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RealTime IT News

eBay Coming of Age

Auction giant eBay Inc. is taking another step from its beginnings in Pierre Omidyar's living room, this time working a deal with Accenture Ltd. to create a service aimed at helping big companies sell excess merchandise.

The management and technology consulting firm will operate a new service called "Connection to eBay." Launch is planned for the fall.

The concept is to let large corporations -- retailers, manufacturers and distributors -- sell discontinued or out-of-season products on eBay, but spare them the hassle of dealing with listings, answering customer e-mails, uploading photo files, even fulfillment.

eBay , which now claims nearly 46 million registered users, has come a long way from its roots as a marketplace for people who wanted to have a virtual garage sale.

In fact, the company's official history says that "eBay was founded in (Chairman) Pierre Omidyar's San Jose living room back in September 1995. It was from the start meant to be a marketplace for the sale of goods and services for individuals."

But these days many small and mid-size businesses are using eBay to move tons of merchandise, so why not attract larger companies, too?

Accenture, which will own and operate the new service from an office next to eBay's San Jose, Calif. headquarters, estimates that U.S. companies try to sell about $80 billion worth of excess merchandise each year, usually through multiple vendors and distributors. The firm will try to show that eBay offers a more efficient system.

Accenture will get a fee for each product listed, and eBay will collect its usual fees as well, according to an Associated Press report. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it includes a licensing fee from Accenture to eBay.

eBay and Accenture said they conducted extensive market research and field trials and found that merchants "often earn up to twice as much, and sometimes more on each transaction," by selling on eBay as compared to traditional liquidation channels.

The Accenture deal is something of a blow to Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based ChannelAdvisor Corp., an eBay preferred partner that has specialized in bringing brand-name retailers and manufacturers to the eBay marketplace.

"We look forward to vigorously competing with Accenture," said Scot Wingo, CEO and president of ChannelAdvisor. " While they do have a more known brand than ChannelAdvisor, our focus and two years of experience in this field will allow us to continue to dominate the space."

eBay took pains to soften the blow, issuing a statement from a senior veep saying that "ChannelAdvisor is a valued eBay partner, and adding Accenture to our PSP program in no way diminishes ChannelAdvisor's value as an eBay partner."