Trade Me sees change ahead

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 08:55 21/02/2013

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The passion appears to be going out of Kiwis' love affair with Trade Me auctions as shoppers tire of the foreplay and seek instant gratification from any corner of the internet that can offer them a quick and easy trade.

Chief executive Jon Macdonald promised Trade Me would try to move with the times by sprinkling its site with more new goods from mainstream retailers.

"I do think there is a shift towards buying at a fixed price online through an 'e-commerce experience' and away from online auctions," he said.

"The challenge for us is to make sure we remain relevant and people get the kind of experience they increasingly expect in terms of immediacy and access to a great range," Macdonald said.

Trade Me yesterday hurdled the last remaining financial forecasts set out in its 2011 prospectus, reporting a 3 per cent increase in its interim net profit to $37.4 million on the back of an 18 per cent jump in revenues to $80.4m.

But Macdonald reported a 3.8 per cent drop in the number of general items traded through the site, versus a forecast 3.5 per cent rise.

Activity in the "general items" marketplace had been "a bit disappointing", he said.

Kiwis were turning to Trade Me less frequently to buy and sell books, CDs and games, in part because of the shift away from physical media to digital downloads that can't be auctioned or traded.

But overseas e-commerce sites were also courting Kiwi consumers with greater ardour.

"As retailers improve the customer service they provide to New Zealanders, the more they become competitors to us," Macdonald said.

Yesterday the cheapest "buy now" price for a new or second hand copy of popular book A Game of Thrones on Trade Me was $13.45, for a new copy shipped via Australia.

The book could also be bought new, free of shipping charges from British-based bookseller The Book Depository for a slightly cheaper $13.27.

Clothing transactions were also down. "The options available to the New Zealand consumer have just exploded when it comes to buying clothing online," Macdonald said.

Trade Me still had a lot to do to improve the experience for sellers and buyers before many retailers began using it as a conduit for new goods, he said.

Trade Me shares closed down 2.3 per cent at $4.31.

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- The Dominion Post

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