Friday, 25 January 2013
Following on from Steve's post on the Philofaxy website, about buying filofaxes on Ebay, I thought I'd share my thoughts from the "other side of the fence". In other words, selling filofaxes and other binders on Ebay. There must be many filofaxes out there, just waiting to be "adopted" by new owners who will lavish the care and attention they deserve.
Whether you're trying to find a new owner for your unwanted binder, or aiming to inspire a vintage filofax renaissance from your spare bedroom, it's not as hard as some may think and, as a former Ebay Platinum power seller, here are my top tips to minimise your effort and maximise your return.
Even if you're only selling a single binder, it pays to keep things neat and tidy, and out of harm's way. Running a disorganised operation may have a detrimental effect on your marriage, probably your sanity, and your home just won't look like a home any more.
Store your filofaxes carefully to avoid causing misalignment of the ring mechanism, blemishes on certain types of leather coating, and unnecessary wear to boxes and other original packaging. Naturally, your storage space needs to free from cigarette smoke, pets, kitchen smells, damp and inquisitive children.
Removing clutter from each pocket makes sense, but be careful when cleaning your binder. Removing dust is one thing, but shipping a filofax that reeks of Nivea is quite another, and who knows what damage can be done with harsh chemicals on modern leather coatings.
Seek advice and, if you're not the original owner, you'll need to remove that well touted exclamation about living in a smoke and pet free home.
RESEARCH, RESEARCH & YET MORE RESEARCH:
Most of you who read this will be fairly clued up about values, but there's plenty of opportunity to create a little added value in your listing by perhaps providing some history behind the brand for buyers, in the same way that Filofax themselves attempt to do. This is particularly relevant if you happen to be listing a vintage binder.
And don't just stop there! Your research could be as detailed as determining a suitable time and date for your auction to end, that doesn't clash with a tv program that proves diverting to your target audience, for example. Skip the research side of things and you'll end up achieving a lower return.
Don't forget that, particularly if you're based in the UK, it may well be worth considering making your filofax available to overseas buyers, so research your shipping options so that you can widen the number of potential bidders for your binder. You will be amazed what a difference it makes to buyer confidence, if you can show that you know what you're doing when it comes to shipping to another country.
AUCTION OR "BUY IT NOW":
Always a tricky one, but this is my advice. If your binder is likely to generate a lot of interest, something you will have determined through diligent research, and you're confident that there is no possibility of your listing being ignored by the multitude, then list as an auction. And list it for a penny - I'm serious!
Why a penny? Because your listing will have more exposure in the early phase of the auction, and will increase the potential number of bids, so triggering alerts for those buyers searching for listings with more than a certain number of those bids. You'll also have a better chance of increasing the number of "watchers", so adding to the potential fun in the final stages.
But if you're selling a binder that is unlikely to get Ebay surfers chomping at the bit then my advice would be to try a "Buy It Now", on the basis that there will always be a chance that someone's desire to indulge in a little retail therapy will get the better of them.
If it doesn't sell then list as an auction, but priced to reflect the fact that you might only attract a handful of bids at best. In this case, try listing at the minimum price you would be happy with, if you only receive one bid.
One thing to remember is that if you list as an auction, with a "Buy It Now" option, that option will disappear when you receive your first bid, so I personally recommend listing as a "Buy It Now" first, if you're not pressed for time.
WHEN TO SELL:
Again, a tricky one, because you may think that selling in January, when all the post Christmas credit cards start arriving, may be a bad idea, but it's a "numbers game". In other words, if every other seller decides not to list in January, then your purple Maulden could be the only one available, and you just know that someone, somewhere will simply have to buy it.
But, there are a few "guidelines". When do weekly paid workers get their money? And when do monthy paid workers get their salaries paid into their bank accounts? Need I say more?
Try to get into the mind of your target buyer. When is he or she most likely to be able to spend some of their valuable time perusing Ebay listings. Think "outside the box"; there may well be an increase in bidding activity amongst women whilst husbands are busy watching the Indy 500 or Superbowl, for example.
One single, and poorly shot, photo is not going to help you get the best price for your filofax. Even phones take great photos these days, and you can even upload a video to Youtube and embed it in your listing. Look at other listings for inspiration.
Always be honest, pointing out any blemishes in your pics because you can be sure that the new owner of your filofax will be only too keen to let you know if you didn't.
