When it comes to toys, eBay is rapidly outgrowing its reputation as a trading hub for used and collectible playthings. And if you’re planning to boost your web commerce presence, you should give the e-tailing giant a second look.
With its Toy pages drawing more than 10 million visitors each month, eBay’s worldwide toy sales jumped to US$1.5 billion in 2003 – up a jaw-dropping 50% from US$1 billion in 2002. More than 40% of toys moving through the channel are now brand-new items, and vendors sell 2,700 Hot Wheels, 2,500 Yu-Gi-Oh! items and 1,900 Barbies everyday; in fact, eBay’s combined vendors’ sales make it the sixth-largest toy retailer in the country.
Specialty retailers, small manufacturers and big players such as Disney, Hasbro, Little Tykes and Mattel have all jumped on the channel to expand their web reach. Mattel uses eBay as a marketing tool, dipping into its vintage vault and putting 1960s collector Barbies and Hot Wheels up for sale to generate buzz. Little Tykes, meanwhile, uses the site to sell larger-sized SKUs that are difficult for small retailers to stock, and Disney operates its Disney Deals e-store to clear out discontinued lines of merch at ‘magical prices.’
eBay Toys director Geoff Donaker was out at Toy Fair in full force last month to educate and recruit more small manufacturers. His team ran seminars and an Internet lounge to drive home eBay’s main points of appeal – its relatively low cost and the fact that it requires zero investment in computer infrastructure.
eBay offers toy vendors a number of services to help them make the most of the web. Toys are organized into portal pages by category so consumers will be able to find them easily when they search by keyword. There’s also a monthly vendors newsletter that runs down the site’s best-selling items and gives suggestions on how to merchandise products.
Donaker says US$10 a month will get you an on-line storefront, with eBay charging a listing fee of US$0.02 per SKU and taking 1% to 2% of each item’s sale price. He adds that this setup is sufficient for small volumes, but if you’re aiming for six-figure sales, a much larger investment is required. A vendor would need staff dedicated to operating the e-store, upgraded computer software and hardware to handle the web traffic, and more marketing dollars to buy icon page placements, banner ads and keyword pop-ups so their items will stand out in the clutter of eBay’s auction sales.