Posts Tagged ‘selling online’

Choice in eCommerce

July 23, 2013

Last week saw the end of an era with me and one of my suppliers. It’s been a hard slog doing business with them. On the one hand they have one of the most fabulous ranges of giftware on the market, on the other, they are the most difficult, unreasonable and non-customer focused company I’ve ever come across, retail or otherwise.

I have only ordered from them 4 times over the years, as with each order, comes another set of unworkable conditions. The orders arrive late, sometimes 5 months late, their finance dept send out invoices for orders which have been returned, then threatening letters, they seemingly have no paper trail, no stock control in the warehouse, their account managers seem to have no grasp of your history with them, so do not anticipate the hesitation around ordering. Every experience has been a bad one, yet their goods, once you finally get hold of them, have won countless awards, are design  led , well made and exactly the kind of product we want to sell.

Last week I received a circular letter from their MD stating that from September onwards they will not be supplying retailers who put their work on eBay, Amazon Marketplace or similar platforms. Amongst other problems, there’s an issue of copyright causing them concern, they don’t want any images they supplied used in future and if sellers continue to put their ranges on those platforms then they will close the account.

We’ve had an eBay shop for a while now, where newroomsoutlet sells end of line at a reduced price, but also current lines at the RRP. We’ve never sold under the RRP for the company in question on their latest lines, used only their approved imagery and given credit where credit’s due….but that’s because we ourselves do not perceive eBay to be the online car boot sale, which is clearly how some suppliers are viewing it.

Indeed we only started an eBay shop in the first place to remain competitive.

I was asked a while back to take down one of their ranges from eBay as the brand lending their name to the range apparently saw it as discrediting the brand. …….ironically the same brand which sells end of line fashion in TK Maxx.

Initially we did as asked. But then others remained selling it and so we put it back up there. When we were sold the goods originally, there was no question of eBay being a problem so it felt more than a bit rich to be asking what we see as a change in terms and conditions of sale. So we politely suggested that they buy the goods back off us, thus avoiding their sale on eBay and, to be fair, a deal another supplier was only too happy to offer.

The reply was that they didn’t offer a sale or return basis for business….which is not what this situation is. Surely if you change the terms of sale once the items have been sold, then you leave the buyer no alternative but to return the goods.

They’re having their cake and eating it so we are happy to keep the goods on eBay and for them to close our account. We both lose, sadly.

What does make me smile, however, is that in an era where like it or not, we are still in recession, giftware is not a life essential, so sales are not easily won. A company who can afford to put such limits on its product must be doing well, which is good news, but I wonder how long before there is a U-turn in its decision. How long before manufacturers or rather their sales teams acknowledge that eBay and Amazon are search engines?

People no longer Google something they wish to buy but go straight to eBay and Amazon. Only once they can’t find what they want there, do they then Google the product. #fact

Today we have received the following circular from eBay……….a counter attack, we wonder?

Today, we would like to ask you, as one of our professional sellers doing business on the eBay marketplace, for your help in supporting a very important initiative. It is aimed at making sure we keep ecommerce as an engine of growth in Europe.

What is going on?
Some brands and manufacturers are attempting to limit the sale and resale of their products online. Increasingly, these brands and manufacturers prevent their authorised sellers from selling their products on online marketplaces such as eBay. These unilateral bans harm you as a seller, your customers, eBay and commerce as a whole. 

What can you do?
Some sellers have founded ‘Choice in eCommerce’, an initiative which fights sales bans on online platforms. This initiative is inviting all business sellers to sign a petition. This petition will raise awareness of the problem amongst manufacturers, brand owners, online marketplaces, national and European policy-makers, as well as public authorities.

Sign the petition!
The petition can be found on the Choice in eCommerce’s website at: www.choice-in-ecommerce.org 

We encourage you and all our sellers to support this initiative and sign this petition in order to promote fair and open online-trade.

We thank you for your interest and engagement!

Best regards,
The eBay Team

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I suspect brand owners and their manufacturers take a long hard look at e-commerce. There seems to be a throwaway assumption that all those selling on eBay are unprofessional, use bad imagery and do cheapen their brands, There are, however, sellers on there who don’t operate in such a way, who are simply keeping abreast of the trends and have to be in it to stay afloat.

