TIAS.com, which helps antique malls and dealers set up shop on the Internet, today said it will open a network of consignment centers to help consumers sell their antiques and collectibles through eBay.
The consignment centers, which will be located in 14 different antique malls across the United States, will open Oct. 6.
Mike May, digital commerce analyst at Jupiter Communications, called the consignment centers a "good idea," at least for the near future. "These are a good way to reach consumers who might not otherwise have thought about selling through eBay," May said.
TIAS, which stands for The Internet Antique Shop, opened a virtual antique mall on eBay in April. The mall provides links to the eBay home pages of various antique malls around the United States and to their auction listings.
After consumers drop their collectibles off at the consignment centers, TIAS will handle the entire online auction process from listing the item on eBay to shipping the item and taking payment.
The Houston-based company plans to charge an $8 fee to list items on eBay and plans to take a 30 percent cut of the closing sale price of each item. TIAS plans to pass on eBay's charges to customers who want to set a reserve price for their auctions or to have their auctions listed prominently on the site. However, the company said it will pay eBay's closing value fees out of the 30 percent cut it takes.
The company said the antique malls will get a portion of the sale, but did not specify how much.
TIAS' charges are somewhat steep compared with what San Jose, Calif.-based eBay typically charges customers who sell directly through its service. eBay charges sellers less than $2 to list most items for auction, depending on the initial bid price of the items. Depending on what price the item sells for, eBay charges a closing value fee of up to 5 percent.
"We think the pricing is very reasonable," TIAS president Phillip Davies said.
Davies said TIAS is targeting sellers who might not have a computer or a digital camera or the expertise to sell online.
"The whole problem with getting stuff online is that a lot of people are very intimidated by it," he said. "What happens if you eliminate all the barriers? That's what we've done."
The company will compete against a similar service that is being launched by myEZsale.com. myEZsale.com, which is teaming up with packing centers such as PostNet and Postal Center, is backed by Softbank-affiliate I-Group HotBank New England.
Services such as TIAS' and myEZsale.com's could be a boon to the online auction market, said Mark Gambale, an online auction analyst at Gomez. "This will encourage more postings, more activity."
But Jupiter's May said the attraction of selling online through TIAS may not last long. By 2005, two-thirds of U.S. consumers will be online, he said. As more consumers use the Internet and shop online, the number of people intimidated by the thought of selling through eBay will decrease, he said.
"As eBay broadens its reach, the same consumers that are attracted to this service will ultimately go straight to eBay without using a middleman," May said.
For now, TIAS will only accept antiques and collectibles for consignment, rather than new items or electronics, company officials said. TIAS will also ship items such as large pieces of furniture that would be difficult to send. The company will only list items on eBay.
eBay dominates the online auction market; Jupiter estimates that eBay earns 90 percent of all revenues in the consumer-to-consumer auction market.