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According to TIAS president Phillip Davies, the scheme had not met expectations because EBay has become more of a wholesale site, with US dealers using it to buy stock for sale elsewhere.

The TIAS deal involved the company placing Internet sales co-ordinators in 13 antiques centres in the United States so that they could upload details of antiques in the centres online for sale at auction through EBay. They would then complete the arrangements for any sale made and take a percentage for the transaction.

TIAS pitched the idea to EBay, saying they could use the programme to get a great deal of stock online in a consistent fashion. The antique centre owners and EBay liked the idea of each centre having their own Internet sales co-ordinator to do all the work, said Mr Davies. But although a large selection of antiques was posted on EBay for sale, much of it either sold below expectations or failed to attract bids at all, leaving TIAS with a programme that was not cost effective.

Mr Davies said that the programme had not worked because dealers had unrealistic expectations of what their items might make online. “What happened was that EBay has become more of a wholesale market and dealers don’t want to sell wholesale.” He added that he had talked to people who now buy on EBay to resell the item in either a traditional antique centre setting or through an online fixed price site, such as the main TIAS.com site. Mr Davies believes that the returns policy of fixed price sites boosts confidence in potential buyers, helping those sites to achieve better results. He did not give figures to show how much of the stock being sold through the TIAS programme with EBay was going to dealers for resale and how much was going to private buyers paying retail rates for furnishing or their collections.

The concept of dealers buying low to mid-value antiques and collectables for stock online may be growing in the US, but there is little evidence to show a similar trend among the UK trade, where even those attempting serious trade through their own Websites remain resolute that they will not buy online without first seeing the items “in the flesh”.

The ICollector deal involves giving EBay customers access to a wide range of art and antiques offered from up to 300 auction houses rather than centres, but the main push will initially be in the US where there is more Internet trade activity. ICollector told the Antiques Trade Gazette that the deal would have to prove itself within months and quoted figures showing that the auction houses selling live through EBay were registering about 30 per cent of bids and 20 per cent of sales online.