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EBay Joins Catalog Ranks

Online auctioneer eBay, San Francisco, touches down on the printed page for the first time this week in the eBay Holiday 2004 catalog.

The 32-page color catalog mailed yesterday to several million registered eBay users. It contains 116 items from categories including clothing, accessories, jewelry, computers, electronics, toys, books and video games.

But unlike most catalogs, recipients can't place orders through the book itself. The only way to make a purchase is to go online to eBay.com/catalog.

The items in the catalog are “a representation of what's going to be on the site” and won't necessarily be there when a specific individual visits the site, said Dean Jutilla, eBay's senior manager of corporate communications.

EBay tried to select items for the catalog that would be in high demand for the holidays based on sales trends. It also included a few hard-to-find items such as a signed copy of Bill Clinton's book, “My Life.”

A price is assigned to each item with the explanation that the price could be higher or lower, based on demand, once the shopper goes to eBay.

EBay experienced a jump in sales last year around the holidays. With industry analysts predicting an increase in online sales this holiday season compared with last year, the company produced a catalog to ensure it is top of mind among consumers, Jutilla said.

“This is all part of the marketing effort to encourage shoppers to buy at eBay for their holiday shopping this year,” he continued.

In addition to the product description under each item in the catalog, there is also a suggested series of words that browsers can use to search to go directly to the page on which that item appears.

In some cases, shoppers will be brought to a page with similar items. For example, under the photograph of a vintage brooch in the catalog is the suggestion to search using these words: vintage (brooch*,broach*). This ensures browsers will see several options. It also takes into account that people selling jewelry might misspell the word “brooch.”

EBay is taking a “wait and see” approach with the catalog and any decision to publish further editions, Jutilla said.

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