Challenges and Opportunities for both buyers and small retailers

Challenges and Opportunities for both buyers and small retailers

Robert Bigler, General Manager, Canada at eBay, chatted with CanadianSME to talk about the newer ways Canadians are shopping. He shared his views on how people are now discovering unique ways to shop online. He also shared how pre-owned and refurbished items are now making their way to people’s homes.

A senior business leader with global management experience and a track record of building businesses, teams, and people. Works collaboratively with executive teams and boards to develop and implement pragmatic strategies and transform organizations across functions and industries. An intellectually curious, fact-based problem solver with a bias to action. Proven team player with a track record of empowering and championing people.

What are the challenges and opportunities for both buyers and small retailers during this unprecedented holiday season?

Supply chain disruptions and scarcity issues mean that a lot of the hottest holiday items – think in-demand sneakers, toys, electronics – are going to be harder for Canadian shoppers to get their hands on.  But empty store shelves in traditional retail are motivating consumers to shop differently and take a more open-minded approach to buy holiday gifts, looking to marketplaces like eBay which have always been a great place to find in-demand and hard-to-find items.

For many small retailers, supply chain issues have been a part of their reality for a while now, and though it may present challenges, small businesses are nimbler and more entrepreneurial by nature compared to their big-box counterparts.  And, with consumers shifting away from traditional retail locations, it’s a great time for smaller retailers to fill the void with their inventory. This, combined with the growing appetite to support small local businesses, makes this an opportune moment for small retail.  

What are the ways Canadians are shopping differently?

As mentioned, because of scarcity issues and supply chain challenges, more Canadians are looking beyond traditional retail for their holiday shopping this season. However, it’s not just how or where they’re shopping, but also for what.

People are discovering the unique, the nostalgic, and the pre-owned, with purchases that reflect individual interests. Sneakers are a great example of this. Enthusiasts come to eBay for a rich assortment of styles, and many of the most coveted pairs are pre-owned. In fact, we’re seeing double-digit growth in the number of listings for pre-owned sneakers on our site.  Pre-owned condition is even part of our new sneaker Authenticity Guarantee offering, which helps fuel the pre-owned collectible sneaker market by building a trusted trading experience for buyers and sellers.

Refurbished is another example of this. Not long ago, there was a stigma attached to gifting anything that wasn’t brand new and in season. But with a renewed focus on sustainability, and offerings like eBay Refurbished that redefine the way people shop for like-new products, refurbished items are topping holiday shopping lists.

How online marketplaces like eBay are built for scarcity?

One of eBay’s core strengths is that it’s a marketplace powered by millions of sellers, with a distributed supply chain, that can quickly adapt. Online marketplaces in general are driven by supply and demand, and naturally, backfill products that are sold out everywhere else. On top of this, the pre-owned and collectible inventory that’s found on eBay – and becoming more and more in demand these days – are more insulated from many supply chain disruptions.

eBay has been focusing on creating best-in-class experiences in enthusiast product categories that often face scarcity issues, like trading cards and collectible sneakers, and more recently, electronics. eBay Refurbished, for example, gives shoppers an alternative way to shop coveted and in-demand products this holiday season.

Please share any other consumer trends this holiday season.

Shopping and supporting small businesses really picked up at the beginning of the pandemic and remains a priority for consumers; we anticipate this carrying through the holidays.

eCommerce has levelled the playing field for small businesses, enabling them to reach more consumers beyond their local catchment areas.

In particular, established online marketplaces like eBay give sellers instant access to an active consumer base through a trusted experience, which is incredibly powerful. In fact, eBay is made up of millions of small businesses, which drive the majority of sales on our platform.  

What is your key advice to entrepreneurs in the retail industry?

The retail industry is always shifting in one way or another – from pandemic repercussions to shifting consumer mindsets, to new technology.  My advice is to diversify your business model to ensure you’re able to adapt to changing times. Having an omnichannel retail business can help you keep up with changing consumer preferences or macro-economic implications.  The start of the pandemic lockdowns really brought this to life, where small brick-and-mortar shops that pivoted to focusing online were able to weather the storm, or in many cases, even thrive.  

I also encourage Canadian small businesses to think globally. eBay’s marketplace connects you to more than 150 million active buyers from around the world, so you can instantly become an online exporter.

Reaching new markets is another important way to diversify and allows Canadians to build thriving local businesses that grow and scale with global sales.

For small businesses looking to get online quickly and easily, eBay has a great program called Up & Running, providing all the tools and resources you need to add eCommerce to your business. It’s a free program, and it’s free to list your items on eBay, so there’s really no risk in giving it a shot!

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