I was astonished by news this week that an online auction site for cars had notched up over £1 billion in sales so far. The site in question, Car Dealer, launched in 2010, so it has had seven years to do this, but nevertheless, it is probably only in the last four or five years that online bidding for items costing thousands of pounds has really taken off, so it would be interesting to see how much of that £1 billion has been turned over during the last two or three years. One news report said that year-on-year growth was 11.5%, but didn’t specify what that growth referred to. Was it growth by unit volume or value?
This year’s Hiscox Online Art Trade Report recorded a 15% rise in global art and antiques sales online at $3.75 billion (currently about £2.9 billion), but that’s for everyone. The report predicts that if this trajectory continues it will be over $9 billion by 2021. Perhaps most interestingly, Christie’s, the biggest player in the field, reported an 84% rise in online sales to £49.8m for 2016, while its sales overall sales for the year fell 16% to £4 billion.
So it looks like the trend in the auction market is inexorably online. Not to worry, though; despite this almost no one is talking about getting rid of bricks and mortar auction rooms – they’re just too much fun to visit.