eBay Expands Live Auctions Lineup

Auction leader eBay said Tuesday that it will offer more live auctions, which enable online users to submit bids on traditional auctions around the world.

eBay said it will now offer live auctions in 12 categories and, in an apparent bid to generate more interest and traffic, will move the live auctions link to its main home page.

Automobiles, wine, industrial equipment and real estate will be added to the lineup, which already features high-priced art and antique items.

“We are in a unique position at eBay to be able to provide a powerful medium for the traditional auction industry,” eBay Premier general manager Geoff Iddison said.

Global Reach

The expansion is also designed to enable more international use of live auctions. eBay said it will now support transfer and exchange of 17 different currencies.

First rolled out last September, the live auctions use a proprietary technology developed by eBay to enable real-time bidding from the Web at the same time that auction goers are bidding on items in person.

eBay said that the largest single sale to date through one of its live auctions was the purchase of a Norman Rockwell painting, “The Dugout,” for US$345,000. Online buyers also accounted for 60 percent of the sales of a recent Marilyn Monroe auction.

Boost to Auctioneers

The live auctions have been a boost to traditional auction houses, eBay said, with those involved in the online bidding seeing 20 percent of their items sold to Internet bidders and 30 percent receiving at least one online bid.

“Live auctions open up the traditional auction marketplace to a wider audience,” Iddison said.

The expansion of live auctions comes as some longtime users and observers see a fork ahead in the road for eBay. The San Jose, California-based online auction giant now openly embraces fixed-price e-tailing as a path to future growth and bigger profits.

Spreading or Straying

In fact, when eBay announced record revenue and beat analyst estimates for first-quarter earnings, eBay president and chief executive officer Meg Whitman called fixed-price trading “an important part of eBay’s global marketplace.”

Earlier this month, eBay took a stake in ReturnBuy.com, which re-sells products returned to retailers. eBay is also planning to offer e-commerce storefront hosting services.

Livin’ Large

Whitman credited the inclusion of more big-ticket items in eBay auctions for the company’s higher revenue and profit numbers for the first part of this year.

Once devoted to collectibles, eBay has added automobiles, heavy equipment and other big-ticket items to its offerings.

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