How many sellers do you see who can't be bothered to provide a half decent description of the filofax they're trying to sell? It's important to be clear about the exact specification and condition of the binder. Try to create a description that has the potential to entice bidders into a "bidding war", or to generate the desire to trigger an instant purchase using "Buy it Now".
Pay attention to the title of your listing too. If you have a vintage filofax (and I don't mean a "vintage pink" Maulden or a binder printed with a Union flag), you might like to try the term, "Made in England" and the "code" (eg "4CLF" or "3CL"). These are terms that will give buyers confidence that you know what you're selling.
Describe how you take care in your packing, efficiency in your shipping, and your commitment to resolve any problem that should occur. Invite potential buyers to ask questions, and be prepared to answer them promptly and politely should your invitation be accepted.
Including phrases in your small print, such as "I will not be responsible for items lost in the post" can be the kiss of death for buyers, so make sure you come across as reasonable and honest.
Don't create extra work for yourself by having to answer questions that could have been anticipated (how many times do you see the phrase, "overseas buyers should email for post rates"). If you're going to post overseas, for example, take the time to list the appropriate shipping charges.
Set out your policies clearly and firmly, without sounding aggressive, and ensure that your shipping charges are seen to be fair. Just because you live ten miles from your nearest post office is not an excuse to inflate your rates to account for vehicle running costs, for example.
If you're serious about selling, you have to offer Paypal as a payment method. There's no getting away from it and it's essential for receiving payments from buyers overseas. The protection and convenience it offers buyers means you really need to offer it as your main form of payment.
Customers expect to be kept informed, every step of the way, and this means taking some time to learn how Ebay and Paypal interact with the buyer, and how you can customise the messages that buyers receive.
If a customer emails you with a question, answer them politely and promptly, and remember that other buyers will be looking at your replies.
When packing your filofax, you have the opportunity to show, through attention to detail, a level of service that simply cannot be matched by big retailers, who may use less than adequate packaging. Since filofax buyers will invariably be checking your feedback, to see how previous buyers have rated your packing skills, you can remove their doubts by describing how you pack your items, in detail, to show your customers what a great service they can expect from you.
With particular regard to "empty" binders, you will need to pack between the covers, so that the rings cannot be crushed. Check the postal weight bands and then pack up to the maximum weight for a chosen band without fear of additional charges. I've always found it surprising that Filofax, who are no doubt keen to ensure that ring mechanisms leave the factory undamaged, seem to be unaware that the way to prevent "ring issues" developing in transit is to realise that two packing pieces added to the paper "fill", sufficient to make the total "stack height" greater than the ring diameter, will almost guarantee complete protection.
I've had some experience behind the scenes with Royal Mail, here in the UK, and I can assure you that parcels do not get a "magic carpet" ride. Demonstrate to bidders that you know how to get their purchase to their door in one piece and they will bid more.
Don't fall down at the last hurdle. Pay attention to the requested delivery method, the postal charge, the buyer's address, the customs label, and so on.
Consider having some scales at home, so you can weigh your parcel and attach the correct value of stamps or print out a pre-paid shipping label, saving you valuable time in the post office. The world is full of Ebay sellers who guess, and guess wrong, resulting in confusion for themselves and their customers.
If you do find that you are becoming a small business, enquire about possible shipping discounts in your own country. Here in the UK, for example, the discounts I received when I sold in volume were substantial.
Feedback is one of the reasons behind the success of ebay and buyers value it as a means by which they can judge sellers before parting with their cash. Try to build up some feedback through some purchases if you can, before selling your filofax.
My advice is to always include a thank you note with the shipped item, together with a respectful request for positive feedback or the chance to rectify any problem if the customer is less than delighted with either the item or the service they have received.
It has to be said, doesn't it? Certainly in the UK, if you are selling an item that you originally bought for personal use, then there is no income tax to pay, even if your item sells for more than the price you originally paid.
But, if you are selling an item that you purchased with the intention to sell on for a profit, income tax is due and you must contact those nice people at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to declare your intent.
HMRC do work with Ebay to help "encourage" Ebay sellers to do the right thing, so make sure you seek advice if you are indeed on a mission to satisfy as many filofax buyers as humanly possible.
Other country's tax affairs, and consequential penalties for transgressors, are available.
I'll be posting more Ebay tips and maybe a video or two over the next few weeks but, for now, thank you for reading my post.