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Friday, 28 October 2011

Scrummaging and Rummaging

I love the summer period. This is when I find most of my stock. We do lots of scrummaging and rummaging at the car boots on sundays. It's worth trying to find a car boot that specialises in antiques and vintage items such as the York Races car boot in Yorkshire on a Saturdays. Only problem when they specialise though, is there are a lot of traders selling and their prices are just too high, so I avoid these. Personally I wouldn't sell my wares at a car boot because you only have your passing audience. I prefer to have a worldwide selection of customers as with my e-shops.

It's a good feeling, when you do manage to find a bargain. My best ones have been a pair of laleek earrings purchased for £2 and sold for about £100 and a shaving mug for £1 that sold for about £130. So there are bargains to be had, but few and far between. On neither occassion was I aware I had a bargain, until I got home to appraise the items. Most of the time I pick up old crockery for a few pounds, take it home, clean it, research its history and sell it on acording to its present market value. It's really is good fun walking around a car boot on a lovely sunny day and searching through the dirty, dusty, damp boxes and speaking to sellers about their wares. I don't hide the fact that I'm also a seller but I never get in to a deep debate on antiques. Too many people believe that just because something is old then it is valuable. I hate to say to them well I'm sorry but it's only worth what someone is willing to pay and that will all depend on its popularity and of course condition, not just age. Best to play ignorance and just smile at those who think they know all. You will find yourself surrounded by lots of different cultures with many languages chattering away in the background. Varying ages from children screaming at their mums for toys to adults seeking second hand furniture. A proper car boot seller will be out to rid themselves of accumulated unwanted items and are happy to sell on nice n cheap. When you see the same face selling at different car boots, you know they are traders. Most 'punters' are, of course, out to find a bargain and pick up their own individual wanted items cheaply. It's a great feeling getting home with achey feet and tired muscles and then looking at all your 'new' stockall laid out on the table and awaiting to be logged and listed into your e-shop. I love it. All that lovely research to be done.

As winter approaches and the car boots fade away, we start to look for indoor car boots but they are few and far between in the North, so we visit some local antique fairs.  Expect to pay more for items at the fairs as these are the real traders, hoping to sell to collectors. Some traders are understanding and once they realise you are another seller, they will give you a good deal, especially if you buy lots of items from them. Also you don't have to look as hard but its still worth rummaging around. It I look at an item on a stall and notice their prices are high, I just move on and don't bother to haggle. Some traders just won't budge on thier prices. I don't have a problem with this, we're all in the same game at the end of the day and how they sell is their choice. I think I have more fun though.

Very occassionally I buy from ebay, especially if its local and I can go pick up. Mainly I will seek out the local fairs from November to March. I also get a few calls from private sellers who have picked up my number or email from my e-shop. I don't usually take these sales up unless it's a local one. Heavy postage takes a toll on my profit and usually these types of sellers are looking for top prices that they just won't get from another seller.

Finally there are the auctions. When I first started with these they gave me quite a buzz. But they really are costly. You will not get a plate for £1, you would probably have to buy a whole box of mixed & matched pottery for £20 and not have a clue what you have until you get home. Unless you have hours to spare to go view the auction items the day before. I quite like it when the 'battle is on' and we're all sticking our hands up with our offers for our chosen bids. All too often though I go over what I mean to spend and far too often I get home to find my items damaged. Auctions aren't too bothered about letting the buyer know each and every nibble and crack. It's a good day out though if you have at least £100 to spare. Don't go dressed up, this is another dirty, dusty place with dirty dusty treasures awaiting.

So, I'm now preparing for my Winter season. To help me get through I've diversed a bit from just crockery and now sell vintage-style ladies clothes. I'm actually enjoying this new line as I do specialise in a particular style but we do seem to be profiting at from it thus far. Hopefully by the end of the Tax Year I will see my profits up so I can go on to run another year in the world of antiques and vintage collectables.

