Specialising in car alloys, chances are you have seen a Rochford Tyres product speed past you. Mark tells us how maintaining that a similar speed of service on eBay is his company's ultimate goal.
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Rochford Tyres have been in the business since 1987 selling car wheels and alloys. Traditionally they are touchy, feely, tangible products - buyers like to check out the product up close. When they part with anything over £500 that's to be expected and so that's why I never thought selling them on the Internet would work. I am thrilled to say that I was wrong!
Back in April 2003 we were sitting on around £60,000 worth of stock. In the motor industry, where fashions and tastes change quicker than a Ferrari pit stop, this was a little risky and understandably my accountant was warning me to halve that. We were bang on the edge of our overdraft facility and couldn't pay the bills without the up front capital. Turning to eBay saved us as it meant - thanks to a sudden burst of new sales - we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and keep the wolf away from our door.
It was Dave who saw the potential in eBay, marrying the British car loving public and Rochford Tyres with the power of the Internet. He came in, casually mentioning eBay, took some wheels and listed them on the site. For the remainder of the weekend my mobile was red hot with questions from him about the wheels. It seemed that the community were very keen on the product and wanted to know more. The buzz and element of energy surrounding the sale surprised me most of all and I gave Dave the nod to list some more. I'm pleased to say that the same buzz still remains with us today.
It was really encouraging to see our name and brand up in lights and buoyed by this early success we settled on giving eBay a serious go. For me, a self-confessed technophobe, this was a huge and highly unusual step but I simply couldn't argue with the numbers and sales we were seeing. Upping the stakes is easier if you have the ability to buy cheaply and so that's where the wholesale leads that we'd worked hard to build over the years became so valuable.
Fast forward to August 2004 and we now have over 25 full time staff and are hiring in some temps to help us stay on top of sales, because to put it quite simply things are crazy! We still run the shop business - like I said, some buyers will still always want to come in and see the wheels close up - but eBay now is a sizeable part of the Rochford Tyres Empire. So much so that we hold more stock than ever and thankfully the same accountant is today somewhat quieter.
Dave is the technical brains behind the business and I have total faith is his ability to keep us ahead of the competition. We have an eBay Shop and the HTML reflects the type of look and feel that our customers expect. With the reach of the eBay we sell to all corners of the country and to all types. The prices we achieve are normally cheaper than in the shop, but thanks to eBay we can avoid certain margins that we'd normally expect to pass onto the buyer, so it makes economic sense.
In no time at all we have doubled and then tripled staff levels; it has been a brilliant and exciting journey. My dilemma now is how does Rochford Tyres consolidate this success? The learning curve on eBay was very steep and scarily fast but we rode that out and I'm positive that positive word of mouth from happy buyers is key to our success. Keeping up is scary enough; developing beyond that is another matter.
When we started on eBay there were just 3 pages of car wheels and alloys on eBay.co.uk. Now there are 63. That's some growth and we are proud to have driven a portion of that. It makes us feel part of the make up, part of the community.
We are happy to take risks, as long as they are calculated ones. The positive and rapid turnover that eBay generates means we can buy into new and exciting lines like 4x4 or exotic cars. We also have more buying power now which means we can keep prices low. That suits everyone. The customer gets a better price and we can stay ahead of the competition.
Time to evolve is our particular holy grail. I love eBay but "What's round the corner" is something that I constantly ask the team here? We need time to sit back and review the ground we have covered, but the problem we have is that as the volume of sales increase we struggle to find that elusive time. Don't get me wrong - it's a nice problem and one we look forward to tackling!
Get to know your products, then put all that information into the listing, we use HTML to make the listing informative and appealing to the eye. Think of and try to answer any question a customer might ask in the listing.
When replying to emails from customers, be honest in your replies, occasionally we get asked some awful questions, but always be polite and courteous.
Care for your customers, also give great customer service. Word of mouth is a very powerful "selling tool"; you can be assured that your customers will tell all their friends & family. Your sales will sharply rise as a result.
Save time and energy, there are vast arrays of selling tools at your disposal, pick the ones that will save you time. Also find out how other sellers work, as they will often share the information they have learned, so check out the forums from time to time.
Be patient with a product, if it is not selling. It takes time to establish a product on eBay, people looking at the listing are not always ready to buy, and they may see the item and purchase weeks or even months later.
Have good supplies, there is nothing worse then having a product that takes off, then you run out and cannot get anymore for a few months. Build a good relationship with your suppliers. Don't be afraid to drop suppliers if they are not up to task - in the early days we used a company that lost parcels and gave poor service it was a constant nightmare.