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St. Louis Business Journal
August 20, 2004

Online auction management services power up locally
By: Rick Desloge

The phenomenon already has hit the Coasts. And now, at least five eBay online auction management services, piggybacking off the explosive growth of the eBay online auctions, have targeted St. Louis.

Two homegrown companies are up and running: and opened within the last six months. Another company, We-List-It of Ellisville, formed in June. United Auction Brokers, part of a national network, rolled out Aug. 16.

The new businesses assist sellers who want to list items with eBay, but lack either the time or expertise to manage the auction's details themselves. Such services could help new eBay sellers offering high-ticket items, such as laptop computers, said Wendy Gauntt, founder and owner of CIO Services, a St. Louis technology consulting firm for small businesses.

"I would never buy a high-dollar item from someone that didn't have a high (positive) feedback rating," said Gauntt, a regular eBay shopper who said few new sellers can offer any customer feedback.

eBay is not the only online auction, but by most measures it is the biggest. Users sold $24 billion worth of goods through the site last year.

The three local services are luring customers with an easy way to list items at the Web site and let someone else handle billing and packaging. Customers pay for the convenience, between 30 percent and 40 percent of the first $100 sold, with fees dropping in most cases as the merchandise goes up in price.

Yet while the new auction businesses here cater to individuals, all of them have plans to go after corporate customers.

"I'm out drumming up corporate accounts and talking to them about liquidating" excess merchandise and old office equipment, said Darren Eilers, chief executive of StopnDrop. He said he's working with a company that's selling its older computer equipment, because its people don't have time to find buyers.

His wife, Mindy, is president of the company and handles the retail end of the business. It opened in a 2,000-square-foot storefront June 5 on Olive Boulevard in Creve Coeur. The Eilers and other investors have raised $100,000, and say they have enough funding to open their first 10 locations.

The company's fees can be negotiated for high-ticket items or customers with high volume. For example, the owner of a '69 Pontiac GTO listed, for $10,000, is paying a negotiated fee, Eilers said.

He declined to disclose revenue to date, but said StopnDrop is "about double what we expected to be, and at the current (growth) rate, we're within 30 days of being profitable. Originally we thought it would take six months."

The business now has six employees, and Eilers said he is looking for warehouse space.

"We could be profitable, if we wanted to keep (the business) on a small scale," said Jason Witte, owner and president of, on Tesson Ferry Road in south St. Louis County. But he's putting his money into expanding, planning to have a second location within 30 days and eventually five RidYourStuff locations.

Witte previously ran a sports memorabilia business. "I had people coming in the (memorabilia) store and asking me if I could place items on eBay," he said, so he opened RidYourStuff in March. Witte now has a staff of six in 1,600 square feet. Sales have increased every month and are now $30,000 a month with RidYourStuff listing 25 to 30 new items a day and monitoring about 150 auctions.

The biggest of the new local players -- at least the only one with a warehouse -- is Dale Oestreich, the owner of ADS Logistics, a fulfillment business in Maryland Heights.

Oestreich secured the St. Louis market for United Auction Brokers, a national company just unveiling its services in seven states. He said he learned of United Auction in July from his outside marketing firm, Marketing Xperience, which saw an immediate match for his 50,000-square-foot warehouse. He called Ray Whitmer, United Auction's founder, who drove here from Lexington, Ky., later that month. The two had a deal within two weeks.

The company plans to use FedEx trucks to pick up items from sellers. Fees start at about 30 percent of the sale value. United Auction Brokers is only working with people who own or control an existing business, Whitmer said. The real targets are businesses selling closeout items, excess inventory and used office equipment, which might need part of Oestreich's warehouse.


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