October 2, 2001, 12:00 AM

Every day, eBay become more like a retailer

EBay has launched eBay stores, with 20,000 retail sites. As part of the launch, it is promoting the site through advertising in Mills Mall shopping centers.

While it started out as a person-to-person auction web site, San Jose, Calif.-based eBay is now calling itself “the world’s online marketplace.” And with good reason. After buying Half.com, touted as a low-cost buying and selling web site, eBay is continuing its effort to expand its retail services. In early September, the company launched eBay Store with 20,000 retailers after testing several thousands stores in June and July.

EBay will promote eBay Stores by featuring categories and individual sellers on the eBay home page and throughout the site. It also is offering a sweepstakes and will promote the stores at 12 Mills Mall shopping centers. Sellers range from IBM Corp., which will expand its sale of PCs, servers and software, to FrogTrader, an independent sporting goods retailer.

Getting the right mix of individual sellers and popular retailers to attract shoppers will be important to eBay Stores, analysts say. Jim Okamura, senior partner at Chicago-based consultants J.C. Williams Group, says eBay will have some draw to the store site due to its popular brand name but will have to learn about merchandising as it goes. “Catering to the tastes and preferences of different types of shoppers will be a huge merchandising challenge,” he says. “EBay will have to learn on the fly which vendors will get what kind of real estate on the site.”

Analysts say making sure that customers have a good shopping experience will be a big part of eBay Stores’ success. One way eBay Stores is ensuring that all shoppers have a similar experience is by requiring all stores to accept credit cards. EBay Stores offers buyers the ability to search within a store and browse all items a particular merchant is selling. Also, buyers can search for items and browse among stores across all categories from the eBay Stores Directory, at http://www.ebaystores.com.

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