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Mobile Sales Give eBay a Boost, but Competitors Say the Economy Is in Their Corner

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The trend toward economic recovery has likely helped boost sales at sites like uBid and RedTag, where buyers set the sales prices.

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Michele-Louise Ridley-Cook of La Bonne Vivant, a Virginia-based business, is one business owner who felt the effects of the recession on the eBay portion of her business and made some big changes to her business plan as a result. Cook, who left the corporate world to launch her small business in 2004, deals in antique and vintage photographic images and ephemera dating from the 1800s to the 1940s. Her items have a focus on the African-American experience, and items typically sell at a high price because of their scarcity. The economic downturn forced to her to make some tough business decisions, including closing her eBay store. Cook found that for her business, eBay was too expensive and restrictive. Once the economic collapse happened, business slowed immediately because her customers use discretionary income when buying her merchandise. Eventually, it became clear that it was too much work to focus on both her website and eBay store.

"This is my passion and I am determined to make it," says Cook, who quickly changed her strategy. She began focusing on other ways to invest in her small business to give her online shop an edge. She began paying close attention to the details and highlighting the high quality products she sells. For example, all her photographs are packaged in museum grade archive materials because she does not like to send anything that is not high quality. Cook also acquired an office space in 2011 where she schedules in-house appointments with clients. She even hired a paid intern to help with day-to-day operations including archiving, filing, and scanning. She also knows the importance of building relationships with her clientele, noting that 30% of her customers provide 80% of her business, with many coming back to her every week. She is focused on nurturing her relationships with her customers. When mailing out orders, she will often tuck an additional photo inside the package as a special gift.

So far, eBay has not won her back -- perhaps a sign, also supported by recent polls, that for small business owners, the recovery is still nascent or non-existent.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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