Fashion Forward: eBay Steps Toward Main Street with Virtual Outlet Mall

EbayOnline marketplace eBay (EBAY) is launching an outlet store, which will sell products from retailers such as Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Spanx and Bluefly (BFLY), on Sept. 19. The new site, which the retail partners will use as a platform to reach new online shoppers, is another milestone in eBay's drift away from its madcap auctioneer roots toward straight-up name-brand fashion.

Don't panic: For now, it's still got the mechanical bulls, broken CPR training mannequins and people willing to wait in line in your place to get you Harry Potter tickets. (You can read more about those weird eBay items, and many others, on this eBay fan blog.)

Still, single auctions make up fewer and fewer of eBay's transactions. In the first quarter of 2011, fixed-price items made up 61% of eBay's sales, up 4% from last year. "Buy it now" or fixed-price items belong mostly to "power sellers," or medium- and large-scale retailers that use eBay as a virtual storefront, rather than a place to auction off overstocked or used goods.

Small businesses and individual sellers still use eBay, along with a slew of other sites like Etsy, Groupon and LivingSocial, to reach customers.

Focusing on Fashion

EBay also has been focusing more on fashion since April 2010, Miriam Lahage, general manager of eBay fashion told women's fashion site WWD. That's when the company launched a fashion outlet store at its UK Web address, In the company's earnings report for the first quarter of 2011, CEO John Donahoe praised as eBay's fastest-growing country site in Europe.

In mainstream fashion, faces competition from new sites, such as Gilt and RueLaLa, which also sell expensive clothes at discount prices, but make them much easier to find and purchase than eBay does now. Shopping for a pair of shoes on Gilt requires neither screening for sketchy sellers nor cutthroat bidding wars.

Perhaps its new Outlet suffix will help eBay reorganize and rebrand. Of course, for some, the fun of eBay shopping was always the stress its marketplace inspired: the hunt through bogus listings, the obsessive daily monitoring of auctions, the thrill of winning one, the shock when your sweater arrives in an unpredictable color.

It's shopping experience completely alien to outlet malls, with their numerated parking lots, soothing fountains and coffee shops on every corner.

Perhaps eBay will be able to become both a virtual flea market and a virtual outlet mall. But, as Gilt Groupe's CEO Kevin Ryan told DailyFinance in an interview last month, "When you think of eBay, you think of auctions. It's hard to change your brand."

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Oh wow look at all the MORONS advertizing here!!! UNREAL! Ok...we used to sell on Ebay for years and we knew they were and are trying to squeeze out the small sellers...they started charging more for everything and making it harder for a seller to sell without all their BS and involvement.....we knew they were gonna eventually cancel out the small sellers and only have the big sellers and stores. This is no surprise to me. We totally quit Ebay over a year ago or more. They bought out Paypal and then Paypal also started charging more and Paypal will and can just freeze your account and take hostage of your money if one idiot buyer complains for NO GOOD REASON! It is now like the sellers got nothing to protect them but these IDIOT buyers can lie, cheat, and scam and Paypal and Ebay will go after the seller when you are totally innocent of anything. Then you gotta fight with Ebay and Paypal for days to get anything done about will win if you did nothing but the hassle of it all was not worth it anymore at all. They charge too much and have become the jury and judge on everything now as well. More than once we had problems and had to fight them both and we won but again...EBAY and PAYPAL IS A THIEF AND A JOKE NOW. I HOPE THEY FAIL MISERABLY. What started off as a fun auction house has turned into a miserable online whatever it is these days and I want nothing to do with it anymore. I refuse to buy on Ebay anymore as well. Oh well.......take a hike Ebay and shove your fees and bs and judging and all you do now to sellers where the sun don't shine! GOOD RIDDENS EBAY!

August 14 2011 at 6:35 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply