If millennials are “killing” Costco, will millennials kill live auctions? That was essentially the question. This inquiry was in regard to a Washington Post article by Abha Bhattarai about millennials and Costco (and the overall implications of millennial shopping habits.)
Stacy Schulz is quoted in the article which more or less summarizes the author’s apparent conclusion; Stacy says her children aged 11 to 17 have smartphones and are no longer interested in regular trips to any wholesale store. Instead, they do their shopping online, using those smartphones:
It’s like, I’m basically a walking commercial for Costco, but I look at my kids, and they just want to do everything on Amazon,” said Schulz, 50. “And it’s the same when I go to Sam’s Club: I look around, and it’s all people in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
It’s somewhat interesting that any auctioneer would read this article and think that Stacy’s same 11-17 year-olds will kill (solely) the live auction business. I can assure all the doubting online auctioneers in the United States that the live auction business isn’t going anywhere — and it’s curious some look for reasons it will fail.
On the contrary, if auctioneers really want to worry about something — I think all auctioneers (live and online) can worry the current auction marketing model in the United States doesn’t match at all with the buying habits of Stacy’s kids … and increasingly even Stacy.
Stacy’s kids admittedly want to use their smartphones to buy things rather than go to a large superstore. However, Stacy’s kids likely look for products (goods) online that can be shipped or delivered in hours — not days, weeks, or later. Secondly, Stacy’s kids want a guarantee, warranty, loyalty points or rewards and a no-hassle return policy if they’re not happy.
In other words, for most 11-17 year-olds like Stacy’s, buying something on their smartphone isn’t merely discouraging them from attending a live auction, but also driving them away from online auctions to sites like Amazon and the like who can deliver on their wants and needs.
Further, for any 11-17-23-29-35-41-47-53-59-65-71-77-83-89-95-101 year old, a live and/or online auction is the answer when that auction has property (real or personal) which that buyer cannot find elsewhere. As such, the friction to buy “whatever” is typically countered sufficiently by demand and the prospect of a deal.
With an auction house in the 14th largest city in the United States, we regularly have young people attend our live auctions who tell me buying from us is much quicker and safer than buying online … and waiting … for the same item. Live auctions are more expeditious than online auctions (and even Amazon) for people in the immediate area, and our caterer has far better food than either.
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, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.