Even in a Down Economy, We Still Want Stuff


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It’s funny how even in hard economic times we still want stuff. My husband has been an eBay® seller for probably 5 or 6 years, yet right now he’s busier than he’s been in the past few years.

He got into selling on eBay years ago, after discovering that a political science degree didn’t always equal a job. It was how he brought in the bacon (or his share, at least) for about a year. Michael sells used merchandise, which requires both skill and good research abilities. He slowly carved out a niche for himself, looking at what buyers want, and what they’re willing to pay, and then went out to find it for them.

Over time, Michael’s business has waxed and waned, just like traditional businesses. Other activities have taken priority in his life. But a few months ago, he decided to reactivate the business on a more regular basis. As he did that, he noticed two things. First, evidence of our down economy is found in the thrift shops and second-hand stores he has haunted for years. There’s more stuff available. Second, eBay is busy right now. In a space last week where he’d normally sell 2-3 items, he probably sold a dozen or more.

It’s not difficult to make the connection. People are selling stuff to raise cash, and people are buying stuff second-hand to save cash. Michael’s well-positioned to take advantage of both.

Lower-cost retailers are making money, too. Have you been in a Wal-Mart® lately? Heck, for that matter, have you looked at Wal-Mart’s earnings statements lately? Christmas is coming, and we’re a nation of consumers. It’s just that this year, “get more for less” is the motto.

With all that said, I see two areas of opportunity here. First, what have you got kicking around the house that you aren’t attached to anymore? Diane has talked for years about selling the contents of your garage, or attic, etc., on eBay – and having watched it being done at ground level, I’m a believer.

Second, as a business owner, where do you fit in here? Is there a portion of your product or service that you can find a way to repackage and sell for less? And what does that look like? Do you offer it directly, or through a secondary source, so you don’t confuse your existing customer base? Do you outsource for a share in the profits, and let others sell it for you?

I think this is going to be an interesting area of opportunity in the future. Even in a down economy, we still want stuff. We just want it for less. So, one of my 2009 goals is finding a way to do just that!



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