Talking to Miriam Lahage, Global Head eBay Fashion

I sat down with Miriam Lahage, Global Head of eBay Fashion, today at the Internet Retailing Conference to talk about how eBay is embracing the world of fashion and how the site has changed over the past few years.

I’ve heard many a criticism (and made a few myself) on how eBay are focussing on large retailers and brands instead of their long-standing independent sellers, along with over complicating the selling process on eBay. I wanted to tackle Miriam on why this is but was pleasantly surprised by her enthusiasm for used goods and smaller sellers – she took the wind out of sails somewhat. Not to worry… any minute now I’ll spring the thorny topic of Item specifics on her!

eBay’s heritage

Miriam was keen to remember eBay’s heritage as the place to buy and sell almost anything, calling out examples like Lunch with Warren Buffet which sold for a $2.3m and Princess Beatrice’s hat which was universally loved or hated (Miriam loved it!).

eBay is still a great place to buy and sell online according to Miriam, nothing’s changed there in recent years, in fact gently used goods are an essential building block enabling fashion buyers to indiviualise their wardrobe. What has changed is how buyers want to buy. They no longer shop purely on the high street but want to buy on their mobiles, they want shopping to be a social affair, they want to buy locally, even if their local buying is done in a digital medium.

What fashion buyers want

Fashion buyers want a platform which is a destination for the full range of fashion. They want a mix of full price in season goods, combined with off-price end of line or out of season stock, mixed with gently used goods. They want to buy fashion how they want, when they want, which is why eBay have developed a range of mobile apps to fulfil these needs.

As well as the Fashion Outlet (which is now also launched in the US), eBay have Fashion blogs, Fashion Social Media and Fashion flash sales (In the US Fashion Vault they hold 2 – 3 day sales with deep discounts from designers).

Working with brands and retailers

Miriam oozes enthusiasm for what eBay are doing – they are providing inspiration, editorial content and building a fashion community as well as forging relationships with brands and retailers to fulfil fashion buyers demands. Part of this is to educate brands and retailers in how eBay can assist them – the days of brands disposing of their end of season stock and then complaining that it’s being sold at cut prices in online or offline Outlets has gone. If a designer wants to protect their brand and pricing one of the best ways to do so is for themselves to set up an Outlet and sell on eBay themselves.

Item Specifics

I couldn’t pass the opportunity by to ask about the dismal state of Item Specifics on eBay and pointing out how time consuming it is to get them right. Whilst acknowledging the pain Miriam explained that it was essential in order to foster cross border trade (the only way this can work is to have the same Item Specifics on all eBay EU sites) and to ensure products can be surfaced to buyers on mobile platforms.

As a seller I detest the Item Specifics and they’re quite frankly a nightmare to get right, but if it means products can be found by overseas buyers and (possibly more importantly) on mobile platforms it’s probably a price worth paying. Miriam admitted Item Specifics are often just as much a challenge for the larger Outlet sellers as they are for smaller sellers such as myself, but she’s unrepentant that Item Specifics are the only way forward.

The future of Fashion on eBay

Miriam envisages that Fashion will (and already has) moved beyond the high street. Fashion buyers want freedom of creative expression and the ability to fulfil their fashion requirements purchasing gently used garments, alongside Outlet off-price goods, in the same place as brand new clothing. They want to buy them when they want wherever they are and that is often on a mobile platform. I’m glad Miriam constantly talks about used garments, she really gets that eBay and that fashion isn’t just about brand new designer goods. Fashion buyers also want the vintage and one off garments to create their own unique look and style.

Miriam’s Fashion

So what UK Fashion does Miriam buy? She’s a shopper at All Saints and Selfridges with a touch of Burberry thrown in. Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor is a must for Miriam but she’s also not averse to snapping up some Top Shop bargains.