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‘We’re the world’s largest seller on Amazon and eBay:’ musicMagpie CEO

By Sasha Fedorenko March 4, 2019 - 4:14 pm

We’re the world’s largest seller on Amazon and eBay,’ is how musicMagpie’s CEO summarises the success of the business.

Speaking at the TDCGlobal (The Delivery Conference), Steve Oliver the co-founder and group chief executive officer of musicMagpie says that many people often question the company’s status of the biggest merchant on Amazon and eBay. He said that people often say to him – ‘what, you’re the biggest seller of CDs, DVD and games?’ Steve replies, “no, we’re the biggest global seller in the history of Amazon and eBay marketplace in any product category.”

It seems like a proud, but justified, claim for a business that has started in a garage. Most of their scaling of their business comes from sourcing products from consumers and then selling through Amazon and eBay.

In 2017, Steve was surprised to be ambushed on the stage by the president of eBay, Devin Wenig, who presented the company with a picture of a Magpie bird. Steve said that it was an amazingly proud moment for everybody in the business to be recognised as the only seller to hit 5m positive feedbacks on eBay. Now, the business boast 7.5m of positive feedback, some 18 months later.

Steve states that musicMagpie have sold to more than 200 countries worldwide and have a global audience of 25m customers. He adds that they have sold a Jason Donovan CD to North Korea. “My feeling and suspicion are saying that they bought it to play over the border to South Korean soldiers!” laughs Steve. They have also sold Brokeback Mountain to the Vatican City. When he said “two happy customers” he was showing pictures of Kim Jong-Un and the Pope.

musicMagpie CEO on creating the company in his garage

Steve said that he started the business in his convertible garage in Hazel Grove, Stockport. He jokingly said that it was the company’s very first ‘website’ where they sold CDs, DVDs and video games. That was the company’s origin in 2007. In late 2008, early 2009 musicMagpie appeared on the Martin Lewis ‘MoneySavingExpert.com’ weekly email, once in late 2008 and again in March 2019 and they featured on GMTV with Lorraine Kelly.

musicMagpie CEO recalls the “horrible” time when their website crashed, and nearly “killed them,” but actually it “was the making of them.” Since then musicMagpie started seeing financial growth. The first-year saw the company turn over £0.5m, £2.5m the second year and £11m the third, following £34m, £64m and £84m in the years after. Steve said that the business experienced plenty of roller-coasters rides. He said that they won some awards but lost some sleep.

We’re not just all about CDs, DVDs and games anymore, said Steve, that’s less than half of our business – we launched buying Consumer Technology products, mainly mobile phones in 2013. In 2014, musicMagpie launched the US brand, Decluttr. musicMagpie and Decluttr have both become champion brands for consumers who now have a fast, easy and trusted method to raise cash for their unwanted products easily and to save money in buying ‘as-good-as-new’ branded products at a great value price. They are also champions for the environment, saving many tonnes of plastic, paper and electrical waste going to landfill per annum.

musicMagpie CEO on challenges

Steve said that when the business buys a product, the challenge they face is reverse logistics. He said that this process currently requires manual labour. If a customer wants a refund, musicMagpie emails a return’s label for a shopper to either drop off a product or have it picked up by a courier. We have to credit our main inbound logistics partner Hermes, said Steve, who has been a brilliant partner for us.

For many years, the business wasn’t branded as musicMagpie on Amazon or eBay, so consumers might not have realised that they were buying off musicMagie because they were called estocks on eBay and zoverstocks on Amazon. Now, they’re presented as a musicMagpie on eBay as a best-priced, and best-matched products seller. On Amazon US, they boast 6.5m ratings but are still called zoverstocks. musicMagpie is also the biggest seller of media on Amazon Japan.

musicMagpie CEO on becoming the biggest seller on Amazon and eBay

Steve puts down the company’s success to customers’ trust. He said that the company had gained customer trust through the help of their logistics partners who’ve serviced those shoppers. The other part of this is the standard of the product they’re offering. Steve said that nearly everything they sell is used, and when they say used they never use the word second-hand because he claims that their products are as good as new. They refurbish their products, sometimes changing the case, polishing a disk and re-wrapping a product to make it look like new.

