eBay’s Black Friday Small Business Heros

Three UK small businesses were highlighted in eBay’s “T’Was the Night Before Black Friday” video, ShopTo, Thingimijigs and Color-Pro. All three are great businesses that started off small and have grown over the years, they are typical examples of the opportunity that eBay gave us.

This is the story for each of the three companies:

ShopTo, Bracknell

Based in Bracknell, Berkshire, ShopTo sells a vast range of goods from games consoles to cycling accessories on eBay and its own website. Now in its 11th year, the business employs 40 people and recorded £42m turnover in 2015. Chief Executive, Igor Cipolletta describes how ShopTo prepares for Black Friday, and its importance to the business:

When we first started running Black Friday deals in 2014 it was already a crowded space, especially when it came to games consoles and TVs. By partnering with eBay and getting featured on its deals newsletters, we were able to get more cut through and market ShopTo to its millions of customers. Black Friday has become a big day for us, accounting for 10% of our annual turnover in a single day. It’s become so important that we now employ additional warehouse staff from the local area to handle the extra demand – we look for people who are able to work well under high pressure as the orders come rolling in. The IT team also has to work really hard to make sure that our server can handle all the orders coming in‘.

It’s crucial for small businesses to understand Black Friday within the context of the UK’s Christmas shopping habits. Every year more consumers are holding fire on their Christmas shopping until Black Friday in the hope they can find the best deals, so it’s vital we’re visible and ready when they begin to shop.

Thingimijigs, Burnley

Thingimijigs is a children’s clothing and accessories specialist. Mumpreneur Rachael White started the business on eBay from her kitchen table in 2004 with just £200 in stock. Today, the business boasts 8 employees, a modern warehouse and annual turnover in excess of £1m. Black Friday is about much more than just a day of sales, according to Rachael:

We first started running Black Friday deals in 2010, selling through eBay’s deals platform to the US where it was already a big event. Because Americans love British brands, we figured that the day was a great opportunity to boost our customer base with consumers who might come back to Thingimijigs again and again. It allowed us to showcase our products and just as importantly our customer service, helping to shift excess stock at the same time.

Black Friday preparation begins in January with inventory, and added extras like our social media strategy take careful planning. Consumers now shop from their phones, so our content strategy aims to push deals to customers on the go, with posts timed around the pinch points in a parent’s day. Consumers often buy non-sale items while on the site, but it’s the deals that get them there in the first instance.

Color-Pro, Wokingham

Color-Pro was established in 2011, in Wokingham, Berkshire. The business has an annual turnover of £2m and employs 8 staff. Initially Color-Pro was a straight consumer technology business but has expanded its product portfolio in recent years, venturing into beauty, home and garden goods. 2016 will be Color-Pro’s third year of running Black Friday deals and the event has become a key component to the business’ growth strategy. Director, Jay Bassi explains:

Black Friday has become a staple of the business as we look to grow our customer base, both in the UK and overseas. This year we’re aiming to attract several thousand new subscribers to our weekly newsletter – with huge exposure to come via Color-Pro being featured in eBay’s deals bulletins. Obviously we see a surge in sales volume on the day, but more important is that many Black Friday customers turn into repeat buyers, coming back to us again and again throughout the year. The event has allowed us to trial some of our more innovative products to the masses, and we were actually the first eBay seller to stock a range of more affordable home projectors.

Planning for Black Friday begins in summer, when we start to think about the products people will want, liaising with suppliers to get the best prices deciding how many extra people we’ll employ to cope with demand. It’s all hands on deck throughout the deals period, with everyone mucking in to make sure that all the orders are sent out quickly to customers. Providing top drawer customer service is key, because that’s the magic touch that brings consumers back to Color-Pro.