I work at a catalog call center owned by Williams-Sonoma
. Most of the calls that I take are for Pottery Barn Kids
. Nice products, too expensive for our budget, tho. Decent company to work for (much
better than Book-of-the-Month Club).
We have the usual end-of-the-year clearance sales ~ all sales final, etc. It can get nasty 'cause some areas of the country get the sales catalog much later than others, and when they call to order, the things they want are gone. "But I JUST got the catalog!"
Some of these shoppers are Ebay sellers. They buy as much as they can so that they can resell on Ebay. One woman, P.L. from Wisconsin (most of us know her by now) told me that she got the idea when she saw the toddler quilt she wanted going for $300 on Ebay, when the original PBK price was $79. So now she started her own business, selling discontinued merchandise. I'm sure that she sells other brands besides ours.
In January, we came out with a cute new bedding program called "Happy Bug". All the nursery items sold out within three weeks. It was amazing. People, especially those on our Baby Registry, were really MAD. They didn't have a chance to buy what they wanted!! (When items are put on the registry, items are not pulled from inventory, but people are warned that some bedding programs are seasonal and may not last nine months.)
Then we had the Baby Boat nursery bedding program. Again, sold out within a few weeks. We then caught on, when P.L. ordered the last 50 Baby Boat Bumpers in the inventory.
Apparently, P.L. and the others have changed tactics.
They are now buying the items at full price. They are putting the bedding together as packages (bumper, sheet, quilt, etc.) to sell on Ebay. A few days ago there were sets selling for almost $600. At the moment there are mostly odds-n-ends from the series, including things that we didn't sell at all, like a step stool someone painted and then put the sheet material on top.
So, we have irate moms, pregnant women and grandmothers calling. "It's gone ALREADY!?!" And the Baby Registry women are particularly upset, and I don't blame them*.
There's nothing illegal about it. P.L. and the other entrepreneurs counted on these desparate women paying anything to get these items. Looks like they were right.
Took us totally by surprise. Not sure what Corporate is going to do, or if there is anything they can do. Some of my coworkers (and shareholders) have said "as long as we sell our stuff, why should we care?" I tell them that while we can be satisfied that we are selling out, we can't be satisfied that we are pissing people off. Williams-Sonoma and it's other brands (Pottery Barn, Hold Everything, West Elm, PB Kids, PB Bed+Bath, PB Teen and WS Home) do not generally advertise in the media. Word-of-mouth counts big-time for us. Angry people tell their friends, who tell their friends . . . Not good for business, in my opinion.
And no, we can't have more made now. The soonest we can ever have things repeat is the next year. As we speak, the designers and buyers are working on Spring & Summer of 2006. Christmas is in the can, so to speak. The vendors are making the next season's bunch of products already. (Think about how swimsuits are in the stores in January and sweaters in July or August.)
*Actually, I think they're silly, but the bedding is really cute. I was a yard sale crib, Kmart bedding shopper. However, I DO think that if we're going to offer a registry, then we should try harder to make sure that they can get what they want.