This post is going to be somewhat vague (and a little weird), but I want to be up front with an issue that pops up from time to time in our industry from a business person's point of view.
I have used eBay as a way to clear excess inventory for over ten years now and have most recently started moving most of my operations (at full retail price) to eBay. (You can find me at stores.ebay.com/Shakespeares-Peddler.)
Once in a while, I hear from a distributor or designer who is upset about the way I am selling her product (whether that be on my web site or elsewhere.) It has come to my attention that some shops are complaining to at least one of my distributors about the fact I am using eBay to sell merchandise (most of this merchandise is at full retail price; certain older items, over-stocks, or otherwise less-desirable items I am offering in auctions.)
Now, one particular distributor has told me she can no longer sell to me, since I use eBay, as other shops have complained. I still have a number of this distributor's products in stock, and am using eBay to sell them, much of it at full retail price. Now, this distributor has told me I have to stop selling anything she wholesales on eBay, and she offered to purchase those items back at wholesale. (Keep in mind, I paid shipping on those items for starters, and would have to pay return shipping, which would mean I would lose money taking this offer.)
This same distributor's products are sold every day at a discount on a number of other stitching web sites. I have never personally agreed with the "everything on sale, every day" business model in our industry. Our mark-up is low compared to other industries, but that decision is each business person's to make. One of the beautiful things about being a small business owner is making your own decisions.
When I started my business 17 years ago, I faced numerous complaints from other shops (and distributors) who felt that online businesses were unfair and hurtful to the industry. However, the shops who did not get on the Internet were the first ones to go out of business. Times change, and so businesses must change, too. Stubbornly hanging onto the past would mean our malls would be filled with buggy whip outlets and top hat stores. (Well, and even then, how much longer will we have local malls?) I have found on eBay that I can reach a much larger group of stitchers world-wide, and the format makes it easier for me to fill orders by taking out a lot of the steps.
No distributor (or designer, or manufacturer) has to agree to sell wholesale (or even retail) to anyone. However, attempting to control the way a product is sold, adherence to terms of sale, limiting discounts, or agreeing to sell something at a common "retail" price is called price fixing and is punishable under the Sherman Antitrust Act, a federal offense. Anyone who would bring such a case before a court and win can collect up to three times the damages sustained, plus full compensation of legal and prosecution fees.
I guess I just wanted to let y'all know that the kind of backstage bickering that goes on sometimes in our industry is not only meddling and counter-productive, it's also misguided, uninformed and potentially illegal. Please know that I am not angry at anyone, nor do I wish anyone any harm. There are so many great shop owners, customers, distributors, designers, and manufacturers out there! And I love you guys!!!