Sole trader: how to make money buying footwear on the internet

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The Independent Online

For many women, the sole drawback to collecting designer shoes is the dent it leaves in their bank account.

For many women, the sole drawback to collecting designer shoes is the dent it leaves in their bank account.

But Julie King is not complaining. She has transformed her passion for shoes into an astute business and now earns more than £70,000 a year by buying and selling them in internet auctions.

Ms King is one of a growing army of modern-day entrepreneurs who are earning thousands of pounds via canny online transactions.

The trend is following in the footsteps of internet users in America, where 430,000 small businesses trade on the auction site eBay for a "significant proportion" of their income.

For Ms King, 32, her on-line skills have rewarded her richly. She has been able to give up her job as an IT consultant, pay off her mortgage, spend time with her baby while working from home.

"Like most women, I had too many pairs of shoes and most of them had never been worn," said Ms King, from Shiremoor, North Tyneside.

The idea of making money from selling shoes came to Ms King after buying a Prada handbag online for £150 while she was pregnant at home two years ago.

It swiftly struck her that there was a potential market to exploit, prompting her to set up Killer Heels, which buys designer shoes and bags wholesale before selling them for lower prices.

"The whole thing started off really small," she said. "The first shoes I sold were rainbow striped ankle boots which I bought for £10 but sold on eBay for £25.

"Things began to take off really quickly and I now sell between 150 and 180 shoes a week. It is an opportunity for people to get their hands on designer shoes at low prices."

Since it was launched, turnover for the business has soared to £72,000 a year, enabling her to work from home and spend more time with her baby Lewis, who is now 19 months old.

"It has really taken off beyond my expectations," she said. "We are starting to get repeat customers and build up a customer base and have recently purchased some premises.

"In the future, I'd like to introduce a direct mail order service for people without internet access."

Ms King, who works fewer hours but earns more, is among a growing number of enterprising internet users who have exploited the market potential of trading online.

With millions of shoppers from across the world, internet auction sites have changed the face of shopping and become the ultimate tool in making money online.

From old comics to designer frocks, the eclectic selection of goods available on eBay has confirmed its standing as one of the most popular of its kind.

It was founded in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar, a French software designer who was intent on finding a better way to trade in Pez candy dispensers and has gone from strength to strength.

There are currently more than 104.8 million users registered in 38 countries around the world, with two million items for sale at any given time on the British website.

Its popularity has peaked to such an extent that the nation's first course on buying and selling on eBay was established this year at the University of Birmingham.

And there appears to be little indication of the trend fading.

An estimated 15.6 million credit cardholders spend £16.4bn every year on the internet, according to recent research by MasterCard.