Adding value to a product, creating trust and superb logistics partners – if you want to grow your business to a 7.5m feedback and counting marketplace business, these are the things to focus on.

  • David
    3 months ago

    Music Magpie are the worst eBay seller of all time.

    They suffocate small business sellers especially resellers of CDs, DVDs, video games etc.

    They only use stock photos – personally I NEVER buy anything online based off a stock photo!

    Their “meticulous” quality checks are BS. They send out thousands of broken items every month. So long as they’re getting 1 million positives for every 2000 negatives, they don’t care. 98% is a poor seller rating for such a big company.

    They undercut every single other seller using an algorithm so you can never complete on price.

    They offer people literal pennies for their stuff… people should not feed them! Stop selling them your stuff! Sell it at a boot sale, facebook, or ebay yourself… or give to a charity shop or a friend. Stop giving your stuff away to these people.

    And if you buy from them, you’re a mug. I hope the mounting negative buyer experiences catch up with them eventually and people go back to buying from small sellers.

    • 3 months ago

      “people go back to buying from small sellers“???

      You mean like a small seller starting out and operating from a garage? Let’s hope no other small sellers are successful and grow into big sellers eh? 😉

  • 3 months ago

    People would do better giving their unwanted cd’s and dvd’s to charity shops, as music magpie really do pay very little.

    But hats off to them, they’ve found a niche and have covered it very effectively.

    14,000 neutrals and negs over the last 12 months, though @ 99.5% pos.

    So not the ideal role model for an Ebay seller, perhaps.

  • 3 months ago

    As it happens, we cut our teeth on selling games and cd’s when we first started on Ebay in 2003. Scouring the car boot sales of the midlands, looking for the elusive early Now compilations, we only did it for a couple of years before moving into collectables instead.

    Our old Ebay selling account had 153,460 pos, 20 neutrals and 7 negs over the 2 years. (five of those negs were from fruit cakes !!!)

    last 12 months for music magpie:

    1,602,765 pos, 7,127 neutrals and 7,060 negs

    Successful as they undoubtedly are, you would hope Steve Oliver would be looking at the substantial minority of unhappy customers there. That’s 14,187 unhappy bunnies in the last year.

    In our current Ebay business, we haven’t had a single neg on the account since 2014. We keep getting complimented by Concierge on our exceptional record.

    last month for example: 7,217 pos, 0 neutrals, 0 negs

    It can be done if you treat the customers right.

  • SAM
    3 months ago

    A lot has been said about Magpie. However years ago I used to buy from them and resell properly, yeah got a lot of rubbish but some real gems…

    Never forget them selling me a really rare game for £1 which I flipped for over £200 to some buyer in Mexico.
    They do just undercut, and I hardly bother with pre owned on a marketplace they are on as it us pointless. Even though when we describe as vgc it is where with Magpie that is not the case. It is the ultimate race to the bottom with Magpie. They own the market pretty much…people want cheap they go to Magpie and they have done that great and cornered it.

  • 3 months ago

    I think they’re great – send them (they pay the postage) all your unwanted crap and they send you money. So what if you only get 20p for the odd DVD or game, it will only sit in a charity shop for the next twenty years or they’ll send to MM themselves!

    Only last week we sent a load of unused tech. No ebay morons to deal with. Happy days!

    • alan paterson
      3 months ago

      @ Alan, and where is the fun in that …….. ?

  • Martin
    3 months ago

    Musicmagpie can be good, but far too often the item is defective. Broken cases, CDs that jump, missing inserts or libretto booklets. I keep buying because it is very cheap access, but their descriptions misrepresent. Their vaunted quality control they boast about appears in reality to be non-existent. I have bought a batch of new CD cases so I can just transfer CDs in damaged cases across.

    I have little sympathy for claims they kill the small sellers. That is business. If you can’t stand the heat etc. Small sellers need to look for the niche markets where they can make money, and be very mobile in what they sell, so if something stops being popular or cost effective they switch to another product.

