Is eBay’s brief renaissance over?

The site has pivoted from auctions to ESG.

Unless you’re a sneakerhead or a baseball card collector, odds are you associate eBay with Yahoo, AOL, and other ‘90s internet zombies.

Is eBay’s brief renaissance over?

But eBay is still surprisingly powerful. It has more than 300x as many listings as it did in the late ‘90s and ranks second in US online gross merchandise sales, behind Amazon and ahead of Walmart and Target.

Whether it’s built for the long haul is another question, and a recent projection for a choppy 2023 has turned investors against the company, according to Reuters.

eBay was booming not long ago

After hiring a former Walmart exec as CEO and selling off assets in 2020 — including StubHub — the company began copying upstart competitors like StockX and The RealReal:

  • EBay authenticated items like handbags, sneakers, trading cards, and watches.
  • For sneakers, in particular, the company hired TikTok influencers to enhance eBay’s name recognition among younger audiences.

Combined with the pandemic-driven ecommerce surge, site visits increased: active buyers grew 7% YoY to 187m in Q1 2021, and gross merchandise sales grew 33% to $24.1B in the same time frame.

But ecommerce has fallen on hard times…

… especially for eBay. The number of active buyers started falling in Q2 2021 and was down to 134m in Q4 2022 — the seventh consecutive quarterly decline. On Thursday, the stock fell to ~$45, down from a peak of ~$81 in 2021.

One analyst told Bloomberg eBay was back in its pre-pandemic position, adding that the only people who visited the site were those “looking for an odd item.”

Surprisingly, eBay’s new strategy for relevance appears to be ESG. At the same time it shared its disappointing sales numbers, it touted itself as a major player in the “recommerce” space.

In other words, eBay expects a growing number of eco-conscious consumers will want to shop like it’s 1999.

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