Stop being so lazy and do some policing. Every time you sell to an online outlet, do a mystery shop, then send the goods back. See how you like/don’t like the experience and on that basis then start closing accounts but not as the first and only course of action.

I am tired of ill informed, dated sales folk who have no idea about online selling, what is and isn’t achievable. I would love them to work within the parameters they lay down and see how unworkable it can be.

For now, we will continue to sell from both our sites and trust that some suppliers out there wake up to reality.

Know your suppliers!

May 13, 2010

Once upon a time in retail, suppliers were very touchy about what you sold, how their product would sit within your shop,  how you would market it and the geographical proximity of competitors.

The internet’s changed all that – to a degree. There are suppliers who simply still refuse to acknowledge the internet as a marketplace with which they want to be associated, are protective of their brand and feel that it is impossible to police the net in the same manner as the physical shop.

I understand the dilemma of wanting to protect your brand but the messages from wholesalers can be so inconsistent.

One potential supplier in particular sells products over which I simply salivate whenever I see them, so much so that I’ve thought to myself, “Is it worth getting a high street shop again?” NO NO NO…….but I do miss not being able to sell it and I can’t name names because I’d love to think that one day they’d actually let me aboard!!!

Their argument is that they can control and dictate the outlets who vend their wares, they can see that the product has been displayed to best effect and sits with the flavour of said physical shop perfectly, but that they can’t do this online.

Why not?

I will never understand why they are so reticent and so naive about what is and what is not possible. What frustrates me even more is that if you do have a physical shop and you also have a website for that shop then they will allow you to sell online.

If you are an online entity only, however, they will not even entertain a conversation.

I had an interesting chat a few years back with a supplier who was launching a  brand new line on a certain day, ironically I think it was April 1st, at midday. By 1pm this brand new gift line was on Ebay with a Buy It Now price equal to the wholesale price. I know we all like a bargain but what were the suppliers thinking? Who makes the money there? Those of us who abided by the recommended retail price (RRP) set by the wholesaler looked instantly like we were ripping off the customer selling at twice the Ebay rate.

In this situation what then transpires is that the product in mind is instantly devalued and nobody can sell it let alone the wholesaler, so it bombs! When I drew this item to their attention and asked how in hell the rest of us were supposed to be making a living they’d had no idea how it had happened???!!

When I looked into buying a certain range of cufflinks I asked the manufacturers who else they supplied online. Oh they only had 6 or 7 people selling online, there wouldn’t be an issue of competition. I placed a pro-forma order and said I’d take a look once I was back at the office. At 35 different online vendors I gave up. They had no idea who was selling their product or how many sites.

Suppliers who sell their own lines online are usually very good and know the score. They either sell under a different name or sell at an RRP.

There are others who grate. Sadly they are usually the smaller makers and my heart does go out to them, but…

They sell their wares at the wholesale price direct to the public then chase you to buy from them too at the same price. Where’s the incentive? They put their own web address on every item so even if you do sell their lines once, you never restock because the customer then knows where to buy directly from the maker.

Where’s the long term thinking, the sustainability? Phrases like cake and eating it spring to mind….or burning bridges…or biting the hand that feeds you. Make your mind up – do you want to wholesale or not?

Another supplier hounded me month in month out to buy their product. It was a new product, they were being exclusive about who represented them. They were opting for boutiques in terms of physical shops, and, online, were being uber selective about who sold their lines. They liked newroomsonline, felt their product sat perfectly with what I sell and were desperate to get in with me. A few months later their products were on one of those carboot sale style websites. One particular bag they’d wanted to sell to me at a wholesale of £9 was selling at £9.99.  They went into administration in March!

Desperate times call for desperate measures and I don’t blame anyone for wanting and needing to make a living but be clear about who you want to make your living from and don’t hassle me if your modus operandi mimics one of the above practices and I refuse politely.

I could say things like joined-up thinking, working together, singing off the same hymn sheet, collaborative working, synergy or even coalition…..but then I’d instantly lose any credibility…I do have some, right?