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Graham Forsdyke – The man who changed British retail forever

By Chris Dawson November 22, 2021 - 8:00 am

25 years ago today, on the 22nd of November 1996, a man sat down at his computer in Chingford in the UK and registered on a website. In doing so, he became the man who changed British retail forever. The website was eBay, the man was Graham Forsdyke, and ever since he has retailed on his eBay ID, gf-attic.

eBay had barely opened having launched just 50 days earlier. There was no eBay UK so Graham registered on eBay.com and when the UK site opened Graham became one of the first to be transitioned to the British eBay site. As Graham was already a PowerSeller on eBay.com, he then became the first UK eBay PowerSeller.

Graham Forsdyke wasn’t quite the first member of eBay UK, records from a quarter of a century ago are a bit sketchy but we believe the first eBay UK member to have been cheshirecat, although that eBay ID no longer exists today. What we do definitively know is that Graham was the first UK eBay PowerSeller (although no longer a PowerSeller as the programme has since been discontinued).

Other active eBay IDs from 25 years ago include suezeeq2, moondust, stephenfrye, roballsopp, and baah55, who all still buy on eBay. The amazing thing is that after a quarter of a century Graham still actively sells on eBay today. Now in his mid-80s, every business trading on eBay today has Graham to be thankful for, as it was he who helped make eBay the success it is in Britain today.

Graham fondly remembers the early days when there were so few eBay PowerSellers that they would regularly meet up in a pub and someone from eBay HQ would come down and sprinkle some largesse – maybe a month’s free eBay listings or a similar perk. Trading online in those days was very different from today and let’s not forget eBay was then a text only site, auctions only (no fixed price listings), no images on listings, and not even a payment system. Back in the early days the only way international trade happened was literally envelopes of dollars being posted across the Atlantic with trust that the seller would then ship the item in return. Then BillPoint came along, later to be replaced with PayPal. In more recent years Graham has had to get to grips with eBay payments which has in turn replaced PayPal as the default eBay payment system.

For Graham, eBay has become so routine that every Sunday he sits down to stick a few listings on and every Monday he logs in to see how the last week’s auctions performed and to do his packing and shipping. He no longer needs to run his eBay business for financial purposes and has scaled back considerably but he says eBay gets to be a habit that’s hard to break so after 25 years he just keeps on selling.

British retail has irrevocably changed thanks to the early eBay advocates. Today eBay, and other marketplaces, are big business opportunities and became even more vital for many during the pandemic. I’m not alone in having spent the last 18 months exclusively shopping online, not even visiting the high street once. This was all made possible because Graham registered on eBay and forged a path which 100s of 1000s of future sellers would later follow.

What were you doing 25 year’s ago, when John Major was Prime Minister, the Spice Girls were releasing their first album ‘Wannabee’, and the Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, were finalising their divorce? I know many eBay sellers today who weren’t even born back then, some were infants, most were still in school. Hardly anyone owned a computer at home in 1996, so even owning a device capable of connecting to the Internet (with a dial up 28.8 kbit/s modem) was the height of modern tech.

A huge congratulations to Graham Forsdyke for his continuous 25 years of selling on eBay and a huge thank you for shining a light on the future of ecommerce. We salute you as a pioneer of British online retail!

  • JoeB
    2 weeks ago

    I remember him from the old Powerseller forum. Nice to hear he’s still doing well on eBay.

  • 2 weeks ago

    Me too… back in the day he was actually a customer of mine!

  • Dave Elliott
    2 weeks ago

    Love positive stories like this… It’s a great break from the doom and gloom.

  • 2 weeks ago

    Great story! Congrats to Graham. Love early adopters and how they help to shape the future narrative.

  • r
    2 weeks ago

    He also had some influence or connection with Parcel2go in their early days
    Ebay was so much fun those days before
    The Henry Knutsfords spoilt things

  • Ty
    2 weeks ago

    Fantastic pioneering spirit. Well done Graham.
    Keep up the good work.

