Bricks and mortar auction houses are going, going, gone

Catawiki, the fastest growing online auction house in Europe, has today announced its ambitions to take on bricks and mortar salerooms as it launches into the UK. Traditional auction houses have so far failed to attract UK collectors online due to segmented audiences and the infrequency of auctions. Catawiki is set to open up the auction market with cross-selling opportunities across categories, offering buyers and sellers access to over 25,000 lots for auction across more than 80 categories every week. Current online auction formats have not yet presented a major challenge to the bricks and mortar industry as their ‘marketplace’ model offers little reassurance for buyers looking to source collectables. Catawiki’s fully curated auction platform sees each item valued by an expert auctioneer, providing ‘digital bidding with confidence’ for the first time on specialist and high value items usually reserved for salerooms. The Dutch firm, which launched in 2008, has experienced exponential growth over the past four years, and now receives 12 million visitors to the site every month. Buyers and sellers of special objects and collectables are migrating online to find bigger global audiences resulting in higher value sales and lower commissions. Britain has long been an international hub for buying and selling amongst major collector categories including modern art, antiques and classic cars, but until now has not had access to a swift, secure and easy to use platform that reaches a wide audience. With multi-currency bidding and buying on Catawiki now available, and expert auctioneers curating and supervising all auctions, the start-up represents the first major challenge to the traditional auction house as it lays out plans to persuade UK collectors online. Ben Fried, Catawiki General Manager said: “Traditionally, collectors have been reluctant to buy and sell online with traditional auction houses due to a poor experience, high fees and a lack of choice. “Our business model is designed to fill the gap where other ‘online auctions’ have failed so far by offering complete confidence in the buying and selling process. By using our specialist auctioneers to create carefully curated auctions, we offer buyers and sellers the confidence to trade high value goods and collectables. ” The Dutch start-up, which last week topped the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 EMEA for the region’s fastest-growing business, will initially be hiring 20 employees in the UK to curate dedicated online auctions, with further expansion plans in the pipeline over the next 12 months. High profile lots have included the most expensive Lego set ever sold and a complete skeleton of a pterosaur dinosaur, which was sold for over £100,000. The most expensive lot ever auctioned on Catawiki was a 1960 Porsche 356 Roadstar D Super 90, which was bought for over £115,000. The expansion will be funded with some of the proceeds from the $82m (£54m) funding that Catawiki closed in July, the third highest single investment ever raised by an internet start-up in the Netherlands. *Based on the eligibility criteria for the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 EMEA