  • John
    3 months ago

    Seems to be a lot of sour grapes going on here. If MM are doing well, if they undercut, if people sell to them, well that just business. You moaning sellers need to find a way to compete with them. If ever I want a cd or dvd I always look to see if they have it first. Everything I have ever bought from them has been spot on and at a good price, so I trust them. Sounds to me like their position hasnt come without a lot of hard work, so good luck to them.

  • Charles
    3 months ago

    Blokes obviously not an idiot to have managed to scale it up like that, many of us probably have very similar companies but struggle with putting the key staff in place who for the wage available will be as conscientious with regards to service and quality as the founder. Alan Sugar over again.

  • Peter
    3 months ago

    MusicMagpie is among the worst of the worst. A company with over seven thousand (7000) negative reviews in the last 12 months. Quality control of their second hand cd’s is a joke.
    I’ll never shop here again, but I am gonna prefer small sellers who take much more care of their customer service and the quality of their items!

  • Andy
    3 months ago

    Can’t really say he was working from a garage. He was a director of Music Zone. Also, no mention of whether they’re making a profit – might just be a giant pyramid scheme – using investor cash to get bigger and one day, collapse. Their latest filed accounts don’t make pretty reading, profit wise – it’s all tied up in stock which may never make much. If they are doing well, then good luck to them.

    • Alan Paterson
      2 months ago

      @ Andy, I am not a fan of Music Magpie but I think you should look up what a pyramid scheme actually is before you Strat slinging mud . It doesn’t apply to Music Magpie.

      On another note ………

      Years ago I sent them items by Royal Mail Tracked (Tracked 48 service had just been launched by Royal Mail). They claimed not to have received them even though the tracking said the item was successfully delivered. A colleague of mine was told the same thing a few months later and I sent them yet another packet as a test this time. None were apparently received. All were sent by Tracked 48.

      I gave them the benefit of the doubt at the time but it is statistically very unlikely for 3 separate packages all sent by RM Tracked 48 not to reach the destination. Its easy to make a profit if you are getting your stock for free.

      We are ebayers after all. Better to sell the items yourself on your own account. Its not just about the money …… its meant to be a bit of fun.

  • Richard
    3 months ago

    Unfortunately rather than thousands of self employed people on ebay making profit from cds/dvds etc to be able to live and put food on the table and pay council tax, now we have just one massive whale seller who scoops the profit like a massive JCB.

  • Andy
    3 months ago

    So, based on the latest accounts, they’re 6.2 million in defecit and the highest paid director only earned 119k. Turnover is up, but so what if you’re losing money? On what planet is this a successful business?

  • Jay
    3 months ago

    What do you expect selling single DVDs on eBay for £1.19 with Free Postage.

    Somebody please explain to me how that’s profitable.

    • 2 months ago

      Hi Jay

      £1.19 each with free P&P is probably around their breakeven point. But if the buyer gets 2+ at the time of purchase, that changes and a profit can be made.

  • 2 months ago

    If someone else is having the cake and eatting it then find a different cake. I’m sure that in dealing literally millions of sales a month, of secondhand items some will be stretched damaged etc, everyone of them will refunded etc. You can’t compare your business with small amount of sales to the worlds largest Ebay and Amazon seller and the fact you think you can is laughable, his got enormous scale, you haven’t. As commenting on his directors compension, his worth is in the value of the business and his yearly pay and dividends drawn. I’d much rather own a business worth say 20m and pay myself 100k a year, then own a business worth 1m and draw 200k a year. These comments show a lack of business understand hence why this owns the 20m business and you dont.

  • Andy
    2 months ago

    Thomas shearing – Where does this 20m valuation come from? Have you made it up? Also, I don’t see anyone on here comparing their business with Magpie. Magpie do have enormous scale but they’re not making money.

  • 2 months ago

    Andy, I was using 20m as an example, the fact is that this business could be worth even more then this, it might be worth less, I don’t know, any company is worth as much somebody is prepared to pay for it, be that amazon, Ebay or private equity. If yourve got a business that is fast growing and still expanding it will eat capital. I’ve not looked at his accounts, what’s the value of his stock in hand??? Or seen what investments they have made over the past few year eg in taking his business to America etc.

