eBay to launch storefronts

The online auction giant will soon allow its sellers to offer goods through fixed-price storefronts on its Web site, according to a source familiar with the plans.

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eBay will soon allow its sellers to offer goods through fixed-price storefronts on the auction giant's Web site, said an executive familiar with the plans of the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

eBay has been considering opening storefronts since the end of last year, said Brandon Huff, vice president of product management at Andale. Andale, which provides a service that helps sellers launch and manage auctions on eBay and other auction sites, is among the companies that have licensed eBay's application programming interface (API). Andale is already talking with eBay about integrating its auction management service with eBay's new storefronts, Huff said.

The storefronts should launch within the next several months, Huff said.

"I would be surprised if within the next month or so, the next piece of the puzzle didn't come out," he said.

eBay has been talking with its members about storefronts, company spokesman Kevin Pursglove said. But Pursglove said he was unaware of any time line for launching the storefronts.

"I don?t think we have come up with any hard timetable yet," he said.

Thousands of businesses already have virtual stores online, and Internet service providers have been hosting online stores for years, as have eBay competitors Amazon.com and Yahoo. Auction service companies such as Andale and AuctionWatch have recently also jumped into the storefront space.

But many auction sellers have been looking for ways to sell to customers outside of the auction format. Many would also like to use auctions to build a regular clientele, rather than as an end in and of themselves.

Andale isn't worried about eBay's impending move to offer storefronts, Huff said.

"Folks, while being excited about selling on eBay, are somewhat reluctant about all roads leading to eBay," he said. "That's a little bit much to swallow."