Wheedle wheedled

July 12th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Online auction site is closing, less than two years after it was set up to take on Trade Me. 

The site’s sole funder, Mainfreight co-founder and rich-lister Neil Graham, decided against further investment in the company, he said in a message to Wheedle members tonight.

“Our aim was to create a commercially successful site where people could buy and sell online without costing users an arm and a leg. 

“More than 80,000 members backed us and we’re very proud of that achievement.”

With respect Wheedle could almost become a text book case of how not to do a launch. Competing with Trade Me would have been challenging for the best of competitors, but Wheedle never got it together.

Launched in October 2012, the site aimed to undercut Trade Me by charging a flat-rate $1 fee on items that sold for more than $20. 

People don’t care much about the fees. They care about the price they’ll get.

NBR has a good feature on what went wrong.

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15 Responses to “Wheedle wheedled”

  1. gump (1,647 comments) says:

    @DPF

    “People don’t care much about the fees”

    ———————

    I stopped using Trademe because of the excessive seller fees.

    People bloody well do care about the fees!!

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  2. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    I’ve tried some of the alternatives to TradeMe, but items just don’t sell.

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  3. Pdubyah (22 comments) says:

    It just the size of the market and unless something serioulsy more compelling comes along there just isn’t a market.

    take for instance SKY – anyone still have TiVo ? Now of course broadband speed is freeing up alternative methods of watching things they are on the edge of the decline, as an aside remember BlackBerry? Or who has a Motorolla phone, the road to yesterday is a very swift path.

    TradeMe has positioned itself by being easy to use, regardless of fees, I’ve managed somehow to sell everything I’ve listed and been happy with the result regards to money I’ve received and fees I’ve paid, it’s about the result.

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  4. David Farrar (1,895 comments) says:

    Gump – so who do you use now?

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  5. dirty harry (489 comments) says:

    I garage sale my junk twice a year…sell just about everything and all it costs is an ad in the rag.

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  6. Peter (1,712 comments) says:

    TM fees have never bothered me as all I’m interested in is the cash in my hand at the end of the deal. No other channel I’ve come across provides the level of competition, but if one emerges, I’ll take a look.

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  7. CharlieBrown (1,012 comments) says:

    Does anyone know why E-bay hasn’t come to NZ? I would use that any day over trademe.

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  8. gump (1,647 comments) says:

    @DPF

    We haven’t replaced Trademe with another online selling platform.

    It’s cheaper and easier to send our unwanted materials to e-waste recyclers like SIMS Recycling. So that’s what we do.

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  9. Andrew McMillan (50 comments) says:

    I put together two articles on these guys, one in 2012 following their launch:

    Wheedle – 2 years to make, 2 days to break

    And another in 2013, following their re-launch:

    Wheedles back but somethings missing

    Wheedle had about as much chance of flying as Trevor Mallard’s Moa

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  10. goldnkiwi (1,304 comments) says:

    I never liked the name, it sounded whiney, so never went there.

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  11. chris (647 comments) says:

    @CharlieBrown

    Ebay didn’t come to New Zealand because TradeMe was already so well established when they looked coming here, and they knew they wouldn’t be able to make any inroads against them. Naive New Zealander entrepreneurs, on the other hand, seem to see TradeMe as some sort of target to beat. (Likewise they all liked to copy 1-day, Grabone, etc.)

    The only truly smart guy out there is Shane Bradley. He too once upon a time thought he could take on TradeMe, and then finally realised it was pointless and set up other websites new and unique to New Zealand, Grabone being one of them. I didn’t like working for the guy when I did back in the FindA days, but the guy knew how to grow a successful business.

    Edit: and an honourable mention for whoever’s behind MightyApe. They know how to do ecommerce, and have come a long way since the days they only sold games out of a little shop down the road from where my office was.

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  12. gump (1,647 comments) says:

    @chris

    “Ebay didn’t come to New Zealand because TradeMe was already so well established when they looked coming here, and they knew they wouldn’t be able to make any inroads against them.”

    ————————

    That doesn’t make sense. The EBay system is largely consistent across all of the countries it operates in – so there’s no need to extensively customise it for new markets.

    All EBay would have needed to do for a New Zealand portal would be to design a few splash screens and modify their system to accept auctions in NZD.

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  13. chris (647 comments) says:

    It can be very difficult to topple an incumbent, especially when they have the power of a market like TradeMe. However, I thought I’d better do some research to see if I was correct with my theory and found this very interesting interview with Sam Morgan and Rowan Simpson after the sale to Fairfax.

    http://readwrite.com/2006/08/20/trademe_big_fish_small_pond

    It turns out Ebay did attempt to set up shop here. Sam’s theory was that they were too late to the market in NZ (which fits in with my theory) along with a completely botched launch including requiring payments in the US dollars. (The reason behind that is likely to be with Ebay’s tie in with PayPal which dates back to before they acquired them, where most payments used PayPal, and at the time they didn’t support NZD.)

    The relevant section in the interview is this:

    Richard: Just on that point, why do you think eBay was never successful in the NZ market? Or did they just not notice it until it was too late and you guys had too much momentum?

    Sam: “Bit of both, they were a little late in and then they launched in US dollars.”

    Rowan: “And they had a cheesy picture of a kiwi holding an All Blacks jersey – it just didn’t quite gel.”

    Sam: “And they didn’t really spend the money. What they did well in Australia – and they were successful in Australia – was they put some people into it, they built a new AU dollar ‘only search Australian things’ website. They spent a shitload of money on advertising and they basically got first mover and got on the spiral first…they never got on their spiral here [in NZ] because they fucked up a few fundamentals, like currency…”

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  14. gump (1,647 comments) says:

    EBay registered the ebay.co.nz domain in late 1998 – but the NZ portal never offered anything that would make it useful for NZ users. The problem isn’t just that the EBay fees are charged in USD, but that the auctions themselves have to be run in USD (which makes them useless for local buyers)

    The whole situation is really weird given that EBay became a popular, well-regarded, and profitable business in Australia.

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  15. chris (647 comments) says:

    Maybe they decided size of the NZ population just wasn’t worth the effort, but the AU one was? Especially when you consider NZ had a well used incumbent whereas it sounds like AU didn’t. Still doesn’t make a lot of sense why they’d expect NZers to run auctions in USD; presumably they entered the Australian market after their failed attempt in NZ and sorted those issues out?

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