Selling on eBay

How To Revive Your Business?

by Craig Stark

2 February 2009

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Don't know about you, but my December sales were nothing to write home about - nor write about here. For the first time ever, my total sales for December were down from a previous year. Growth had not only stopped; it had declined as well. Even though it would've been easy to point my finger at a troubled economy, it wouldn't have helped matters. Something needed to be done to turn things around. I needed to increase my sales.

Looking back, there have been plenty of times when I've changed both strategies and tactics in my bookselling business, but by and large this was done in response to venue changes - fee increases being the usual suspect - not to an overall decline in sales. So, toward the end of December, when it was clear how bad the outcome was going to be, I did something that I've been doing a lot lately. Instead of brainstorming, or trying to think my way to a solution - or, more alarmingly, going into panic mode - I simply asked the question, "How can I increase sales?" and then left it as a question in a kind of background place, trusting that this would allow me to tap into my more creative right-brain, which would then, hopefully, suggest something brilliant.

Aha. Nothing brilliant came, but a few unlikely answers did. Those of you who don't know me well have no idea how freaking stubborn I can be about pricing books. It truly, truly pains me to lower my prices. One of the reasons for this is that I take great care to select inventory where my competition will be either irrelevant or negligible.

By "irrelevant," I mean that in some cases I select common, higher-dollar books that sell quickly and in significant numbers; sure, there's plenty of competition in these cases, but if the book is in heavy demand, it's irrelevant. It will sell quickly at a competitive price anyway.

But in most cases my inventory consists of another type of book - higher-dollar books for which there is negligible, if any, competition. I haven't investigated this recently, but at one time well over half of my listed books were the only copies available online. I suspect that this is still the case. When you've had years of experience selling in a handful of niches and know what kinds of prices you can realize if you're patient, then you stay patient - don't come down off your prices. Eventually, everything sells, and as long as you've got a fairly sizable inventory without too much capital involved, you can well afford to live with a lower sales velocity.

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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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