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Luxury Consignment

Antiques lover uses her expertise to sell fine goods for others.

Lisa Ackerman has always been a connoisseur of fine items from the past.

“I like the stories that surround well-made luxury goods, the artist’s or maker’s history, fabrications, woods, province, etc.,” says the owner of Luxe Life, an online store that markets and sells others’ new and vintage wares like handbags, jewelry, fine furnishings and art, antiques and collectibles.

The consignment site came into being in 2009. But Ackerman’s selling story began in 2005 as “xmanmommy” on eBay. She later changed her eBay ID to shopluxelife when her online store opened. She continues to sell on both sites and is very happy to have expanded her business to her own shop to help others sell what they no longer need, or need to get rid of.

Kiddy couture sparks eBay interest

Ackerman’s husband, Yuri, introduced her to online buying and selling in the late ’90s. “He started collecting board games, so boxes kept coming in. He’s always been a collector [of a variety of items],” she laughs. “We have more Hot Wheels than you’d believe. We never play with them, but we have them.”

The packages sparked Ackerman’s curiosity. Soon she, too, began buying on eBay, mostly kiddy fashions for her baby daughter, who was due in a few months. The bargains she found were what impressed Ackerman the most about the eBay. She often found what she wanted for a fraction of the price of retail shops, she notes.

That was in eBay’s early days, when the marketplace was still the “wild, wild west,” she recalls. In those days, some sellers weren’t reputable and problems occasionally came up. For instance, Ackerman once received a knock-off bag when she thought she was buying the real thing. Luckily, she was able to get her money back. Bad things will happen, she acknowledges, but eBay has put many safety controls in place since then and she now considers it one of the safest marketplaces out there.

Overall, Ackerman’s buying experiences on eBay were positive, and she soon began reselling some of the baby items she had earlier purchased on the site.

“They sold for more than what I had paid,” she notes. This only fueled her curiosity about selling online. Doing so would give her more time with her children, something she yearned for.

Discovering a need for high-end consignments

They didn’t understand the items [or how to sell them]. I thought, ‘I would just rather give them away.’ Then I thought, ‘Ah ha, there is a business there!’

Ackerman says she “couldn’t stop thinking” about the idea of this evolving global marketplace for new and used luxury goods.

“The potential appealed to me,” she notes, “and in 2008 I said, ‘If I don’t create a service that adds sophistication, structure and reliability to help people sell on varied marketplaces, someone else will!'”

Still, as a mother of two who worked full time, finding the time to write a business plan was a challenge. Still, she loved things from the past and knew those products well, having worked for several high-end antique home-goods companies and being a frequent visitor to local auction houses. And with a marketing background, she also knew how to move products.

All she needed was a little inspiration. She got it after visiting an eBay consignment seller, who sold a mish-mash of items.

“I had brought them designer goods, clothes, shoes, bags, etc.,” she explains. The staff didn’t understand the items [or how to sell them], and the photos were awful. I thought, ‘I would just rather give them away.’ Then I thought, ‘Ah ha, there is a business there!'”

When she was laid off from her job in 2009, she found her chance to write a business plan.

“I got busy, and three months later we were open,” she says of her online store, www.ShopLuxeLife.com, which combines traditional consignment sales with the luxury auction house business, selling best-in-class products around the world.

Ackerman kept up her eBay sales as well, offering consignment products there, too. Today, about 50 percent of her sales come from the marketplace.

Helping others solve problems

Ackerman opted to sell others’ items because she knew there was a demand for someone who knew how to research goods, market them and get them sold.

“You wouldn’t believe the stories we hear,” she says. For instance, some of her customers are people who have to clear out the home of a family member or neighbor after a death. The situation can feel overwhelming. Others don’t know what their products are worth and might otherwise give valuable items away, leaving them with a missed opportunity.

“One of our first customers, an 80-year-old lady, had these Chanel snow boots,” Ackerman recalls. “She said, ‘I’m never going to wear them again.’ They sold for $1,000 to someone in Japan. She might have just donated those to the Salvation Army if she hadn’t come here. But she didn’t, and then she had this nice check that she could do something with.”

Sellers aren’t the only ones who benefit from Ackerman’s business. Buyers do too, knowing they are working with a professional team. Ackerman recalls one very happy customer in Taiwan who bought a $2,000 cabinet from her on eBay. Shipping the items cost more than the cabinet’s purchase price, but it was a steal for the buyer.

“He would have paid a lot more in Taiwan,” she explains, adding that to make shoppers feel comfortable spending that type of cash, merchants must be professional—always.

“It’s the level of detail and the way you talk to buyers and sellers, with respect and understanding,” she says. “And yes, buyers aren’t right all the time, but we can come to an agreement that will make everyone happy.”

Facing business challenges head on

You’re going to have challenges, you just have to want it badly enough and surround yourself with people who believe

Tasks at Ackerman’s shop change every day, she continues. One day she might spend the whole day out of the office looking over a houseful of wares someone wants, or needs to sell. She may spend other days just listing, and others photographing items.

She also has the option to stay home, where there are few interruptions once the kids leave for school. There are challenges in her business, like in any other, but “you just get up and do it,” she says. “You’re going to have challenges, you just have to want it badly enough and surround yourself with people who believe.”

That’s important when running a business, she notes, because starting one will be much harder than you ever think.

“It takes an army to do it right,” she adds. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, well, maybe besides being a parent. That’s harder.”

Luckily, Ackerman now has a staff of four to help her evaluate items, photograph them, create descriptions, list them and so on. Being able to solve problems for others and seeing the “rare, unique beautiful items” that others share with her makes it worthwhile, she adds.

Spreading the word

Ackerman and her staff work with more than 400 clients. Word of mouth and social networking have helped spread the news about Ackerman’s business, but she notes that there are plenty of people out there who miss out.

“A lot of people go to their local consignment shop,” she continues. “They don’t know any better. They don’t know to look online [to see who can sell items for them].”

This may mean that people lose a lot more profit, she notes. The Internet is a valuable resource here and it can help you find virtually anything, for instance, the answer to an e-commerce question you may have, she adds.

“The information is out there,” she says.

Friends and family can also be helpful, especially when you’re starting out. Ackerman suggests having a few people look over your business plan if you decide to start a venture.

“And don’t take their suggestions to heart,” she advises. “I’ve seen people miss out because they said, ‘No, they don’t know.'”

Visit Ackerman’s online store, Luxe Life, or view her items on eBay.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.



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