Company News

eBay Rolls Out Training Program for Small Retailers

WARREN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, wants eBay to establish a physical presence in the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center downtown as part of its retail revival program.

The e-commerce giant announced in January that it had named Warren and Akron as the two cities for its U.S. pilot for retail revival, a program to provide training and assistance for bricks-and-mortar businesses.

Ryan joined representative of the more than 100 businesses from both cities accepted into the program – including 16 representatives from Warren – at a kickoff Thursday in Akron for the yearlong initiative. At the event, Ryan said he spoke to eBay officials about establishing a presence here for training online sellers.

“We’re planning on making that announcement sometime soon,” the congressman said Friday. “They’re very interested in doing that, doing an opening and having a presence there so everybody in Trumbull County and Warren knows that eBay’s there.”

Reached via email, an eBay spokesman would say only that the company’s priority is to help bring the accepted businesses online and to new customers around the world.

“At this point, we’re focused on helping the Akron- and Warren-based small businesses in the program build strong online presences so they can begin growing their businesses,” the spokesman continued.

As of yet, nothing is definite, Rick Stockburger, TBEIC chief operating officer, acknowledged. “We would welcome the opportunity to work with eBay in any capacity that we can to help them be successful in Warren,” he said.

The initiative would connect the participating companies into eBay’s 190 million global customer base, Ryan said. In Germany, where eBay has also conducted the program, the average business earned an additional $80,000 to $90,000 in annual sales, he reported.

“Just because there’s online commerce doesn’t mean the bricks and mortar have to go away,” he added. “This is a way to supplement the brick-and-mortar stores.”

Business owners who participated in Thursday’s session in Akron are optimistic about the eBay initiative’s potential benefit to their business.

The Burlap Shack, which manufactures and sells upcycled merchandise, has done little in the e-commerce space, co-owner and co-designer Jessie Fincham said. She received “valuable advice” on how to describe and photograph products for online sales, she said.

“It was great,” Fincham said. “The whole experience is so positive. The energy is really vibrant.”

As part of the program, eBay staff will help to capture the shop’s in-store presence and re-create it online, she said.

“It’s definitely going to benefit every business that takes advantage of it,” she said. “It’s still going to be a lot of hard work to get it together. But they’re giving us all the right tools to be successful online and have that translate into some of our foot traffic locally as well.”

At Beautiful Whirl’d, discussions remain underway about what the shop will offer online, owner Clint Easton said. The Courthouse Square shop is primarily known for its smoothies but also sells merchandise on consignment and is making all-natural cleaning supplies from waste products such as lemon and orange peels.

The shop also sells items such as works of art, jewelry and candles that are all locally made, and is making all-natural body soap it could use the online platform to sell, he said.

All American Cards and Comics has sold on eBay for 20 years. Thus, much of what was presented Thursday was a review of the basics for owner Greg Bartholomew. Nevertheless, he was bullish on the initiative and appreciated the opportunity to network with eBay representatives.

“They are going to have dedicated staff for the next two months helping everybody who needs help setting up their eBay store,” Bartholomew said. EBay personnel will contact the retailers to provide individual help and answer questions, he said.

Pictured at top: eBay’s mobile training facility in Akron.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.