Bidding to take advantage of sales power of the Internet, Potomac Mills mall is linking up with popular auction Web site eBay to generate some online buzz during the holiday shopping season.
The mall's owner, Mills Corp., of Arlington, said last week that it and eBay will hold simultaneous auctions Saturday. Mills will hold its auctions off-line at its locations in Potomac Mills, Ontario Mills in Los Angeles and Gurnee Mills in Chicago, and separate online auctions of the same merchandise will be held on eBay at the same time.
All proceeds from the auctions of the merchandise will go to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations.
The Mills deal with eBay includes a "Shopping With the Mills" auction to be featured on the eBay Web site, where the Mills malls will auction off special packages of items on the Web site.
With the holiday shopping season in full swing, both eBay and Mills are looking for ways to attract more consumers.
"It's an experimental marketing effort," said Mark Rivers, Mills executive vice president. A partnership such as this one will bring shoppers who might have bought items at Potomac Mills, for instance, but never checked out eBay.
Sonny Seals, a retail consultant with A.T. Kearney in Atlanta, said both Mills and eBay will use the deal to accomplish different objects. For eBay, it gives the auction site the ability to sell its own merchandise to consumers. EBay typically is just a forum for consumers to sell to each other.
"For [the Mills malls], it's just another e-commerce channel that didn't exist before," he said.
Rivers said the site Mills chose is among the most powerful on the Internet. "We're going into it with the granddaddy of online auctioning," he said. "EBay is a powerhouse and Internet phenomenon."
But where the affiliation goes from there remains to be seen. "It's really an experimental marketing effort," Rivers said. "I think it could be the start of a new trend with live auctions that will have some entertainment value associated with them."
Davis agreed, saying the events this weekend will be a test to learn how to bring unusual purchasing to the consumers.
"The auctions [on eBay] have become a form of commerce, but also entertainment," Rivers said. "We're going to bring that same intrigue and excitement to Potomac Mills."
The Mills malls and eBay have joined forces to auction existing eBay merchandise and collectibles items from both eBay and the Mills malls. The auctions also will sell Mills merchandise with a twist, such a gift certificate to a store in the Mills Nashville mall paired with a trip to Nashville.
"We're really trying to make the merchandise special, so it might be a gift certificate, but along with a trip. Or a skateboard, but signed by Tony Hawk," Rivers said, referring to the well-known professional skateboarder.
This is the first time that eBay has partnered with a traditional retail company to market both off-line auction and for eBay's online auctions.
Mills and eBay "have a similar vision of where on- and off-line retail is going to go," said Jim Davis, vice president of marketing for San Jose-based eBay. "We were looking for a partner that would fit with eBay and its unique items that are not just retail items."
Davis said eBay was hoping to match up with a retail operation around the holidays.
Also beginning on Saturday, eBay's Web site will auction "Shopping Adventures With the Mills," in which eBay users will be able to bid on shopping sprees, collectibles, trips and other Mills-related experiences.
An example of the packages offered is the "Wilderness Blast," a $500 shopping spree at North Carolina Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Concord Mills and fly fishing lessons in the Smoky Mountains.
CAPTION: With holiday shopping in full swing, Potomac Mills and Web site eBay are teaming up to lure consumers, holding off-line and online auctions simultaneously.