenges when actually the pressures are already huge at this time of the year.

On a work level, there are always the clients moving home who have to be our priority and our aim is to ensure that when they use our service we are making the process easy and hassle free. But at this time of year we have to create listings as quickly and effectively as possible on those items which are ‘time sensitive’ at this time of year. There is no point leaving the unwanted gifts to sell in January – the market is quiet then. Now is the time so there are the added work pressures there that we have to cope with. I came from a sales background and accept having to deal with pressure is part of any sales job. I’m looking forward to the month ahead being busy yet at the same time making the most of being my own boss!

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