Why Retailers Fail while eBay Thrives


I’ve been a fan of Canon cameras for many years now. I  started a long time ago with a SLR that I loved: the EOS 30E. When digital SLRs appeared I moved on to the 10D then 7D and I’ve collected over time quite a few lenses, some quite good.

At the beginning of this year I found a new love: the Fujifilm X series – embodied in the X-E1 model to be more precise.

But this is not a blog about cameras or lenses and which one is better than the other. Instead I want to share with you the experience I had with a couple of retailers when I tried to trade my old stuff for some new Fuji lenses.

Moving from one camera to another is a tough decision. Over time you build up a whole environment around it. This needs to go away. eBay is obviously the first choice for most people, but when you have quite a lot of items this can be quite a hassle. So I tried a different approach: a few of the specialist high-street retailers offer second hand services and trade-in schemes. Perfect! I thought naively assuming that I can spare some time (even at a cost).

So I started to do my homework: I made a list of the items I wanted to sell and then checked on the retailers’ site the prices they charge. I then built my target price for my items by discounting that price with 40% – equivalent to a 66% markup and roughly 4 times more than the charge eBay levies on the deals concluded on their platform. Pretty generous, yes? Then I drew the line for the first batch of items when the total matched the price of one of the lenses I was looking for. Incidentally the new lens at that retailer was quite far from the best price I could get at some other sites. But hey, I was accommodating.

Armed with this calculations I have sent a mail to the evaluation team indicating what I want to sell and what I would like to get in exchange and waited – naively – for good news. The answers came quickly – something to appreciate – but with a very disappointing message: both retailers offered just a dash over half the price I expecting (remember I already factored in a 40% margin for them…). Frankly I don’t have a problem negotiating, but in these circumstances it is a waste of time; it’s extremely unlikely that I can double the offer.

So, now the items will go on eBay. It might be a bit more work but the results are definitely worth it. And guess what? I will purchase the new lens also from eBay. The retailers lost the opportunity of selling me a quite expensive piece of lens and getting decent second hand gear for a good price. And even more importantly they lost even more business with me, as this first lot was just the beginning.

So why are certain retailers having a difficult time? I don’t dismiss the fact that internet provides tough competition. But that is not the whole story. Retailers loose because they don’t pay attention to their customers. A superficial handling of the clients’ queries and a focus on the quick profit as opposed to building a longer term relationship with the customer is the recipe for failure.

If retailers complain about decline in sales, then why not selling is preferred to selling for a lower profit?