Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ship it Good: the details on e-retail

want them?  go buy them
My friend's cousin's piano teacher has a neighbor whose pastor has a stepson that skates with some lady who makes a billion dollars a minute working from home.

And our friend, BAMP* and SIMAAG reader from Georgia makes actual, real money selling antiques and shoes at Jen's Eclectic Market on Ebay.

We thought that the successful, self-employed BAMP was an urban legend (military myth?  battle BS?), but sure enough, Jen is a living, breathing, and re-furbishing example of what's possible when good ideas happen to determined people.

Last year, Jen ended her own military career and PCSed with her husband to Ft. Bragg, NC.  After a fruitless job search, she came up with a crazy idea while watching bristly grown men sell one another doll carriages on some reality TV show.  Jen had always been interested in antiques and all things vintage.  "I love learning about the things that people care about- what makes each object special, and worth holding onto."  Or, in Jen's case, worth finding a loving home for.  To Jen, selling antiques is more than a business- it's a way to help people find ways to make their homes special.  And, as every BAMP knows, every PCS creates another opportunity to meet that need.

At some point, Jen added modern footwear to her inventory, fixing the broken zippers and busted boxes that make new shoes unsellable in traditional retail settings.  The like-new shoes are very affordable compared to what you'd find in parking-lot stores- and she carries brands that would be impossible to find anywhere near a military post.

We were dying to learn more.  Below, you too can benefit from her copious wisdom of all things e-retail.

You know, my husband has a bunch of old textbooks crowding up the bookshelves where I need room for more Suzanne Brockmann novels.  Can I sell those and quit my job?

It depends- the used book market is pretty complicated.  Long story short, just because you have it doesn't mean someone will buy it.  Jen spends hours every week researching the market to make sure that her inventory and prices reflect the demands of potential customers.  Photographing and listing items takes time and it pays off to focus on selling things folks will actually buy.

Speaking of time, I'm almost caught up watching CJ & Denise battle forces of evil on that
perfect for holding my beer
show.  At that point I'll have about two hours a week of free time that I had planned to spend reading some Charlie & Nicole fanfic, but maybe I should dedicate Thursday nights to selling instead?  I do need some cash.

Actually- a successful e-store will require attention on a daily, time-sensitive basis.  When an order comes in, you'll need to ship it right away.  If you have a day job, that means finding time for packaging after work, and to get the box in the mail the very next day.  To stay competitive, you'll also need to respond to customer-service needs and questions asap- waiting for responses can lead customers to leave negative feedback- which can really hurt.

I bought a bunch of commemorative coffee mugs, volunteer tee shirts, and nylon-loop potholders at my neighbor's yard sale.  Score!  Should I put the down payment for an above-ground pool in now, or invest in some branded packaging for the collector's edition Family Matters videocassettes I found in GI Establishment's box marked Ammo?  That shit should be lucrative.

Sit down.  Learning to identify what will actually sell came from years of cultivating an antiques hobby- and of course, a unique insight of the buying community's interest.  That is, no one wants your potholders- you made them yourself after drinking too much monster rehab and besides, I'm pretty sure you can't have an above-ground installed in on-post housing.  You live on the second floor, dude.  What makes Jen's business work is that she has a personal interest in what she sells.  Jen told us that she spends about 20 hours per week on her business, but she doesn't count the weekend evenings spent going to auctions with her husband or the communication with trade experts to check the authenticity of a typewriter that looks like something from a Mad Men set.

E-retailers like Jen are successful when they have so much enthusiasm for the treasure-hunting process that it doesn't feel like work.  If you don't honestly enjoy finding, fixing, and making stuff to sell, chances are, you won't be able to commit the time and effort necessary to build and maintain a competitive biz.

As bloggers, we can totally confirm that.  Now let's go shopping!

BadAss Military Partner- please tell us you knew that

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