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THE MORNING BUZZ: It's All About the Merchandising

30 Apr, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

I wasn't really going to write this column. Stephanie Prange, our executive editor, made me do it.

About a month ago I finally got on eBay as a seller, something I had long intended to do. My strategy was to start very onesy-twosy, so I put up two items for $1 each. I sold one for the minimum bid.

Then I decided to go for it. Put up six items the next weekend. Sold two. The next weekend I put up 14 items. I sold 11 and put up nine more; sold six. By now I was feeling pretty comfortable with the overall workings of it. I've become a regular trader. I'm hooked.

And it's so liberating. I have been cleaning through stuff for a few months, stacking in the garage for a yard sale. I had one a couple of weeks ago with almost no traffic (though thankfully I sold the biggest items, which would have been hard to ship). But as I sat waiting for customers I started to see my stuff in a whole new way.

I had a box of pinback buttons at the yard sale with an index card marked "10 cents each." Nobody even looked at them. But I saw them differently this time – I grabbed a handful of Ziploc bags and separated them into categories: political, bands, movies, advertising, miscellaneous. I put each bag on eBay for 99 cents minimum bid.

I was pretty pleased with myself for thinking up this little merchandising strategy. I'm altogether insufferable now that I sold all the bags and got $20.50 for one of them. (At the yard sale the buyer would have paid $1.50 and no shipping for the same goods.)

This is a testament to the reach of the Internet. EBay succeeds because it lets people like me connect with a market we would not otherwise reach.

But what Steph wanted me to tell our readers is that even a lowly journalist can rub two brain cells together and come up with some kind of strategy to make an otherwise neglected item appealing to some buyer.

I'm sure this particular strategy – packaging similar but otherwise nonproductive items (like catalog war movies, for instance) by theme – is an old trick to you, but the trick is not the point.

It's all about the merchandising and merchandising is about looking at the same stuff you live with day after day in a new, different way. Sometimes the results are surprising.

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