“We have to work a bit differently”: EBay launches stimulus for struggling retail

Online marketplace eBay announced on Wednesday it is doing its part to support the flagging retail industry, unveiling a stimulus package to help businesses survive the COVID-19 crisis. 

As part of this package, eBay is allowing eligible eBay sellers to defer fees for 30 days, and removing listing fees until June 30.

For new sellers opening an eBay store the business is offering no selling fees for three months to help them establish their online presence while bricks-and-mortar locations may be in hibernation.

The idea, according to eBay Australia Tim McKinnon, is to help primarily bricks-and-mortar retailers survive through online, and lower the barrier of entry for those just now making a transition online.

“[eBay] was created 25 years ago to enable strangers to do commerce without having contact with each other, McKinnon told Inside Retail.

“We see ourselves as a fundamental piece of infrastructure… for businesses to be able to get through this process and still maintain cash flow.”

McKinnon said he is devastated to see so many Australian retailers closing their physical stores, and after sitting with eBay’s senior leadership team and thinking through the next few months could play out, decided the marketplace had to support the industry.

“If [retailers are] successful, we are as well, and we see that we’ve got to make sure we help them get through this period,” McKinnon said.

“I understand that retailers are just trying to take stock of what is happening, and the level of change right now is incredible. I wouldn’t try to tell others [how to react], but I would say that just as Australian retail got together to rally support for those affected by the bushfires, the only way we’re going to get through this is working together.

“And fundamentally we have to work a bit differently… I think i’m optimistic that when this is over, a lot of businesses will be in a much stronger position.”

Just like in several other areas of retail, eBay has seen the behaviour of its users changing over the last few weeks. Isolation categories – hand sanitiser, puzzles, toys, etc – have seen a massive spike in sales, while other areas of the site have dried up. 

“The growth is strongest in what people need right now, and the more discretionary categories are not seeing as much growth. It’ll be interesting to see what will happen when offline retail is not available for those categories,” McKinnon said. 

“I think we’re still early in seeing these trends play out. I think everybody agrees there will be a change in consumer behaviour.”