  • George Davies
    2 weeks ago

    Aww amazing! Well done Graham! I remember you from the boards 🙂 Glad you’re still eBaying! Love from the woman previously known as georgiegirl18/georgiegirlsgems

  • Graham F
    2 weeks ago

    Thanks to all — and I could never forget georgiegirl18…..

  • Graham F
    2 weeks ago

    Re Parcel2GO. Yes they financed a Powersellers meeting I organised — I think in Hitchin.or thereabouts. Ebay provided some Tee shirts, pens etc and we all complained about ebay downtime and dial-up speeds.

  • Jamie
    2 weeks ago

    Lovely story and of course congrats Graham. It was always fun, never dull and you certainly helped shape the eBay UK community in those heady days.

  • r
    2 weeks ago

    Jamie parkins
    You have not aged at 😀

  • lzzy
    1 week ago

    I remember Graham, and Jamie pink, I agree with ‘r’ he’s not changed a bit or is that the profile photo 😀

  • Mark Hetherington
    4 days ago

    Glad somebody is doing well on ebay. We dumped it a couple of years ago in favour of our own website and have never looked back.

  • Alan Paterson
    3 days ago

    @ Mark, is it not best to have BOTH?

  • Jonty
    3 days ago

    @Alan P
    He probably hasn’t the profit margins to sustain a regular sales agenda on eBay- remember most general fees are now 16% and add in the costs of promotions it’s extortion. Like many sellers, Mark has voted with his feet- and good for him. All that will be left soon is the Chinese tat and fly by night businesses masquerading as private sellers to reduce the fees and returns.

  • Alan Paterson
    3 days ago

    @ Jonty, i have yet to see a web site out perform ebay in terms of “cost” for generating sales.

    In any case you are speculating as he didnt mention margins. It sounded like it was either one or the other – ebay or web site.

    Its best to not have all your eggs in one basket and spread through multiple platforms for safety and security.

  • Jonty
    3 days ago

    @Alan P
    But when does “cost” become too much? Remember the days on eBay of 5% fees (often capped) ?
    I quite agree, spreading through market places is the way forward, but not at any cost. eBay is too expensive, too laborious and with too many returns. Build into that the ridiculous metrics system and a site that has more glitches week on week then it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why people like Mark have left. More power to him.
    Besides, we can’t even exchange email addresses with our customers? Come on, it’s beyond laughable.

  • Alan Paterson
    3 days ago

    @ Jonty, I was talking relatively speaking – a web site compared to ebay, so the question about fixed cost becomes secondary as we are making a comparison.

    When you consider the normal percentage of a merchant license for a web site plus the normal “fixed” transaction fee. Thats before you even advertise to get trafiic to your web site – ebay suddenly becomes a remarkably good deal.

    Most of my friends with web sites are paying at least 30% of their total revenue on Google Ads – some as much as 50%. Thats before they pay their merchant fees.

    I do remember the days where ebay were only 5% but that was not including any payment fees and the support for buyers and sellers was not a patch on what it is today.

    Dont start me on the email thing. We were able to exchange emails for years but what did many sellers do? They used it to circumvent ebay fees and undermine the platform for everyone. Ebay are quite right to put a stop sharing emails especially when there is no longer any need for paypal. Not laughable at all – couldnt be further from the truth – ebay are only protecting their main income stream. It used to really anger me sellers taking the transaction off the platform – thats what email addresses were mainly getting used for.

    I am guessing you dont have a web site that you advertise online.

    Considering the costs of a website and driving traffic, ebay suddenly becomes very attractive.

    None of the people I know who are actively promoting their own web site online pay less than you pay on ebay – most are paying more than DOUBLE what ebay charge. You got to remember – the fees ebay charge – all the advertising is in with those fees including PPC and national TV ads as well as allowing us to use the worldwide known ebay name.

