Featured image: Carlo and Quovardis Lawrence own and run QC Consigns, a popular eBay consignment shop.
In 2013, Quovardis and Carlo Lawrence opened an eBay account for one reason: to get rid of the extra stuff filling every closet of their house. Word spread among their friends, who started asking the couple to sell their unwanted items. It wasn't long before the Lawrences launched an eBay storefront named From Soup to Nuts Consignment that sold everything "from light bulbs to Wii games." They were even making a little money.
Even so, the shop was little more than a side hustle until Quovardis, who worked in fashion retail, asked one of her colleagues to take a look at the business.
"She challenged us by asking, 'What is your story? Who are you? Why am I shopping you versus someone else?' And that was something we honestly never stopped to think about," Quovardis says.
That hard look in the mirror birthed their current shop: QC Consigns, a place to find a little bit of everything with a focus on apparel and jewelry. The new name was a nod to the couple's names, but it also signaled the brand's values with a new slogan that declared the shop as "Where Quality and Customer Service Meet."
Today, QC Consigns, which is based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, has sold more than 1,140 items that have generated $174,000 in revenue. And while the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged traditional brick and mortar retail businesses, QC Consigns actually saw a 112% increase in revenue from Q1 to Q2 2020. What started as a decluttering experiment is now a full-fledged business with roughly 125 consignment clients and a growing waitlist of sellers hoping to contract their services.
The couple says the big lesson of their nearly decade-long journey is fundamentally about patience. "If you truly believe in who you are and what you’re selling, stick with it," says Quovardis. "At some point, your breakthrough will come."
For the Lawrences, this has meant offering a customer experience uncommon for a consignment shop. Sure, they might be selling mostly secondhand items, but every package is wrapped, labeled, and delivered in attractive packaging like it's brand new. If you buy from their shop, you'll likely find a handwritten note thanking you for your purchase.
"We wanted customers to have the same experience that we want as customers," says Carlo. "We also wanted to differentiate ourselves from the typical eBay seller."
Another huge lesson was creating a personal connection with customers. Every week, Quovardis hosts popular Wine Down Friday live streams that are an opportunity to introduce herself to their audience and showcase a variety of products available from QC Consigns. "There is such a human side to what we do," she says. "If I’ve had an awful week, I might be drinking more wine than usual."
Producing this kind of video content has been an investment for the business, which is why every decision QC Consigns makes is based on data. The owners credit eBay's Terapeak insights tool that helps them track their listings' performance and compare it to competitors. They also rely on the insights from social media platforms like Instagram to tell them what customers respond to in real-time, all for free.
A turning point for the business came earlier this year when Quovardis was laid off from her job as vice president of product development for a retail company. Left without a Plan B, she decided to join Carlo full-time at QC Consigns. "I decided that if I’m going to work that hard, let’s do it for my own business," she says.
While COVID-19 has devastated many small retail businesses, a silver lining emerged for the consignment industry as brick and mortar boutiques turned to shops like QC Consigns to help them liquidate their inventory. At the same time, social distancing measures have made it difficult to hold estate sales. The Lawrences saw a unique opportunity to help families of the deceased sell off unwanted possessions.
"Whenever somebody passed away, we'd reach and say, 'We’re sorry to hear that. What can we do to help? How can we help you through QC Consigns?'" Quovardis explains. "It’s a win-win for all of us."
There have been mistakes along the way for the business, including the decision to temporarily leave eBay. Believing that they could avoid the platform's seller fees and make a higher profit, they set up their own e-commerce site for QC Consigns.
How did that go?
"We didn’t do so well," Quovardis says. "When you go off on your own, you have to have a lot of financial backing for marketing. We put a lot of our money into the dot com and logistics of building that site and keeping it running. But we didn’t have the dollars to support marketing. Driving traffic to that was really tough, especially before we were big on social media. So we tucked our tails and went back to eBay."
"The grass is always greener, but the water bill is also higher," Carlo jokes.
The Lawrences have never thought twice about their decision to return. With eBay, QC Consigns gets access to better shipping rates, and the platform handles the most difficult parts of international sales, including customs forms. While they do cross list items on other seller platforms like Poshmark or Etsy to target different customer demographics, QC Consigns will always post an item first on eBay.
A year of record sales has the Lawrences looking ahead. They'd love to start purchasing products outright and increase their inventory. When COVID-19 begins to recede, there could be a pop-up shop in the cards. They are even looking into the possibility of incorporating 3-D fashion, where customers can see digital avatars model different QC Consigns items in a virtual fashion show.
"When I say we are in this, we are in it," says Quovardis. "This for us isn’t just a shop. It’s not this thing we’re doing as a hobby. We’re so beyond that. I have hopes of one day of having an office with a full-time staff in it. That’s where our minds are today."
"We are constantly excited and optimistic about our future," Carlo says.
Are you an eBay seller interested in leveling up your business? Apply to the eBay Up & Running Grant to receive a grant package worth $10,000, including cash, eBay credits, coaching through eBay Seller School, and more. Applications close December 11, 2020!