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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

Auctioneers have to excite their bidders?

Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO Mike Jeffries recently commented about his company not carrying XL or XXL size clothing for women:

Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either,

Interesting, and worthy of further study in regard to the auction industry.

Many auction companies tend to specialize. One auctioneer may only sell cars, another only jewelry, another only high-end real estate, and so forth.

Therefore, our “jewelry-only” auctioneer might well refer a client with 100’s of cast iron pans to another auctioneer — because they want to be known for only selling jewelry.

The premise appears to be that if an auctioneer is known for selling “only… whatever” then when someone has some of that whatever, an auctioneer specializing in that type of property is more likely to secure the consignment.

Presumably, the public tends to think that if an auctioneer only sells jewelry, for example, then they would have expertise to sell their jewelry.

However, is there more to the story? It appears so.

Would this jewelry consignment actually sell for more with the jewelry-only auctioneer than it would with say a livestock auctioneer, even if the marketing, promotion and management of the auction was identical?

In other words, are jewelry bidders more excited about this jewelry consignment with the jewelry-only auctioneer than they would be with the livestock auctioneer?

Would Mike Jeffries say that an auctioneer who sells “everything” probably isn’t doing as well as an auctioneer tending to specialize — one who caters to some particular sellers, and likely alienates others? Probably.

We previously wrote about specialty auctions and concluded that with other items, it was probably better for the seller if these items sell along with other, dissimilar items.

However, our question here is if there are not any dissimilar items … and regards the potential difference between having an auctioneer with a particular specialty versus an auctioneer who — as Mike Jeffries puts it — tries to “target everybody,” in relation to net seller benefit.

It is certainly just as conceivable that a jewelry-only auctioneer might have a mailing list and/or a prior bidder database of jewelry buyers as it is conceivable that our livestock auctioneer would not. As well, a jewelry-only auctioneer would likely have expertise — more easily recognizing differing carat weights, gold composition and the like than our livestock auctioneer.

But, could an auctioneer who specializes in livestock research jewelry sufficiency (or partner up with someone with expertise) to conduct an auction just as successfully as our jewelry-only auctioneer? I tend to think so.

We would conclude that while a jewelry-only auctioneer may have more expertise and prior bidder data than our livestock auctioneer — we would not necessarily conclude that the bidders at the jewelry-only auctioneer’s auction would be any more excited than at our livestock auctioneer’s auction.

Auctioneers are agile. Many sell cars one day, antiques and collectibles the next day, and real estate the next … while others tend to specialize. And it appears that in both of these business plans, sellers are well served with good results.

The auctioneer industry has changed materially since the Internet. In this regard, any auctioneer can reach virtually any potential buyer via websites and email. As well, technology today allows mailings to select geographic regions or other demographic. Bidders can easily search the Internet for property as well, essentially allowing a “push/pull” type market — bidders looking for property and property looking for bidders.

It appears auctioneers specializing tend to attract sellers with certain property; however, it does not appear those auctioneers do materially better for those sellers than those conducted by non-specializing auctioneers. And, bidder excitement seems about the same at all types of auctions.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.

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