EBay's Authentication Station, a three-day event in Los Angeles where people can have luxury watches and sneakers authenticated via drive-thru.

Authenticating luxury goods has become an urgent necessity in retail’s digital era. But it doesn’t have to be an Internet-only affair. It can even be fun, according to eBay, which is hosting an “Authentication Station” for luxury watches and sneakers in Los Angeles.

The concept has a simple, if unconventional, premise: People interested in getting an appraisal of their collectibles can bring the items to the venue — a converted gas station in East Hollywood — and hand them off to an attendant, who brings the object inside for inspection by a team of experts. Participants stay in their cars the entire time.

While they wait, they can watch the action on an big screen outside, whether for education or even entertainment, and successful assessments earn an eBay Authenticity Guarantee. Even better, participants may get an offer to sell the item on the spot, allowing them to drive away with cash in hand, at least in concept. In reality, they’d transact over eBay’s PayPal service.

Naturally, the event — which essentially soft-opened on Thursday and runs through Saturday — focuses more on pre-owned products, as opposed to new merchandise. But for the luxury sector, authentication services of any kind may be a win, as some companies worry about the potential devaluing of their brands. The Internet’s massive ability to circulate fakes or errant copy-cat items, whether new or used, only exacerbates the worry.

Here, the items eligible for evaluation are primarily watches and sneakers, though other collectibles may be included. The company mentioned a Clayton Kershaw card, as one example.

“We wanted to do this to bring some fun at a time when everyone’s just been stuck at home, and [also to] extend what we’re really seeing as the core premise of our focused approach on watches, sneakers and other categories, which is to bring authentication into the offline world,” Tirath Kamdar, general manager of luxury for eBay North America, told WWD.

Sneakers and watches are two of the marketplace’s most popular luxury categories, with more than half a million daily listings for sneakers on average and more than 165,000 live listings for luxury watches. In 2019 alone, the site saw sales of more than 2 million watches.

Over the past year, the marketplace saw a 10 percent increase in average daily live listings for high-end timepieces like Rolex. The watch brand accounts for 40 percent of eBay’s luxury watch sales, and since 2019, Rolex sales in the marketplace have jumped 60 percent.

The categories are the focus of eBay’s new Authenticity Guarantee, a recently launched service that deploys independent experts to vet and verify items through comprehensive, multiple-point inspections.

To bring that to real life, the company brought third-party authentication partner Sneaker Con and other top eBay sellers to the drive-thru, where they vet the items and estimate what they might be worth on the marketplace. Goods that pass inspection can even get immediate offers from established eBay stores like SoleSupremacy, for instance.

It may seem counterintuitive to hold an in-person event while a coronavirus resurgence in California has Gov. Gavin Newsom tightening restrictions. But the company maintains that it’s strictly adhering to all safety protocols, including social distancing, masks, hygiene and other measures. And again, it points out that people stay in their cars for the entire experience.

Kamdar sees it as a socially distant and responsible way to “bring some joy right before the holiday times really kick off,” he said.

As for the possibility of more drive-thru events, the jury is out on that. But it’s not inconceivable.

“I would say this is a start. There’s nothing planned, in terms of what’s next, but we’re constantly evaluating it,” added Kamdar. “And then we do think that there could be a lot more fun things we can do in next year.” EBay also plans to expand its Authenticity Guarantee in 2021 to include more items, which could also broaden the scope of future live event plans.

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