Amazon gives shoppers the option to haggle on collectibles, fine art

It's not quite eBay, but Amazon is giving a little more power to buyers and sellers by giving them grounds to negotiate prices.

Clinton Nguyen
Amazon allows its users to make offers on more expensive fine arts and collectible pieces

Care for a $25,010 used jersey worn by Derek Jeter, anyone? You can haggle.

Amazon is rolling out a new “Make an Offer” feature on its seller market today. This will enable shoppers to negotiate prices on some 150,000 items put up by Amazon sellers.

But is it treading onto eBay’s stomping grounds?

Probably not, at least for now. The online retailer says that it has enabled the feature in only a few categories: Sports and entertainment collectibles, collectible coins, and fine art. In other words, memorabilia and arts. It’s a little closer to an online Sotheby’s than a direct eBay competitor, in that sense. The company says it will expand the feature to hundreds of thousands of more products by 2015.

Peter Faricy, vice president of Amazon Marketplace, says that the feature is geared toward “customers looking for great prices on one-of-a-kind items, and for sellers looking to communicate and negotiate directly with customers in an online marketplace environment just like they do normally in their own physical store or gallery.”

The decision to introduce this feature was based on seller feedback. “In a recent survey of our sellers, nearly half of the respondents told us that the ability to negotiate prices with customers would be important to drive more sales on Amazon,” says Faricy.

The feature works similarly to eBay’s offer button. The "Make an Offer" option is included on the right side of a product page. When a buyer makes an offer, it’s sent off to the seller via e-mail, where he or she can accept, reject, or return with a counteroffer within 72 hours. When the offer is accepted, the item will be added to the buyer’s shopping cart with the adjusted price.

The company points out that the feature doesn’t aim for an auction format and that offers will only be visible between the buyer and the seller.

“At this point we are still in the pilot phase and we’re working in those three exclusive categories,” says Erik Fairleigh, spokesman for Amazon. Mr. Fairleigh said that the "Make an Offer" feature will be self-servicing for all vendors of fine arts, sports collectables, and coins in 2015, expanding beyond the initial 150,000.

It also comes at a time when Amazon is looking to expand its sales platform beyond its already hefty catalog, onto larger scale purchases. Amazon takes a cut out of seller commissions via referral fees, ranging anywhere from 20 percent on sports collectibles to 5 percent. The more expensive the item, the smaller cut Amazon will take. Third party sales account for about 40 percent of its quarterly unit sales, according to Reuters, which means that any flexibility the company offers to its sellers to increase the volume of its sales can only help boost that up.

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