EBAY is getting back to its roots

February 27, 2024

Ebay started as a simple hobby site called AuctionWeb nearly 30 years ago -- part of its founder’s personal site -- bringing together buyers and sellers in an open marketplace​​.

This hobby site quickly blossomed into a revolutionary business model, highlighting the power of community and the potential of the internet to democratize sales.

The first item sold, a broken laser pointer for $14.83, symbolized the unique marketplace eBay would become, where even the most unusual items could find a value and audience.

Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, eBay experienced rapid growth, expanding its services and market reach through strategic acquisitions and international ventures. It became a symbol of the dot-com era's potential, with its IPO in 1998 catapulting its founders to billionaire status. eBay's acquisitions, including PayPal in 2002, diversified its offerings and strengthened its position in the global e-commerce ecosystem​​.

However, the changing landscape of online shopping, marked by the rise of competitors like Amazon and Alibaba, and the shift towards niche marketplaces, posed new challenges for eBay. As did the company’s split from PayPal in 2015.

Post-pandemic, eBay experienced a slowdown in growth, a common trend among e-commerce platforms as the exceptional surge in online shopping during the pandemic normalized.

Now, EBAY appears to be returning somewhat to its roots and making efforts to streamline operations as competition continues to press.

Ebay is honed in on what it calls "focus categories." These segments including luxury, refurbished goods, collectibles, and parts & accessories (P&A), and grew 7 points faster than the remainder of ebay's marketplace in Q3.

The company is also taking cost-cutting measures. It eliminated 9% of its full-time workforce (1,000 jobs) at the end of January.

On the bright side. mention buzz does show some traction, up by +19% YoY.

The kicker?

Sentiment is declining, down -4% YoY as some consumers report quality issues with the collectible items they ordered.

In addition, web visits at large slipped by -2% YoY.

Perhaps the highly discretionary nature of eBay's core categories is weighing on its top line?

Bottom line: eBay is doubling down on its niche position in the collectibles market. 

These items appear to be driving mention buzz.

But are collectibles enough to place a bullish bet on this name?

We don't think so, especially considering relatively flat web traffic and declining sentiment.

The stock has been largely range bound in the last 12 months, currently closer to the top of that range than the bottom, so there isn't a value play in here either.

We like other plays in eCommerce much more.

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