NEW YORK — ZTradingIndustries Inc. of Las Vegas has launched zdrop, software that manages and automates the sales of as many as 100,000 items at once on auction sites such as those run by eBay, Yahoo and Amazon.
Initially aimed at mail service centers that want to expand their businesses by posting auctions for walk-in customers with odds and ends to sell, the software also has the potential to be used by large retailers such as Macy’s that want to dispose of overstock on eBay themselves rather than pay a third party to do it or sell the goods to a jobber, said Ron Rowan, zTradingIndustries chief operating and financial officer. The program is part of an emerging category of software for managing auctions, and there are now several dozen such programs, including the popular Auction Tools from Andale of Mountain View, Calif.
What sets zdrop apart is its efficiency and suitability for use by staff with no specialized knowledge, said Richard Perry of RJ Consulting of Belmont, Calif., a consultancy specializing in retail logistics and auction management.
Zdrop is also more complete than other software, said Rowan. It automatically handles all aspects of the auction process, including creating an item’s description, finding a stock photo of an item (from zdrop’s database), printing out inventory bar codes and shipping labels, charging the buyer’s credit card and cutting checks to all parties via Wells Fargo bank. A retailer would need only a low-level employee to answer a handful of questions about an item, take a photograph of the item if it’s damaged or unique and affix the shipping label to the box. The retailer also would need to set up a wrap, pack and ship station.
“They’ve been able to take the process from 15 to 30 minutes down to a few seconds” per item, said Perry. “It’s so intuitive that it doesn’t take a lot of knowledge.”
Rowan estimated it would cost a retailer about $1 to sell each item. (That figure does not include shipping, which is usually paid by the buyer.)
The software was initially developed by SuperPawn Inc., a chain of 49 pawn stores headquartered in Las Vegas, to sell its own overstock on eBay. SuperPawn, which was the fifth-largest seller on eBay in 2003, reduced its cost of selling an item on the site to 23 cents from $22 using zdrop. SuperPawn is in the process of being sold to Cash America by Steve Mack, also the owner of zTradingIndustries, which will own the rights to the zdrop software once the SuperPawn sale is finalized, Rowan said.
For mail service centers, the software is free, and the service center and zTradingIndustries each take 20 percent of what sells. Pricing for retailers would vary depending on how they use the software and services, and could involve a flat fee for the software rather than a percentage of sales, said Rowan.
Auction sites such as eBay — particularly now that professional software is being developed to manage the process — have the potential to transform the way excess stock is disposed of by the retail industry, said Perry. For instance, such sites will perhaps divert stock from outlet stores, if they haven’t already, he said.