Business is booming for a Sheffield firm that is using the online marketplace eBay to help retailers make money out of products returned to their stores.
Alchemistic is the brainchild of former construction company project manager Alistair Hague and lays claim to being the UK’s leading eBay Trading Assistant, helping businesses market and sell new products, returns, excess and written-down stock, to customers in the UK, Europe and, potentially, across the world.
Alistair Hague got the idea for Alchemistic while working in the United States, where there are a number of eBay Trading Assistants. Returning to the UK he capitalised on computer skills he had built up in his spare time and launched Alchemistic with help from the Prince’s Trust.
“When we started out it was a bit of a struggle. Being in the middle of a recession meant it was difficult, but, about 18 months ago we started to grow a lot faster,” says Mr Hague.
“EBay is the largest market in the world and there is no way that big businesses can ignore it.”
Alchemistic has built up a list of blue chip clients, including one of the UK’s leading supermarket brands and top specialist retailers, and had grown by 500 per cent during the last 18 months.
The firm’s success is built on finding buyers for the mountain of returns that retailers have to deal with.
Anything up to 30 per cent of everything some retailers ends up being returned, according to research by the Management Schools at Sheffield University and Cranfield, which estimated in 2007 that the total value of retail returns in the UK could have been as much as £6 billion.
Returns cannot simply go back onto the retailers’ shelves and sending products back to manufacturers can cost a disproportionate amount, if the manufacturer is based in the Far East
Add to that the need to get rid of goods that were overstocked in a market where shelf lives are becoming shorter and shorter and all that has meant that many perfectly good products end up being destroyed, resulting in further cost for the retailer.