What’s In Your Closet? eBay Wants a Peek

Each month, Kristina Bauer estimates that she sells about 20 items, ranging from Louis Vuitton handbags to Christian Louboutin heels, through her eBayboutique, GramercyGrl.


Not every user will achieve Bauer’s ecommerce success, but eBay wants you to give it a shot.

On Friday, the company begins a four-city tour of the U.S. to introduce online auction mavens-to-be to its new simplified selling experience. This summer, the company’s “Chic Squad,” which consists of two fashion stylists and a quartet of top sellers, will share listing tips with consumers and assist them in posting items.

“We have 25 million sellers out there who are contributing to the inventory on eBay,” said Jeff Somers, general manager at eBay Fashion. “By making it a more simple process, it’s a tremendous opportunity for us to increase the selection for buyers.”

In March, the company launched a new version of the iPad app, which allows users to list items on-the-go, at any time. Users can also post on their smartphones. Users typically generate around 2 million mobile listings each week.

The tour, which stops first in New York and then ventures to Los Angeles, Dallas and San Francisco, is the company’s latest effort to draw attention and ramp up its fashion-based business.

In the “You Can’t Fake Fashion campaign” earlier this year, the company joined with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to raise awareness against counterfeit itemsthrough a line of designer tote bags. It also runs the Fashion Vault, a flash-sale type platform, and the Fashion Outlet, an online outlet that sells items at discounts of roughly 20 to 65 percent.

The company has plenty of incentive to encourage sales of high-end fashion. Higher-priced sales generally result in higher fees for eBay. Fees for auction-style listings that end up selling come with a maximum charge of $250. There is no such fee limit for fixed-price format listings, which means as prices climb higher, so does eBay’s cut of the sale.

Even with the fees, Bauer has been able to turn a hobby of selling things for friends and family into a part-time business and earned a spot among eBay’s top sellers. She first embarked on an eBay career after being laid off as an equity research analyst in 2008. Nearly all of her sales now occur through the site.

“If items are priced right, everything eventually does sell,” she said.

Brad Goreski, a celebrity stylist and fellow Chic Squad member, emphasized that eBay gives users a way to rid their closets of items that do not fit well while making room for new fashion finds.

“It’s a way to benefit from keeping your closet fresh without breaking the bank,” Goreski said.

Like, a crowded closet, the market for high-end fashion is bursting at the seams with players trying to lure today's discerning consumer. Despite the stiff competition, big-names retailers, such as eBay and Amazon.com, and emerging start-ups are throwing money and resources at the segment in an attempt to capture a larger market share.

Last month, "The New York Times" reported that Amazon.com is making a significant investment in the category by “signing on hundreds of contemporary and high-end brands, including Michael Kors, Vivienne Westwood, Catherine Malandrino, Jack Spade and Tracy Reese.”

The company’s previous forays into the fashion scene include purchasing Zappos.com and Shopbop and launching Endless.com and MyHabit, which operates using a flash-sale model.

Another recent hopeful on the scene, HipSwapis betting its more visually focused marketplace that enables users to shop the closet of some fashion editors and reality TV celebrities will help it “own the virtual supply chain for the secondary market of goods,” said Rob Kramer, the company’s CEO

“If Craigslist and Pinterest had a baby — that’s HipSwap,” Kramer said.

The site, which launched in March, has attracted a user base that is growing roughly 2 percent a day and more than $22 million in inventory.

On Thursday, it unveiled a handful of new features, including door-to-door delivery in Los Angeles and New York and a sharing tool for users to seek feedback on potential purchases via social media.

Despite their differences, all three sites are jockeying for the same fashion-conscious consumer, who seeks to create some extra wardrobe space with one click and then fill it back up with the next.

“You can imagine the amount of inventory that is sitting in closets out there,” eBay's Somers said. “The ability to unlock that and bring that to buyers everywhere is really powerful.”

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Katie Little on Twitter @katie_little_.