Equipment Sellers Flocking To eBay

eBay, the online auction site best known for its profitable formula for consumer sales of excess inventory and garage-sale goods, is finding success in B2B sales of capital merchandise.

Since launching its business and industrial categories three years ago, eBay has seen more than a tripling of business buying, from $1 billion in 2002 to $3.3 billion in 2004. About half of that is the buying and selling of capital equipment and MRO items, according to Laurence Toney, senior category manager for business and industrial. (The other half of sales is office equipment.)

"We've seen tremendous growth as buyers discover the value and selection eBay offers, and as equipment dealers learn how eBay can help them reach new customers around the world," says Toney, who discussed the category's growth at National Manufacturing Week in Chicago on March 8. "Now we're looking to accelerating growth as we make the site fit more seamlessly with familiar off-line business practices."

This week eBay announced a simplified pricing structure and more-defined searching tools, more detailed instructions for business-equipment sellers and online negotiation tools.

According to Toney, small manufacturers with five to 50 employees mostly use the service, but some large, global multinationals have used it.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company is focusing on the business and industrial category as a growth area, according to Toney, and has long-term plans to add more services, such as a purchase-protection program.

eBay's net revenues for all of its 50,000 categories totaled $3.27 billion in 2004, with gross merchandise sales of $34.2 billion.

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