eBay to open Christmas shop in Soho

For five days only, auction giant eBay is getting real with a bricks-and-mortar store. Location: Dean Street. Opening: December 1.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
This is no ordinary shop. There are no tills: eBay’s pop-up store isn’t accepting cash or cards at all. The currency here is QR codes. Those little hieroglyphs that can be scanned with a smartphone to bring up a webpage or app. Each item on display can only be bought via the eBay store, but you can try before you buy – a first for the online marketplace.

There will be 200 of eBay’s bestselling items on display, including the number one party dress from House of Fraser and an inflatable ride-in Dalek. But eBay is cheating somewhat: there will also be a bank of computers for online shopping (on eBay’s broadband bill). Less ‘shopping’, more ‘e-squatting’.

Why is eBay dipping its toe into offline? It’s a gimmick, yes, but it’s also an exercise in smartphone marketing: ‘Look how easy it is to shop on your iPhone, people!’ is the gist. Online Christmas sales are set to skyrocket, but this is an exercise in brand extension (hell, we’re covering it) that works well for eBay – especially while landlords are desperate for short-term cash and pop-up shops are all the rage.

And eBay isn’t the only online player dabbling in real world trade. This Christmas, Amazon is offering ‘collection lockers’ in London shopping centres for shoppers who don’t want to miss deliveries at home or at work. And last month House of Fraser won its virtual stripes by opening a shop in Aberdeen featuring no stock at all, just iPads and free coffee.

Nothing like an online store hosting an offline stunt to prove how ‘retro’ the high street really is…


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