Not sure what I'll discuss in my next bulletin. I'll read over what I've already covered and see what I've missed. Would love to hear from like-minded people on this subject if you have any comments, they are very welcome.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Running an ebay shop

Well I've been at it now for approx 2.5 yrs so I can't remember the hitches of when I first started. It didn't take me long to realise that listing with the auction method at 99p (for free) just wasn't worth the time and effort. Hence I soon dropped auctions altogether and just listed with 'buy it now' or 'make me an offer'. This means I am able to put the least offer I will accept and leave the automatic system to run itself. Any silly offers just get automatically rejected without my even knowing, unless I go into the settings to check.

I said to myself that when I reached 30 listings I would get a shop and that's when I got my first cheaper shop for around £15 a month. This is a good one to run with if you don't do this for a living. Even though each listing is cheaper with a shop, it's not worth investing in until you have a fair bit of stock. You still have to pay a fee per listing so if you add that to your monthly shop fee and divide between how many items you have, you'll soon see it only becomes profitable with a fair bit of stock. When I reached a target of approx 100 listings I promoted to the next shop of £50 per month. I felt this was a huge commitment but I have never looked back.

I run with around 400 items. I wish I had time to put on more but that's anther story. My target is that each month should be a bigger profit than its counterpart on the previous year. Bingo, I'm reaching this continually. It's a slow rise but it's an encouraging one.

The other point I've noticed that the quality of my stock has improved. Again another story really but basically I don't just purchase any only old crockery - I'm slowly learning what sells and what is rubbish. I've also added vintage-style ladies clothing to my categories so I'm expanding aswell.

There are many pitfalls to working with ebay and most sellers continually moan about them - and rightly so sometimes. However, if ebay didn't set high standards then the customers wouldn't have the confidence to shop there so I'm also quite glad of these standards. Basically the customer gives you remarks and points for your service. 99% of customers understand the importance of this method and are honest and helpful. It is, as always in life, the minority of mean people that can spoil the system. It is a constant worry that you will get a very low point for your postage and the fault could quite easily lay with the courier - but there's nothing a seller can do about this excuse. Note I'm not giving great details of each bad experience I've had, I'm trying to speak generally of this because it is one of drawbacks of selling on ebay and can be very, very frustrating. However, my shop has survived thus far. By the way some customers never leave feedback and this is ok too. Not everyone wants to live their lives with 'red tape'.

Fees are another bug bearer of ebay selling. I have 5 different sets of fees for every item I sell. Ebay shop fee, ebay listing fee, ebay final selling fee, paypal basic fee & paypal final selling fee. So you need to be on top of calculating these to ensure you are making a profit. Plus also allowing for packaging costs and the price you paid for your goods initially. All takes time and effort. I keep a lovely boring spreadsheet with all this info so god help me if my computer goes doolally. I also tie this stock info in with my tax accounts so if I were audited, I know all my fees ins and outgoings.

Going on to the tax man - I have no idea at what stage you should declare this as income. I do it as a living so I've always done my tax return. There are sellers on ebay who have thousands of stock and still don't express themselves as a business. Not sure about that one.

I do make a good profit from my shop on ebay but it is a long working day ie from the minute I'm awake until I go to sleep. Of course not continually but at least once an hour I'll be tap-tap-tapping those keyboard keys. If I go on holiday I have to ensure I have internet access. The one time I shut my shop down for a holiday had a big impact on sales. My ebay shop certainly makes a better profit than my 'private' e-shop does. I don't link them together so they do run as different shops.

I also have help running my ebay shop in that someone else takes the photographs of my goods and also does someof the finer technological aspects of the computer side of things. This person is unpaid and does it for love so that does help. Probably only skimmed the surface in this discussion but I'll think of things I've missed and discuss another time.

Next time I have a chat I'll be discussing purchasing of my stock. I would welcome any comments from readers and would love to answer any questions resulting from any of my blogs.