  • Rob
    3 days ago

    The big difference between own website and ebay, on ebay I have to deal with a lot of fraudulent returns which take time and money to deal with, lots of messages will you do it for less or what is your best price. Own website people either buy it or leave it no messing about. I pay about the same when taking in merchant fees and ads but I have control over everything and not punished if something goes wrong or some clicks a button to get a free return or parcel got scanned late.

    I started out on ebay and still do ok from it, but the side of the business that I have grown the gift and homeware does not do great on ebay as buyers don’t want to pay retail prices. They only want things for less. I also run a second shop selling retail returns which does well and ebay is the market for them.

    ebay want professionalism but don’t provide a professional site as they allow loads of private sellers to run a business. With category I sell in I could go and find over 100 private sellers running a business where they offer no returns or business information.

    I was at the ebay open in Sep a lot of the content was about how to set up offers, give more away. So basically work for less while ebay still get their same percentage.

  • Alan Paterson
    2 days ago

    @ Rob, its good that you are able to compete with ebay in terms of costs to generate orders. Not many sellers have achieved that.

    It just frustrates me when sellers complain about – what i see – as very low ebay fees constantly believing that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

    I consistently see ebay as the best “bang for your buck” and easy to use, and most “friendly” and easy to use platform.

  • Rob
    2 days ago

    @Alan I could not survive on my website alone yet but its doing ok and no where near the headaches ebay cause and when I combine ebay, Amazon and my own it does well. Products are on Google shopping as website is synced up with them so even if I don’t pay any ads in certain times of the year still get visibility. ebay just does not get the sales for a lot of the brand new stock as ebay buyers either don’t trust the site or don’t want to pay.

    ebay seem miles behind when it comes to innovation. If they want to help small business then they should look to make a package so good sellers are queing up to get on the site. With things like deals for accounting software, amazing shipping rates a small business would not get on their own, options to choose account support for an hour or packing voucher each month. Do away with 30 day listings for business and make a shop more prominent and allow to design the shop better to suit each shops own brand.

    I don’t agree they are easy to use, return process is horrendous and even worse when things go wrong. ebay ranks slowest when it comes to listing items and far to many private accounts running a business.

  • Jonty
    2 days ago

    @Rob
    Many valid points you make.
    @Alan P
    We understand what your saying but to me eBay seems to have drifted off down some very dark dead end alleyway. Take for instance the new item specifics. I can create two and quite possibly three Etsy listings in the time it takes me to complete an eBay one. When your selling unique items it’s laborious and off putting. I’m surprised eBay haven’t a category for sub atomic particle count it’s that silly. And to what means? No matter how much information is given, the buyer will just tick the box “not as described”!for a free return anyway. If it’s supposed to let buyers find items more easily then it’s not working because I know many sellers who’s sales have crashed since implementation. And try searching for what you want personally- not an easy task.
    eBay was brilliant for a time, superb for facilitating cross border trade. It was even innovative with the mobile phone App and the ability to work off line when creating listings. It just seems to have lost its way. So sad.

  • r
    2 days ago

    Its clear ebay are aiming at sellers who list a complete container of produce with a single listing
    Then spend the rest of the time paying ebay to promote and tweak

  • Alan Paterson
    2 days ago

    @ Jonty many other issues you bring up – each I could address but that would be going off at a tangent. My original point was that “16%” ebay fees is value for money when compared to advertising a web site brand online.

    Rob has been able to match it but he is very much the minority.

    Its always best to spread your items over multiple platforms and if its not financially viable on ebay it is unlikely to viable on a web site. Considering the low fees, brand name, advertising taken care of etc. I always recommend that ebay be the first stop for anyone selling online. If a business doesnt work on ebay its unlikely to work on other platforms and you can “test” it on ebay without breaking the bank.

  • Alan Paterson
    2 days ago

    @ r , thats not clear to me at all. I am baffled by your conclusion.

