059: Baby Boomers on eBay – Alan and Sherry Gilson

Alan and Sherry started selling in 2002 to liquidate the clothing that they still had, after closing their clothing ministry boutique. A suggestion from a friend to try eBay seemed a little overwhelming since they barely knew how to do emails on the computer. That was 13 years ago and they have not looked back. Since that time they have sold over 13,000 items as Top Rated Sellers and accomplished more than just being sellers on eBay. Being in their 70′s and married for over 47 years they see nothing but a bright future with their full time eBay business. Working with sellers to teach them how to have huge success is their mission. They want to encourage those in their “senior years” to jump in and know that even Baby Boomers can harness the internet and grow big businesses working from home.

Interesting Notes

  • Alan and Sherry manage to become successful on eBay even though they are not techie simply because their belief in their selves and in their abilities enabled them to do things.
  • The couple admits that in the early days of eBay, it is a trial and error system. But, today is exciting because there is a wealth of information and also a network of people willing to help.
  • Sherry, the more creative one, does the listing and picture taking. She also does the sourcing for she loves going out and finding deals.
  • Alan, the organized one, does the shipping, and loves most the chi-ching part of eBay.
  • The couple uses eBay's free shipping model which enabled them to price their items to incorporate free shipping.
  • They also use the global shipping program for most countries with the exception of the UK, Canada, and Australia, where they ship themselves. The global shipping program takes the hassle from them and they don't have to worry about custom fees. All they need to do is to ship to Kentucky and off their shipment goes
  • The majority of their shipment goes domestically.
  • They basically source their own products from thrift stores. Sherry prefers thrift stores than flea markets because it is more organized.
  • They also do some consignment taking advantage of their neighborhood where women love to spend a lot of money on their clothes. After wearing awhile, the women turn their clothes over to Sherry to sell for them and Sherry makes a good return of the money for them.
  • To come to know how to double your money, Sherry shared that it is partly experience and partly using her smartphone to look it up.
  • One time, Sherry found a Chanel jacket in a thrift store worth $7.50 and put it on eBay for $699 which sold in two (2) weeks. Another is a Tommy Hilfiger jacket she found in a garage sale for $2 and sold it for $400.
  • Their system is: 1. First thing in the morning, they basically catch up with sales the night before, and the communications and social media. 2. Once the listing is done, they put custom labels for inventory control. They have an inventory number in each item. Since the majority of the item they sell is clothing, they put it in the plastic bag and put it in the bucket. They have the buckets numbered and so they know where the inventory is. 3. They ship every day and use USPS boxes that they order for free. Alan's sister who works for a medical clinic brings styrofoam and bubble wrap, and so the couple have no investment on packaging material.
  • They like to do something special in their packaging for their customers. They buy chocolates and put it in a bag together with the items they ship.
  • The couple has the heart to teach. They are core organizers of eBay e-commerce group and meetup.com. Sherry, in the comforts of their home, teaches seniors how to sell on eBay.
  • A few years ago, Alan has worked on eBay's outreach program, and one of the consultations he had is with an 87-year-old woman who had never used the eBay shipping label platform to ship a package. This is when shipping program was relatively new. Through phone, Alan walked her through shipping her first package with shipping label done by eBay.
  • In their future, the couple sees themselves in the education side of eBay. They see the need to educate sellers on eBay on how to be successful, and on the simple but basic steps that they should take.

Quotes

  • “I always jump in and then learn how to swim.”
  • “It is just a matter of doing it and believing in yourself and in your abilities.”
  • “Anything that would make it easy and make it quick for them (the customers) to make a decision and push that buy button.”
  • “I don't like to list anything that we don't make it at least 50% – 60% profit on it.”
  • “Thrifting is being there at the right time when a particular item is there.”
  • “When you go out and look for things, and if you don't find it today, go back later today or go back tomorrow and you'll find the things you want.”
  • “We could not duplicate for our own business what the eBay platform provides.”
  • “I'll do today what others won't, so I can live tomorrow when others can't.”
  • “It's not hard to get the information you need.”
  • “It is understanding the cost of the investment versus what you can get from it and get a return from that.”

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