Collectibles with a conscience: our Ebay shop

Ebay warehouse

We’re using Ebay to make the most out of the unusual goods donated to our shops. Sarah Brealey finds out more.

In a warehouse in Leeds is a collectors’ paradise – a treasure trove of everything from sewing machines and CD players to camera lenses and ice skates.

The clothing rails are as likely to contain a Second World War military overcoat as an unworn Donna Karan wrap dress. Whether your childhood toys were Action Man or Sindy, Hornby train sets or Scalextric, Teletubbies or even Steiff teddies, there’s something to evoke happy memories.

By the door, boxes are piled high with the latest arrivals, all of which have been donated to our shops and Furniture & Electrical stores.

The warehouse isn’t open to members of the public, but you can browse and buy its treasures by logging on to our Ebay shop, which is part of the world’s largest online auction site.

Millions of potential customers

Your donations fund our life saving research, so we try to make sure they raise as much money as possible. “It’s great when a shop sends us something that we can then get £300 for – when it would have fetched only £30 in store,” says Ashley Skaife, our Ebay manager. “When we put something on Ebay, we have access to 233 million potential customers – that’s how many people are registered shoppers on the site worldwide.”

Ebay action figuresShop volunteers play an important role in deciding what to list on Ebay. Many of them have a special interest in collectibles and books, so they can help advise on anything rare or valuable that might get a better price on the auction site.

Ashley says they are always happy to have a chat if there is any doubt about a certain donation. “If you are a collector, you enjoy it when someone rings up from a shop and says ‘We have got this, how much money do you think it would fetch?’”

Once items arrive at the warehouse, members of the team photograph them and list them on Ebay, doing extra research if necessary to help describe them. Items must be carefully filed so they can be found again when the auction is over.

Then the item will be packed and dispatched to the winning bidder. If it’s a large item, such as furniture, it will often stay in the shop and be advertised on Ebay for collection from that particular store.

From warehouse to winner

The BHF Ebay operation was set up in 2006 in two rooms above a shop in Halifax. A year ago, it moved to a warehouse in Leeds. Staff numbers have grown from six to 25, and this, plus the extra space, has helped it to go from strength to strength.

As a collector, it is a bit like being Willy Wonka in a chocolate factory

Many of the warehouse staff have specialist knowledge in a particular area, such as crockery or fashion. This means that they can advertise items well and set a suitable starting price for the bid.

Sally Parsons is a vintage and contemporary clothing expert who used to work for a shoe retailer. Her role includes weeding out the fake designer goods, which come along regularly, as well as spotting hidden gems.

“The quirky, unusual stuff makes the most money, although regular designer stuff still does well,” she says. “When we list something and it’s successful, the shops see that and send us similar things, which is great.”

Ashley finds the job fun as well as rewarding. “For people like me with a 30-year career in retail, this is as exciting as it gets,” he says. “As a collector, it is a bit like being Willy Wonka in a chocolate factory, and, of course, we are raising money for a great cause.”

  • Visit our online Ebay shop.
  • See our list of 10 pieces of ‘junk’ that you won't believe are worth a fortune.
  • Got something to donate to us? Find your nearest BHF shop.

How you can help

Ebay trainWe rely on your donations to help fund our life saving work. Anything you donate to a BHF shop will either be sold in that particular store or, if appropriate, in another one, or on our Ebay shop.

If you’re a taxpayer, filling in a Gift Aid form will help us get even more from your donation. Our shops always need volunteers.

Pop into your local store or visit our volunteering web page.

More useful information