DICKINSON, Texas – While the business pages are filled with stories about a collapsed housing market, massive job layoffs and an economy in seeming free-fall, LL Auctions reports it is off to a record start so far for 2009. The firm specializes in estates, personal property and business liquidation auctions. Its next big sale will go online April 21, at www.texas-auctions.com.
“When the economy started to sag a few years ago, we made the decision to refocus our direction and make more options available to sellers. We began offering online-only auctions as a way to get more items out to a larger pool of bidders. It’s a strategy that worked,” remarked Lisa Gay, owner of LL Auctions.
Gay explained that part of her success lies in the fact that, in rough financial times, sellers are plentiful. “Since money is tight,” she said, “people look around for things they can convert into quick cash. They need money, and they need it now. That’s where we come in.”
LL Auctions first introduced the online-only option about three years ago. And, while the firm still conducts traditional live auctions, the online-only component of its buisness model has carried it through what has been a rough patch for many other auction houses. “Technology has changed the industry forever,” Gay said. “Auctioneers who haven’t recognized this fact are in for tough times.”
Last year, online-only auctions comprised about 80 percent of LL Auctions’ business. For 2009, Gay estimates that figure will jump to 90 percent. “We are seeing people buy online who had never been to an auction before, but who had heard about us from a friend,” she said. “Folks won’t drive 60 miles to sit and wait for that one item to come up for bid. But they will sit at their computers and bid.”
Many of LL Auctions’ new customers have been younger people, in the 18-35 age range. “This is the generation that grew up with computers and the Internet,” she pointed out. “It only follows they would embrace online auctions. Many have never been to a live auction, but they’re completely comfortable bidding through a computer.”
What may be more surprising is what these new bidders (and many veterans, too) are bidding on. “People are looking for things they need, but they’re also looking for bargains,” Gay said. “Suddenly, that lithograph or figurine that would have sold for big bucks several years ago is taking a back seat to practical, everyday, useful items, like washers, dryers, microwaves and chests of drawers.”
That’s right, people are buying gently used washing machines online, at auction prices that can seem supremely appealing when compared to even a discount outlet. “It’s certainly a better value than a new appliance bought from a showroom or furniture store,” Gay stated.
Appliances are a current hot-item category, Gay said. She named a couple of bargains from recent online auctions: a stainless steel microwave oven ($83) and a stainless steel refrigerator ($810). Meanwhile, a Fenton glassware Persian Medallion bowl brought $145, while a pair of Frankoma urns realized $79. “So you see, the great deals can be had in a broad range of categories,” Gay added.
She continued, “The fun part of an auction is that you never know what’s going to come up in the next one. Every auction is different from the one before it, and the variety is almost limitless. ”
Gay was quick to point out that, no matter how high-spirited the sale itself, the current economic climate has produced auctions born of hardship and emotional pain. “For some of our sellers, any government help is already too late,” she said. “They are facing foreclosure and have to liquidate. For them to sit by and watch as their precious belongings and memories are sold is heart-wrenching.”
LL Auctions is a full-service auction company. The firm conducts auctions for corporations, privately-held companies, law firms, individuals and not-for-profits across Texas. It also assists with specialty auctions in other states. LL Auctions uses all available means possible to sell clients’ items, to include an extensive mailing list of potential buyers and a heavy focus on advertising and networking.
Gay is a graduate of the Southeastern School of Auctioneering in South Carolina. She holds a Texas auctioneer license. She also serves on the board of directors as the Texas Auctioneers Association president-elect and is an active member of the National Auctioneers Association (NAA). She also serves on the editorial board of the official NAA magazine, Auctioneer. In June, Gay will become the first-ever female president of the Texas Auctioneers Association.