EBay will launch a new fashion microsite Monday. It's the latest in a series of changes that will sometimes have it acting more like an outlet mall or "private sale" Web site.
EBay is working with major fashion brands and retailers such as Hugo Boss and Lord & Taylor to act as sellers. The new microsite, fashion.ebay.com, will bring together several new ways of selling.
The company began testing "flash" sales - short-term sales of a small selection of merchandise
- late last year. It launched "Fashion Vault" earlier this week, putting it directly in competition with private sales players like Gilt.com and Ruelala.com, which sell trendy clothing and accessories at deep discounts.
EBay also is creating an online outlet mall that so far has enlisted Lord & Taylor; Brooks Brothers and shoe brand Aldo will be added later this spring. Meanwhile, eBay, which sold $7.1 billion worth of clothing last year and has 10 million buyers just looking for fashion, also hopes to add more exclusive fashions after successful deals with designers Narciso Rodriguez and Norma Kamali.
The new selling formats, along with gallery-style photographs and a better search engine that will make it easier to browse, will eventually be rolled out in other categories including home and garden, technology and media as eBay tries to perk up sales.
"We're really transforming the experience," said Lorrie Norrington, president of eBay Marketplaces, which also includes such e-commerce sites as Shopping.com and Kijiji and accounted for 61 percent of the company's revenue of $8.7 billion last year. "We're playing to our strengths" in clothing, she said.
The fashion strategy will put it more in direct competition with Amazon.com and traditional retailers like Macy's and Target.
Some analysts are skeptical that eBay can remake its image.
"EBay has a reputation for selling used goods," said Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. She noted eBay's new endeavor will be successful only if it has "great access to a phenomenal supply of merchandise that is priced well, and the site looks significantly better."
EBay, which has 90 million active buyers and sellers, makes money by charging sellers fees for listing merchandise and takes commissions on sales. However, with 200 million average listing worldwide, including 19 million in clothing alone, eBay's site is cluttered and hard to navigate.
That has made it more vulnerable to a growing number of startups such as Glyde.com and Gazelle.com, both of which are gaining popularity because they make it simpler for people to buy and sell items.
EBay has taken steps to help shoppers and make it easier for sellers to list items.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Norrington argued its new strategy will not make it more difficult for its mom-and-pop sellers to compete. Rather, it will benefit them even more as the big brands will attract more customers to the site overall, she says.