  • r
    1 day ago

    not as baffled as we are trawling thru
    item specfic section for a wine glass listing

    Add as many details as you can
    20.4K recent searches for these details
    ColourMain colour of the product itself. If the product has multiple colours, enter the main or most dominant colour in the open field first and then add the additional colours, separating the colours by a comma. If the product has multiple colours with no dominant colours, select “Multicolour”. This doesn’t include the product’s packaging.Required soon

    Frequent: Clear , Green , Multicoloured
    TypeSpecific type of product that is being sold in the product listingRequired soon
    Wine Glass

    BrandName of the brand, designer or artist that produces the product. This may be the same or different from the manufacturer.18.7K searches
    Lambert

    MaterialMain or most used material of the product itself, does not include the product’s packagingTrending
    Bone ChinaCeramicClay
    CrystalGlassPorcelain
    StonewareTerracotta

    Production StyleUnique characteristics and peculiarities that define the style of the end product
    Cut Glass

    OccasionOccasion or celebration the product is affiliated with1.7K searches
    All Occasions

    Production TechniqueTechnique of how a product was produced

    VintageWhether the product has a vintage year of manufacture that is more than 20 years old

    DepartmentGender and/or age grouping characterised by the category
    BabyBoysChildren
    GirlsTeensAdults
    Original/Licensed ReproductionWhether the product is an original or a licenced reproduction of a period or style

    Time Period ManufacturedTime period the product was manufactured in or manufactured to imitate, characterised by named time periods

    Frequent: 1960-1969 , 1970-1979 , 1950-1959
    CapacityMeasured amount the product can hold, not the mass or volume of the product itself
    MPNManufacturer Part Number (MPN) is a product identifier given by the manufacturer, can be the same as the model number, part number or style code. Characterised by a combination of numbers, letters and/or symbols.

    Additional
    Buyers may also be interested in these item specifics
    FeaturesSecondary attributes or functions that are not essential to the main function of the product698 searches
    Break/Chip ResistantCollapsibleColour-Changing
    CommemorativeCrested ChinaDate-Lined
    DecoratedDecorativeDishwasher Safe
    Double Walled

    PatternDesign on the product450 searches

    ThemeType of visual style or design subject of the product337 searches
    Aller ValeAmericanAngels
    AnimalsAxe ValeBabbacombe
    Beatrix PotterBirdsBrannam/ Barnstaple
    British

    StyleDistinct design appearance of the product299 searches

    Frequent: Art Nouveau , Retro
    ShapeShape or form of the product, may contain many different shapes or have a single shape199 searches

    Frequent: Round , Square
    Country/Region of ManufactureGeographic location where the product is manufactured. This doesn’t include where the individual components are manufactured, nor the country where the product is sold from.144 searches

    Frequent: France , Unknown , Belgium
    OriginGeographic area or cultural style where the product originates from

    Frequent: Bohemia
    Year ManufacturedYear the product was produced by the manufacturer, not the same as the year the product was sold or the expiration date of the product

    Frequent: 1959 , 1960 , 1970
    Product LineManufacturer collection or collaboration that the product belongs to

    Lid TypeType of lid used to cover or close the product

    HandmadeWhether the product is made by hand or by a hand process

    Custom BundleWhether the main product is sold with complementary or additional products

    Item DiameterMeasured distance of the product from end to end through the centre of the product, can be the same as the width of the product
    Item HeightMeasured height of the product when placed in its upright position, measured from the top of the product to the bottom
    Item WeightMeasured amount of weight of the product itself. This does not include the product’s postage packaging nor the weight capacity of the product.
    Keeps Cold ForEstimated number of hours the product stays continually cold for

    Keeps Hot ForEstimated number of hours the product stays continually hot for

    Manufacturer WarrantyType of warranty and the remaining length of time on the warranty the product has. Additional information can be specified in the product description. The product description needs to include one of the following A. the full text of the written warranty or service contract or B. a statement explaining how to get a free copy of the written warranty or service contract upon written request.

