December 14, 2005

The eBay Heartbeat


Click to see a slightly more readable chart<

Every year, right on schedule, eBay's auction activity drops precipitously -- right before Christmas. And then right after Christmas, like a week later, it rebounds violently, staying up often into the first week of January, often bringing eBay its best business for the year. It's like eBay's heartbeat, watching it ker-plump, ker-plump from year to year.

There's a great little website run by the Medved Quote Tracker folks called "Auction Count Charts" that monitors eBay 24/7/365. They have been since August 1998. The graph above shows from then until now. The graph at the right shows each year's activity.

We're right on the edge of the drop for 2005.

Note how since 2002 the drop has been really severe, particularly 2004, which when you look at it makes it seem like the whole eBay community took a collective gasp for a week and then recovered just like clockwork.

The other thing that's interesting is the year-over-year upward curve is flattening. Is eBay's growth eroding? 2004 was particularly flat compared to previous years.

2005 has two interesring spikes, one in February and one in May -- probably promotions that sellers took advantage of, I'm guessing. The May 2005 spike almost hit twenty million items for sale at one time. Amazing. But it didn't seem to do much to the graph once the promo was over; activity went right back to normal after that.

Note how in the 2001 graph you can see there was even a dip after 9/11, but it corrected pretty quickly.

2002 was nice and quiet, no spikes, just growth, growth, growth. I guess they didn't have to run any major promotions that year. But since then the graphs have been getting noisier while getting flatter -- an effort on eBay's part to stir things up, create more business? Who knows.

So how low will the December Drop be this year? It's already begun. The Medved site shows 16.5 million a week go, dropping to 15 million this week; I suspect it'll drop down to 9 or 10 million before the recovery.

UPDATE 12/23/05
Check it out. Right on schedule. The Drop has happened. Maybe it'll keep dropping!

UPDATE 12/29/05
Check it out. Right on schedule. The REBOUND has happened. Boing! Amazing.

Posted by brian at December 14, 2005 08:30 AM

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