eBay claims the interest of the channel

Online marketplace eBay claims an increasing number of vendors, distributors and resellers are using its services to shift stock.

It first started targeting the channel as a growth area six months ago and positioned itself as a complementary service rather than a form of competition.

The growing interest that companies are showing in eBay is credited to difficult conditions within the IT industry and the rise in fixed-price "buy it now" sales, as opposed to its traditional online auction format.

Sally-Anne Newson, eBay's IT category manager Australia/NZ, said some companies choose to remain anonymous because of the potential for "channel conflict", but others -- such as Harris Technology -- use the site as a marketing tool complete with an "about us" page.

"We see eBay as a great way for vendors, distributors and resellers to get rid of products that are end-of-line stock or former leasing equipment. Our role is complementary to the channel rather than competitive," Newson said.

She said eBay's top IT categories are currently laptops, accessories and storage, with Apple products also seen as a big market. She added that the last six months had seen high growth in monitors, peripherals and components.

The company claims more than 124,000 IT-related items are available at any one time through eBay Australia with a piece of hardware sold every three minutes, a laptop or desktop PC every 15 minutes and four software packages sold in a typical hour.

"We usually mirror industry trends, so recent growth in networking and storage have been seen at eBay too. However, our IT sales grew by 450 per cent in the year to August and those figures are unheard of in the industry," claimed Newson.

The next 12 months will see eBay continue to focus on its successful categories while targeting further growth among SMEs, individual e-tailers and retailers, corporate dealers and leasing companies that use the service to move stock.

"Many companies have not thought of eBay as a complementary channel but we can help those that are suffering during the current IT decline," Newson said.

"When it comes to IT, people are often happier buying from a reputable business. Clearing stock through eBay is a way for companies to sell items that would otherwise be sitting in a warehouse. It also enables them to tap into new customers, which is very useful when you have a set amount of marketing dollars to play with each year."

October marks the third anniversary of eBay's entry into the Australia and New Zealand market. It started as a joint venture between eBay and ecorp, but the partnership was broken earlier this month when the latter sold its 50 per cent share to eBay for $119 million.

The deal was originally announced in August but needed approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Simon Smith, eBay's A/NZ managing director, said the price "indicates the faith eBay has in its Australian business" and added that he wants to make the company as much of a household name here as it is in the US and Germany.

"We already get 10 per cent of the Australian online market visiting eBay each month but our target is to get that up to 30 or 40 per cent," he said.

In the year to June 2002, eBay A/NZ claims to have achieved a 97 per cent increase in gross merchandise sales to $125.8 million and facilitated 4.4 million online auctions.