    Frequent: None
    Number of Items in SetTotal number of individual pieces included in the product set

    SignedWhether the product is signed or autographed

    Signed ByName of the person or character who signed or autographed the product
    Aaron AngellAndile DyalvaneAneta Regel
    Bari ZipersteinBeate KuhnBetty Woodman
    Brian RochefortBruce M. ShermanBruce Sillars
    C. Matthew Szösz

    Finish

    Country of OriginRemove
    France
    Original/ReproductionRemove
    Contemporary Original
    Type of GlassRemove
    Cut Glass
    Glassware TypeRemove
    Crystal/ Cut Glass

  • Gav
    1 day ago

    ever feel the comments section has gotten quite far away from the original article?

    25 years on ebay is impressive.

  • r
    1 day ago

    yep impressive we dare to say graham and ourselves [23years] would have serious problems learning to list from scratch these days

  • Alan Paterson
    1 day ago

    @r long post you make illustrating item specifics. i know what they are and why ebay are putting more and more emphasis as time goes on.

    However, I dont see how this illustrated your orignal point and i quote:

    “Its clear ebay are aiming at sellers who list a complete container of produce with a single listing. Then spend the rest of the time paying ebay to promote and tweak”

    I am still baffled.

    And yes we are completely off topic. Hat off to Mr Forsdyke.

  • r
    1 day ago

    we agree ,a ridiculously long post
    A simple copy and paste of ebays item specific list
    And this without expanding the options ,

  • Jonty
    1 day ago

    @Alan.
    Yes agree a very long post from r. But a truthful example of the ridiculous and just farcical eBay item specifics now needed to create a listing. And that’s WITHOUT expanding further options. 🤣
    It’s just utter madness

  • Alan Paterson
    22 hours ago

    @ r, not ridiculous if you are trying to make a point. I am just struggling to understand the point and why you think that ebay is geared up to sellers buying containers of merchandise. I do believe ebay try to cater for all sorts of businesses including personal sellers.

    When I started ebay a tiny percentage of searches were on mobile devices. Smart phones were in their infancy and iPhones and iPads had not been invented.

    I am sure you are aware that over the years as mobile devices have evolved so has how buyers search on the platform. There is a staggering difference how much time buyers spend browsing ebay compared to other platforms.

    As a result of this ebay have had to stay ahead and study how buyers search. This is what drives the evolution of the item specifics. The vast majority of searches are now on mobile devices and buyers dont want to “type” they prefer to click. I am sure you dont need a history lesson on how buyers search on ebay but this requires a variety of item specifics.

    Also remember that the majority of item specifics are optional and not all need to be completed to achieve your 100% score – a useful guideline on how effectively you have chosen your specifics. But in any case – many can be omitted .

    I realise that ebay item specifics are causing problems with many categories. The system will evolve and improve over time.

    Item specifics will play a big part in ebays growth. When you consider how buyers search and the direction ebay need to point their platform it makes perfect sense.

    With the progress of trying to control global warming and how this will change the habits of buyers ebay are in a very strong place compared to other platforms. While Amazon are receiving bad press for landfilling new products ebay will be skipping happily into the future encouraging a community of reselling and “recycling” existing “used” items. Item specifics will be a large part of “future proofing” ebay and ebay WILL be in line with the changes we will all be making – many changes that will be required by law in many countries. This will be “right up ebays street”.

    Please consider that ebay are trying to construct a search system that will accommodate and categorise almost every item in the world.

    Item specifics may seem annoying and conflated but are an essential requirement for the future of ebay.

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Recent Comments

22 hours ago
Alan Paterson: @ r, not ridiculous if you are trying to make a point. I am just...
1 day ago
Jonty: @Alan. Yes agree a very long post from r. But a truthful example of the ridiculous...
1 day ago
r: we agree ,a ridiculously long post A simple copy and paste of ebays item specific list And...
1 day ago
Alan Paterson: @r long post you make illustrating item specifics. i know what they are and why...