His electronic store sells used furniture

Rick Elliott shows off an imported box to Web designer Carrie McDougall. The two South Whidbey business people launched a new Web site in September on which people can sell their used furniture. - Matt Johnson
Rick Elliott shows off an imported box to Web designer Carrie McDougall. The two South Whidbey business people launched a new Web site in September on which people can sell their used furniture.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

When buying furniture, Rick Elliott believes the most difficult thing to do — next to choosing the furniture itself — is selling the old stuff to make room for the new.

Sometimes a garage sale is the way to go or, if old furniture is in bad shape, it might leave for college with one of the kids or go to the landfill. These decisions are not too difficult to make.

But then there is the furniture that is too good to sell off the lawn for $5 or place on the curb for garbage day. That is where the Web site Elliott launched this fall comes in.

Elliott, a broker of new furniture who lives in Clinton, said he launched on Sept. 1 as a service to people with good, used furniture who were looking to make room for new couches, chairs and tables. He and Clinton Web site designer Carrie McDougall built a Web site that resembles the most well-known used-stuff site, eBay, and a real-life furniture showroom. Online shoppers can choose rooms in a virtual house, then can look at photos of furniture up for sale.

Though the listing service is inexpensive for furniture sellers, the Web site has solid business underpinnings. Elliott, who sells to a number of furniture showrooms, including the Seattle Design Center, said the only places to sell used furniture priced above the garage sale range has until now been at a consignment store or in a classified newspaper ad.

Both options eat into the profit margin on the furniture, he said. For less than $10, an advertiser can list an item and photo indefinitely, which Elliott said makes a deal.

“I think it’s a service people will benefit from,” Elliott said.

It is also something that will benefit him. If people thinking about buying new furniture know they can get rid of their old things quickly, they are more likely to purchase something from one of Elliott’s showroom customers. The showrooms themselves like to use the service to sell clearance furniture that is not moving out the door.

Others taking advantage of the Web site have been people who want little to do with selling their furniture. For a percentage fee, Elliott and McDougall will complete transactions for advertisers who want anonymity.

For people who have a special item for sale, there is room on the site to provide somewhat lengthy descriptions.

“They can tell the story of their favorite rocking chair if they wish,” he said.

Other sale areas on the site include the “Hall Closet” and “Jewelry Box,” where sellers can list personal items such as fur coats and necklaces. Listings in this area cost the same as any other area in the virtual house — $7.50 for one item, $25 for five items, $20 for the next five, and $2 per item beyond the first 10.

Also advertising on the site are businesses that provide home services. Upholsterers, carpet cleaners, and other advertisers pay $15 a month for an ad.

McDougall said she and Elliott are growing the site slowly to be certain profits keep up with expenses. They are adding states one at a time to the site, which serves seven now and Canada. McDougall said the current economic climate requires them to be careful.

“It’s scary because the dot-com business is a soft market,” she said.

McDougall and Elliot said they look forward to the site gaining a nationwide footing sometime during the next two years.

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