Oh baby, what a web success

Reporter: Martyn Torr
Date published: 29 September 2010

TWO sisters who used to stand on markets across the north of England have reinvented their business model on eBay and now run a multi-million pound operation.

Christy Foster (40), from Grasscroft, and her sister, Cheryl Blayds (37), from Grotton, are the owners of online4baby.co.uk which trades from a warehouse in Chadderton.

Christy and Cheryl said that eBay has transformed their lives — from braving cold early mornings, which they did for nearly 15 years at Tommyfield Market and others around the North-West selling pushchairs and prams — into a £6 million eBay-based baby equipment enterprise.

“I started off as a market trader, but when I saw that things were going well I decided to try eBay and it really took off,” said Christy, the head buyer and company secretary, adding: “We set up the company with my husband Michael and Cheryl and her husband Warren and it is now a full-time job for all of us.”

Online4baby sells a range of baby equipment and accessories and is on target to turnover £6 million this financial year.

The company, which has 10 full-time staff, delivers around 3,000 parcels per week and is a 24-hour operation.

Sales increased dramatically during the recession as consumers turned to the internet to find better deals, the pair revealed during a tour of the well-stocked warehouse.

Christy said: “We used to be quiet in July and August but not this year.”

Cheryl added: “Online4baby evolved from the foundations of a family business established in 1987. As the company grew in popularity and as more customers demanded immediate delivery, we shifted operations on to eBay.

“Over the last few years we have had to become more competitive and make stricter purchasing decisions to ensure our products remain cheaper than the same items found on the high street.”

Online4baby is one of the top 10 UK businesses on eBay and the largest nursery products business on the site.

Projections show that the number of million-pound businesses on eBay is on course for a tenfold rise since the beginning of recession.

The success of these online businesses is reflected in eBay’s recent global results which revealed that the UK business was growing at a faster rate than the rest of the e-commerce market.

Many small businesses choose to trade through eBay because it offers lower costs of entry and access to an unrivalled global customer base.

Jody Ford, eBay’s director of SMEs, said: “eBay has always backed British entrepreneurs and it is tremendous to see this surge in the number of thriving online SMEs and start-ups at a time when the rest of the economy has been struggling.”

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