Since eBay’s launch in 1995, toy manufacturers have been relatively cautious about testing the water in its pool of new and used toy auctions. But with roughly 2,580 playthings now moving through the on-line marketplace each minute, many players have decided the temperature is right for a dip. Hasbro, Wild Planet and Bandai are just a few companies that have shed their waterwings, but they’re not just selling their wares on the site. They’re also using eBay as a promotional tool to plug upcoming toys.
The on-line auction hub is a great vehicle for drumming up donations for charity foundations, and doing good works in such a well-trafficked domain can build a lot of public goodwill really quickly. In June, Bandai used eBay to show off its philanthropic side by joining forces with the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation to sell off celebrity signed Tamagotchi toys and T-shirts. The auction for a toy autographed by George Lucas closed at US$122.50, eight times the suggested retail price.
Playskool also went the charitous route in August to build some really early hype for the October 2004 release of its toy line for Lucasfilms’ summer 2005 Star Wars flick Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. The company posted just 50 of each of the five figures in its Jedi Force range on eBay, and all net proceeds after deducting auction fees will be donated to Boundless Playgrounds, a nonprofit that works with communities throughout the U.S. to build accessible playgrounds for children. (Both Bandai and Playskool set up their own eBay shops, and users were directed to these seller pages through branded links on the site’s homepage.)
The success of these altruistic promos proves that eBay shoppers want to get their hands on limited-edition items. So to reach the holiday shopper who’s looking for that one-of-a-kind gift, eBay has launched an ‘exclusives’ department that will be open for business from October to December. The items available in this corner of the hub can be made unique in a number of easy ways. ‘They can be signed, numbered, have a celebrity association, a unique color, unique packaging – the manufacturer makes that decision,’ says Jim Migdal, eBay’s category manager for toys.
Wild Planet, for example, auctioned off 1,000 custom-colored AquaPet toys for US$15 each, while Playmates targeted the serious Ninja Turtle collector with a Leonardo cold-cast sculpture selling for US$150. Unlike other eBay areas, exclusive items sell for the asking ‘buy it now’ price. Although the exclusives program for 2004 is drawing to a close, Migdal says he’s eager to talk to toycos throughout the year to hash out new ideas for ’05.
In terms of reach and logistics, nearly eight million people visit eBay to buy or sell toys each month, and more than 40% of the SKUs sold on the site are new. At the end of Q2 2004, the toy category alone had racked up worldwide sales of US$1.3 billion. Toycos are charged the same auction insertion fees as every other eBay seller, and that can run anywhere from US$0.30 for an item with a starting price under US$1, to US$4.80 for stuff priced above US$500. eBay also takes 5.25% of the closing value for any item sold under US$25, with an additional 2.75% charged if the closing price is between US$25.01 and US$1,000.