eBay's bid to become the link between big U.S. retailers and Australian customers is off to a less-than-sterling start. On January 18, eBay CEO John Donahoe bragged to an earnings call audience that Macy's used eBay Australia to get a foothold Down Under without creating a brick-and-mortar presence. "Macy's saw that the Australian dollar was very strong," Donahoe said. "The Australian consumers are very open to import and they're looking for brands. And Macy's opened up a store in eBay Australia, and so they're now reaching consumers in Australia on the eBay platform without having to have assets reside in the country."
Well, sort of. Actually, Macys.com was already selling to Australian customers last summer, using third-party vendor FiftyOne to handle shipping, customs, currency issues and customer service. And the Macy's eBay Australia store currently has no products; Macy's spokesman Jim Sluzewski said the eBay store was tested only through the end of 2011 and Macy's is now evaluating its results. So Macy's wasn't depending on eBay to reach Aussies, and the eBay store was already closed when Donahoe did his bragging. Other than that, he got it right—we hope.