    People in general seemed to be saying that his business is crap.

    BTW, You was comparing yourself to his businesss or why when talking about somebody else’s business did you give your own business Ebay feedback if you wasn’t comparing yourself to music magpie, then why quote these figures??? (Which are exceptional metrics, however your clearly not selling cd for 1 pound something ).

    His guy has built the largest Ebay and Amazon business based on sales, which by my books is more impressive then not getting a single negative or natural feedback on eBay, in the past month even if you did get 7217 positives!!!

  • Andy
    2 months ago

    Thomas – I haven’t ever sold on ebay and never will so this must be in reference to someone else.

    Magpie have 3m in stock but this is not included in the deficit of course so it would be 9.7m without the stock.

    Magpie are not like Amazon. They don’t make the huge profit which they then plough back into the business to get bigger. In fact, Magpie are contracting. They’ve closed all their physical stores in the past year, for example.

    They are the biggest seller but there are many companies out there that are more worthy of a business accolade. They are the companies that actually make money, treat their staff well and offer great service. Magpie are none of those things.

  • 2 months ago

    Andy, So your never even sold on Ebay or ever will???

    So why do you even bother reading or feel your well qualified to be commenting on other businesses that do trade on Ebay and Amazon???. Why do you even read articles and then pass your opinion on them on a website called “tamebay” which is specifically aimed at online retailers, that trade through websites such as Amazon and Ebay???

    Apologies for the mix-up, obviously, it was a different Andy who in the comments section above stated, :

    “In our current Ebay business, we haven’t had a single neg on the account since 2014. We keep getting complimented by Concierge on our exceptional record.
    last month for example: 7,217 pos, 0 neutrals, 0 negs
    It can be done if you treat the customers right.

    At least before, I thought that you had a very well run and fairly sizeable eBay business, now I can see you just enjoy leaving negative comments about other peoples businesses, including the world largest Ebay and Amazon business.

    I shall now get back to running my business and making money, rather than wasting my time discussing such matters with people who don’t have a clue.

    • 2 months ago

      @ Thomas Shearling, this is the andy who made the point about the netural and negs on Music Magpie and mentioned our own lack of negs in our Ebay selling.

      Totally accept that Music Magpie are at the top of the Premier League on Ebay and my business is more like bottom end of League Two.

      But it doesn’t follow that being big automatically means getting more negs. I suspect that most of the negs MM receives are due to either a) disappointment with the item or b) poor response to complaints.

      Now, I was not comparing myself to MM as an equal, I merely illustrated that it is possible to have a decent size Ebay business and not have skid marks all over your record.

      MM get 14,000+ neutral or negs a year. Granted they get massively more positives, but 14,000 is still the population of a small town who are unhappy with MM. If they followed good practices from listing through to dealing with queries, their complaint rate would drop to a just a handful.

      Our approach to the issue of negs on Ebay is as follows:

      1. Everything you sell must be as described – even undersold if necessary, to avoid disappointment.
      2. Deal with any complaint however minor at once and refund and or replace to make the customer smile again. Do this well before it gets official. Even if you suspect they’re trying it on, still refund them and tell them you appreciate them.
      3. Treat everyone else as you would like to be treated yourself.
      4. Accept that even doing all the above, you will get a tiny amount of rogue feedback from people who’ve escaped from institutions or who have got massive problems with their lives. We’ve been very lucky in that respect.

      Business is scalable. But so is treating people properly and valuing them as customers and fellow travellers in life.

    • alan paterson
      2 months ago

      @ Thomas. I wholeheartedly agree with your post above. I thought your point to be true, valid and polite. I notice other sellers felt different. They just dont like to hear the truth of the matter.

  • Andy
    2 months ago

    Thomas – My company sells on Amazon and others. You can leave your bad manners elsewhere.

