Michael Collins owns a website called I Want Fabric. He is based in Manchester although he is originally from Ireland. Michael started off with an auction house then moved on to eBay around 2010. He has been selling online for a number of years on eBay, Amazon and on their own website.
Some thoughts from the interview
“I started off in 2010 and I was looking for something to do with myself and I saw the movie the 40 year old virgin. There is a shop in that movie where they sell good on eBay for other people and I thought that was a great idea, easy to get into with spending a fortune.”
“We opened up an auction house, I put an ad up on gumtree and found someone to help me. I bought a little shop, put signs up, did flyers around town and the goods started to come in. That built up then into a business with 4 or 5 people.”
“One day a fella came in with a bunch of fabric and we didn’t think much about it and just moved on with everything else we sell. Then a year after another fella came in with more fabric but this time he insisted we sell it off by the meter rather than in rolls. It flew off the shelf really and went quite well. We went and sourced some fabric ourselves and before we knew it the fabric was making much more money for much less effort, so we rebranded it I want fabric and we were off.”
“We learned a lot in the early days selling anything from shoes coming in the door to giant fish tanks and vehicles. We really got a good feel for ebay, how to work it and what get you in trouble with ebay as well and the things you have to do to just stay on there and make money.”
“We offer now a free sample service which means we are pretty much covered on eBay that the customer is welcome to get a completely free sample, they can check it out, they know that is what they want so when they order we have a bit more security that way.”
“We are always trying to grow. Since we opened up we have had 30% of growth for the last 2 years.”
“We are putting big investment now into a brand new website and a marketing package with an SEO company so hopefully that will pay off.”
“Stock is probably our single biggest issue, the most difficult thing that we deal with. I foresaw this coming a few years ago and looked at a system that would link between ebay, amazon, website, shop sales and telephone sales. We found a company called linnworks. It runs everything and keeps our stock fairly accurate aside from the bit of human error and the difficulties we have with our product because you can’t count it without rolling out every single roll.”
“We spent loads of time trying to alleviate the mistake and every time there is a mistake it is fixed rather than let it happen again.”
“We set our own barcodes and colours. We have a full time photographer who colour matches our screen to get it as accurate as possible but having the sample system is really what saves us otherwise we would be in big trouble.”
“We have over 50,000 feedback now on eBay so we’ve built up a large database that we mail to and that has been quite successful.”
“We used a company that translates all our listings on ebay and through the sample system a lot of people end up on our site rather than ebay. We export quite a bit to Europe.”
“I do like eBay but I think the key to security to the business is having the website take 50% of the business rather than eBay or amazon. You’re in their hands, in their control and under their rules. With the website you’re the master.”
“We find FBA (on Amazon) useful for smaller items.”
“We have Linnworks set up so that if we sell something on eBay and it’s in an Amazon warehouse our system can automatically configure it to dispatch from Amazon.”
“Personally I hate them all (social media) but I can see the power of it. I think that pintrest is quite an unexplored market because often if I am looking for a product I’ll find it on pintrest, I’ll click the picture and it will link through to the company that is selling it. ”
“My personal opinion is that people just want to see a face on your website. They want to know when am I going to get my product, are you a legitimate website, are you a safe website and is the product the thing I want. If you can get all those worries and concerns dealt with for the customer, just having a logo that says trusted seller and a few reviews that we can put on ourselves does the job.”
“We offer returns on everything for up to 2 weeks, we’ll take anything back and put it on our shelves less the postage. If there has been a mistake on our part we will return the postage. ”
“We don’t really go for any marketing that isn’t online except for our signage.”
“We want to get direct to source as much as we can and just cut out costs.”
“(We use) Royal Mail for anything package size but anything longer than that we send with courier.”
“One of the main things with online selling is trying to get your shipping costs down. If you shipping is high on small products it is very hard. I think if you can group together with some other businesses, as you start shipping more products, the Royal Mail and An Post gives you huge discounts. So you can get a much cheaper rate.”
Best advice: “My family has always been in business so they’re very, very helpful. My dad would always say: “Horse for courses” which is kind of stick to a business you know. This has come quite naturally to me, selling online, but it is just sticking with it and growing out rather than moving on to the next thing.”
Book Recommendation: The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber. Find it on Amazon.
What do they offer?
At I Want Fabric their motto is to keep things simple, so simply they strive to supply customers with the highest quality textiles at affordable prices. They are a family-run business which has grown steadily into an efficient and cheerful workforce over the last 3 years, due to the commitment and effort they’ve put into their products and services. They provide everything from furnishing velvets, craft cottons and recycled leathers, to industrial textiles, accessories, sewing machines and a variety of exclusive prints.
How to contact I Want Fabric!
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