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Spawned by Ebay, business growing

JUDITH HARLAN

If anything says that a business is on the right track, it is the entry into its market of a mega, international corporation.

And so, the handful of northern Nevada Ebay drop-off marts, businesses that, as official Ebay trade assistants, handle the details of auctioning on Ebay – photographing, blurbing, registering,monitoring, shipping, and receiving a check – know they have created a terrific business design.

The UPS Store jumped into the Ebay drop-off market this summer, partnering with AuctionDrop, a Northern California company that built an Ebay drop-off business from a startup in March 2003 to a string of five Bay Area stores.

It partnered with The UPS Store in May, 2004, in an exclusive deal for placement in stores throughout the country.AuctionDrop is currently in 3,500 UPS Stores, says Kathy Wilson, an AuctionDrop public relations associate.

The local impact so far of the national entry into the market? “None,” says David Harwin, co-owner of AuctionLink, a privately held, Reno-based Ebay trade assistant.

In fact, business is good, he adds.

Laura Harwin, the other AuctionLink co-owner, adds that she’s tracking a monthly doubling – even tripling – of business.

For AuctionDrop, meanwhile, business in the 13 UPS stores in northern Nevada is growing,” says Wilson.

So far, says Asa Johnson, owner of The UPS Store at 3702 S.Virginia St., she recalls completing just one AuctionDrop transaction since its initiation.

The hub-and-spoke operating model of the business sets it apart from the Nevada independents – items are shipped to hubs, not held locally.AuctionDrop is still new, too, on the national scene.

It’s currently launching a marketing campaign in the Chicago area but isnot yet advertising non-Internet on a fully national level, says Wilson.

Laura Harwin is not concerned about the competition, either nationally or locally.

“There are a lot of us getting the same idea” across the country, she says.

Other Ebay dropoffs in the area, such as Tahoe Auction in Incline Village and Auction Online Center in Reno, are equally enthusiastic.

Recently, Tahoe Auction sold 140 banquet chairs, says Giles Rider, owner of the drop-off.

Another day he sold a motorcycle to a guy from Oregon, who came down to claim it and ride it home.

AuctionLink is expanding fast enough to be considering hiring an employee, adds Laura Harwin.Up to now, she and her coowner have been running the business entirely on their own.Drop-offs measure their business in the number of auctions they conduct per week, and AuctionLink is doing upwards of 80 auctions per week, she adds, a number which varies by day as auctions close.”Of course,” she says,”the goal is to keep increasing the number.” AuctionLink is awarded a purple star with 530 positive feedback points on Ebay, and a “Powerseller” ranking.

The UPS Store AuctionDrop, comparatively, sports a yellow shooting star with 16,682 positive feedback points, and a “Titanium Powerseller” status – a ranking that is an aggregate of all 3,500 outlets.

AuctionLink positions itself as a full-service Ebay drop-off.

That means that Harwin helps customers research the going rate on Ebay for their items, and once they settle on an auction strategy – the lowest amount they will accept, the time on the auction block – then she takes it from there.Her percentage of the take ranges from 20 to 30 percent, depending on the value of the item.


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