Estate Sales Have Found A Profitable, Second Life Online
Everything But The House's online auction business is thriving, with no help from Amazon, eBay or Etsy
Are you an interior design junkie with a passion for antiques that is willing to scour Brooklyn Flea looking for that incredible piece you saw on Domino only to turn to Krrb in hopes of getting something similar once your in-person search yields no results? Were you one of the ones that cried and died a little bit when Move Loot closed? Well, there is new hope for us wishing to find upscale, intact statement pieces for our home. Enter Everything But the House (EBTH), the web’s latest destination for all things vintage, estate and antique who most recently expanded to 27 U.S. markets courtesy of the $41.5 million in venture capital they most recently raised.
How Selling Estates Online Happens
EBTH offers free at-home or online consultations for prospective sellers, they go to their homes and catalog all the items that can be available for sale. After a collection has been approved, EBTH authenticates, photographs, and catalogs all the item being sold. They then list the products in seven-day auction formats starting at $1.00. For the items that do not sell, they help with trash removal and donation of unsellable items. EBTH then takes a 35 to 45 percent commission depending on the location of the sale and facilitates the shipping and pickup of the items.
“A typical estate sale,” says Chief Revenue Officer Jon Nielsen to Cincinnati Magazine, “generates between $20,000 and $30,000. That said, we handle sales less than $20,000 and we also handle multi-million-dollar estates.”
How EBTH Built Their Commerce Model
The business model that EBTH follows has usually met with limited success by other companies. According to the company’s president and CEO, Andy Nielsen, because they are a service-based company first, and not a technology business first, they are able to make the model work. Nielsen told PSFK:
“We have built a tremendous team that is dedicated to providing this high-touch service. Further, our focus on innovation and data infrastructure allows us to connect all aspects of our business and utilize data to solve complex challenges. We are not a peer-to-peer marketplace. We have put our brand in-between buyers and sellers, allowing us to provide a consistent service across all of our locations.”
EBTH’s success also lies in the operational investments they have made. The company built their technology in-house, which gives them the necessary infrastructure to quote, ship, and track the items you see on EBTH.com. Earlier this year, they also hired Chris Grieser, a former Amazon and Target operations and logistics executive to oversee the launch of the first of several 100,000-plus square foot distribution centers, where they process and ship inventory from several Midwest cities.
“Building a scalable logistics infrastructure is a really important part of growing our business,” said Nielsen.
Using Locality To Drive Global Scale
Nielsen believes that “think global, act local” is also a critical piece to their growth success in addition to having a smooth running operational backbone. “We have a local presence in each of the cities we service, regardless of the size of the city and formalize local partnerships,” he shared. “We utilize local marketing tactics to generate estates to sell. We hire local talent.” On the global side, the company deploys marketing tactics geared toward shoppers. They currently have bidders from across 130 countries. Furniture, art, collectibles, décor and jewelry are our best-selling categories. The most interesting item that has been sold was a 12.19ct natural sapphire, platinum and diamond ring priced at over $47,000.00.
EBTH Poised For A Successful Retail Future
From a business point of view, the company is set to be extremely successful in using technology to advance a once analog business. According to venture capitalist Navin Goyal, M.D. of Loud Capital:
“It is taking an old tradition of estate sales and using technology to ease the use of buying and selling these niche items. They are fulfilling a need for both parties. There are the estate owners, who want to liquidate the items they have that in some cases seem mundane in their eyes, but prove to be a treasure to a buyer. The buyers now have access to multiple estate items online which saves time, travel, and provides a convenient user experience.”
By fulfilling a void and carving out a niche that has more customers than one would originally think, EBTH is the perfect example of how vision and creative thinking can find success online in an already saturated market.