  • Peter
    2 months ago

    Negative feedbacks should worry every seller, also the big ones. If you read the feedbacks of MusicMagpie, you can tell there is a big problem in customer service and quality control. This will kill any business in the end. I recently bought a cd with them, with many scratches. After a while they sent a replacement copy. This one also had a lot of scratches. In the end I got my money back. It was a total waste of time. Before I bought a cd with them and that was oke. But now I never gonna buy with them again. To my opinion you are better off buying with private sellers. Okay, they are not that cheap, but they have a much higher customer service. Yes they worry they get 1 negative feedback, not 7000. And where are the ethics? Business is not all about the money. Pleasing customers can also be a goal.

  • Jay
    2 months ago

    I don’t care how many millions of CDs you’re selling if you’re making a loss on each one you’re making hundreds of thousands in losses, if not millions.

    My question was simple. How does MusicMagpie turn a profit out of a £1.19 DVD sold on eBay. Anyone selling relatively low value items will know that it’s physically impossible to realise a NET profit out of that.

    So what do they do instead? Chase revenue growth instead of profit because they know they’re more likely to get investment by showing massive revenue growth. There may be a plan, but ultimately this business model is very high risk and very low reward, and ultimately is very likely to fail without any meaningful focus on profitability. In fact, I’ll bookmark this comment and come back and post a reply in a few years when it eventually it goes bust, just for a laugh, and then we can all say the largest eBay and Amazon Seller of all-time actually went bust.

    Seems all a bit pointless, and for what? 800 people out of a job because they couldn’t make a penny out of 100million a year turnover. Flipping ridiculous if you ask me. Sounds great, but is not logical.

    Think of how many hundreds or perhaps thousands of small businesses that “could be” comfortably trading and making a healthy profit out of that 100million turnover and ultimately employing just the same amount of people in more secure long term jobs.

    I’m all for the little guy making a big success (that’s what we all want right?), but if you’ve one beomoth company barely breaking even and completely dominating the marketplace so nobody else can enter, again, you have to ask, what is the point of a company that doesn’t operate in the interests of sustainable profitability?

    They’d be better off raising their prices, slicing some 50million a year of that turnover and actually making some money. Ultimately, more people benefit from this.

  • jim
    2 months ago

    all very well being smug about a lack of negs
    its not always in the power of the seller to avoid them
    much depends on the category of product
    and the type of buyer,
    also the last time we arranged an overdraft
    no questions on the form on how many negatives ,or if concierge patted us on the back

    • 2 months ago

      If you treat customers decently and sell as described, you will get fewer negs than those who don’t.

      Yes, you will still get some, but nowhere near as many, whatever sector you sell in.

      You wouldn’t be needing an overdraft either (wink)

    • jim
      2 months ago

      were not sanctimonious about or customer service,
      though we sell with integrity,
      were in business for profit not glory

  • 2 months ago

    I agree with you Jim, I think it will incredibly difficult to maintain extremely high feedback when selling second hands goods especially on ebay, as people expect to pay literally pennies e.g. less than £2.00 for CD, and will leave negative feedback that the cd case is marked or maybe the case got cracked in the post, as you will need to send this via 2nd class large letter to make this viable, so you can’t cover it in bubble otherwise it will become a packet, and leave feedback such as I don’t know why this wasn’t sent fully bubble wrapped? as that would make the item a packet and financially unsustainable to sell at this price. The customer won’t understand the logic to this, especially ebay customers, who usually wish to pay for the cheapest p&p option, but want to see next day delivery with a fully tracked service. I sell makeup and whenever a blusher or eyeshadow or powder broken I get this sort of comment, neglecting the fact that they have paid maybe £2.49 for the item, this is part of my business model, I have to sell at this price to be competitive and will just redispatch a replacement or refund.

    • Peter
      2 months ago

      You are missing the point here. It was not about the jewelcase or the bubblewrap, but about the condition of the cd itself. The cd was full of scratches. This was NOT mentioned in the description. So the shop gives wrong expectations to the buyer. After a while (several emails…) they sent a replacement copy. This one also had a lot of scratches. In the end I got my money back. It was a total waste of time.

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