Editor’s note: In celebration of eBay’s 25th anniversary, we’re spotlighting a seller every week from our global community in our Mini Stories column through 2020.
Floaty scarves for nestling around your neck. Greeting cards decorated with graceful flowers. Twinkling crystal jewelry. Seller Jeanette Gettings fills her store with goodies for holidays, birthdays and as her store name says, Just Because, to make people happy and provide a little extra lift. Her Wolverhampton, U.K. shop of treasures neatly marries with her eBay store — and it’s that combination of online sales with in-person shopping that’s helping her thrive through thick and thin and providing an anchor for her local small business scene.
Jeanette did not start her career in retail. Instead, she spent the better part of two decades working for the Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Defense. Tired of the grind and wanting a bit of sparkle and fun in her life, she took a break from that path and spent five years selling gift items with her sister, Jackie, at country house fairs, summer fêtes and holiday markets.
Jeanette in her Royal Air Force days.
Then her sister set up shop with mobility aids and specialty reclining chairs, and Jeanette went back to work in an office as a project manager, “all the time hankering after doing something different,” she said and fondly remembering her time on the retail gift circuit. “Finally, I decided one day that I was fed up working for other people and wanted to try owning a store myself,” she said, also noting that she liked the idea of establishing roots in a community as a local business.
A storefront became available in Wolverhampton, set directly on the main suburban road with houses and other shops around, and Jeanette decided to take the plunge. In spring 2017, she set out her Just Because shingle and welcomed customers inside, using her experience selling at fairs to stock the shelves with jewelry, dog figurines, scarves and other enticing gift choices. “I knew who I was selling to, and the types of things they were buying for friends and family,” she said. A donation box for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund sits neatly on the front counter as her continued commitment to public service, and she sources cards from a distributor who supports Help for Heroes, a nonprofit that assists veterans disabled during their duty.
The Just Because storefront in Wolverhampton.
Although Jeanette soon found a loyal clientele, “it wasn’t going to keep me going,” she said. Pure logistics of location and buying habits limited her sales, since “people don’t travel to buy gifts and cards, they just go to the closest shop,” she explained. “So I wanted to move my business forward, and I knew I’d have to establish an online presence to do that and capture both ends of the market.”
Her choice for an online platform soon became clear. “I looked at having my own website, but you’ve got to drive customers to it, which is the hardest part,” she said, explaining her process in her quiet, straightforward and thoughtful way, always with a warm smile on her face. “With eBay, the customers are already there, wanting to buy. So it was a bit of a no-brainer that was where I started.”
Jeanette replicated her entire brick-and-mortar shop on eBay, down to the last card, and started selling online in summer 2018. Just a few months later, she heard about eBay coming to Wolverhampton with Retail Revival, a collaboration with local retailers to help them grow their businesses online and bolster the city's economy. “I liked that it was about helping local businesses and wanted to see what was going on,” she said.
The experience proved transformative for Jeanette. “I learned everything about selling online from Retail Revival, from getting items ready to photographing them to adding descriptions and titles,” she said, also ticking off other benefits, such as mentors who would call and check in over the course of several months and local connections with other small business owners. She was even given the Retail Revival Seller Award in 2019 in recognition of her success.
Invitation for Jeanette to the eBay award dinner.
In addition, “I made a really good friend out of it, another seller who turns out was also in the Royal Air Force. Turns out we’d followed each other around the world, now live five miles apart and only just met through Retail Revival,” she said with a laugh. The friends are even thinking of ways to team up, with Jeanette perhaps selling her new friend’s embroidery creations and custom T-shirts in Just Because. Other Retail Revival connections have likewise flourished, with Jeanette keeping in touch with local owners on social media and around town.
All these local connections have become ever more important during the pandemic. During the initial shutdown of stores in the spring of 2020, “I got an awful lot busier than usual, sales were way over even Christmas levels,” Jeanette says. “Anniversary cards, birthday cards, note cards were all big sellers. People were reaching out to family and friends, since they couldn’t see them in person.”
Now that stores are slowly reopening in Wolverhampton, people are delighted to wander back into her shop. “Customers say how glad they are that I’ve been able to reopen and that they missed me,” she said, clearly pleased to share a chat and a laugh again with her clientele. “They have also mentioned that they are happier to shop local and feel much safer here than going into bigger stores.” She’s even garnered new customers, people who used to whiz by in their cars on evening commutes but now meander inside on afternoon walks.
The interior of Jeanette’s Just Because bricks and mortar shop.
At the same time that Jeanette has stayed a local anchor, her shop has allowed her to reach around the world, and she loves sharing her gift finds with buyers through eBay. A woman in Australia bought glass pugs for her pug society, and an American woman asked Jeanette to send birthday presents of delicate glass birds directly to her sisters in the U.K. Closer to home, Jeanette has become the online store of choice for an Airbnb owner in Cardiff. “She emailed me to tell me that she buys little note cards to leave as a thank you note for guests,” Jeanette said. “It’s really sweet!”
Not all brick and mortar shops have been as lucky as Jeanette’s. “I walked into town last Sunday, and a lot of the big businesses have closed down, it’s so sad,” she said, crediting her online store for keeping her lights on. “If I hadn’t had eBay, I would have lost the shop. With eBay sales coming in throughout the pandemic, that allowed me to restock the shop, pay the bills and then reopen the bricks and mortar store,” she said. “Online kept both stores going.”
Her advice to other brick and mortar shop owners starting eBay shops of their own? “Go for it,” Jeanette said. “And put all your stock online, everything. Don’t hold back, you’ve got a global market there. It’s best to show the world the items, not just the few people who walk in your actual store’s doors.”
Because of her eBay shop, Jeanette is hopeful about the future. “eBay to me means access to the world,” she said. “At first, I felt like I was playing at the business, it was scary. Then I joined eBay and with Retail Revival, and meeting other business owners, it was like having a hand to hold that walks you through it and makes you realize: you can do this. It’s just been really fantastic. I was able to realize my dream — and it works.”
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