This is one of my favorite stories. I had heard about people who were making a living out of selling on eBay, and it fascinated me.
I pitched the story to the Times, and they were interested, but it was extremely difficult to get someone to talk about it. eBay sellers are like a secret society – they prefer to remain anonymous, and eBay, as well as the mode of sale, encourages this.
I perused a lot of flea markets, and lost a lot of leads until I found a really great source for this story. He has an incredible understanding of sales, and it works for him.
Steve Kassab of Media said he has been able to do all of the above since he started selling on the Internet retail site eBay six years ago.
And he’s not alone. “Close to a half million (Americans) are making their primary living selling on eBay,” said eBay spokesperson Hani Durzy, and the “vast majority are individuals or small businesses. Small business is the driver of the U.S economy, and eBay is one of the drivers of small business in this country.”
Skeptical? So was Kassab when a “computer-savvy” employee approached him about listing a few items from Antique Exchange, his Media shop on 23 W. State St., on eBay. But he quickly came around.
“We sold pieces I hadn’t been able to sell in 10 years in Media,” he said, “for more money than I was asking, which was pretty much the way I got hooked.”
A self-described hunt and peck typist, Kassab said he hired a previous employee, Sara Williamson, as a technical assistant because he doesn’t know anything about computers. He does have a background in antiques, jewelry and furniture sales, but he swears that’s not a prerequisite for success.
According to Kassab, all a seller needs is a camera and a computer to transfer photos to the Internet, and they can be on their way to eBay.
With these two items in hand, and following five months of selling, he had achieved power-seller status, and he was making enough money for his wife, Mary, to end her 20-year stint as a senior executive at Macy’s.
Shortly thereafter, Kassab was able to phase out his store. Although he eliminated the cost of rent, Kassab said his eBay selling fees are about twice what he paid to maintain his store. But, because of “unbelievable turnover” on eBay, he emphasized he is clearly 15 percent to 20 percent more money than he was making at his Media location.
Unlike the retail market, where an owner is “subject to limited traffic,” he explained that through eBay your exposure is endless. Today, his weekly sell-through rate is 60 percent to 70 percent, and he ships 150 packages out a week.
While Kassab is making his own hours, and can freely attend to his teens’ and preteen’s needs, he admits he invests more time in selling on eBay than he did as owner of a jewelry and antiques store.
“It allows you more freedom,” he continued, “but it’s twice as much work.”
A Montgomery County power seller agrees. Since she retired from her corporate position, eBay has been her primary source of income. “You’re working harder for the same amount of money,” said the woman, who did not want to be identified.
The Kassabs are familiar with this concept. A couple truly immersed in their trade, they work around the clock out of a home office that is equipped with a corner for mailing treasures out to buyers.
On one recent day, it was littered with merchandise ranging from yellowed scrapbooks, a Coca-Cola lamp, and jewelry, to a Country Bear Jamboree cookie jar, a “Welcome Back Kotter” lunchbox, and an assortment of old liquor bottles that have proven to be lucrative finds.
Because they spend the majority of their time at home, the Kassabs make a point of going out to eat frequently, utilizing discounts found on Restaurant.com, which enables them to eat in some of Philadelphia’s finest restaurants for a fraction of the price.
When he’s not working at home, or eating out, Kassab is combing local auctions, flea markets, estate and garage sales for goods. Wilson’s Auctioneers and Appraisers, 344 Valleybrook Road, Chester Heights, “is one of the best places to buy inventory for the Internet,” he said. The “entire industry has changed in 10 years,” he complained.
“It’s tough to get merchandise. I can’t go into a local antiques store any more and purchase something , because they’re afraid I’m going to make more money on the net.” Read more…
Reprinted with permission from the Delaware County Daily Times.