When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States, we saw empty shelves at the grocery stores as people focused on purchasing food, cleaning supplies, and other necessities for survival. As weeks went by, even after the shelter-at-home mandates were lifted, people began focusing on recreating spaces in their homes and finding new ways to enjoy entertainment outside, where it was less likely to contract the virus.
As a full-service auction house going through a global pandemic for the first time, we had an idea of which items would be in demand. However, we weren’t sure how bidders would react, especially because the economy was in so much turmoil.
It turns out, our weekly online auctions have yielded robust results, which parallels what’s happening nationally. According to a Digital Commerce 360 analysis, visits to the top 2000 North American ecommerce sites jumped 19 percent collectively and 125 percent on average between March and June 2020 compared with that same period a year ago.
Since the pandemic began, demand has surged for these items:
Boats: While there has been an increase for demand for all sporting goods, like camping gear, trampolines, roller skates, and fishing equipment, sales for boats have been off the charts. According to the National Marine Association, total new boat sales in May were the highest in a decade. Here at our auction house, we’re seeing an increased demand for all types of watercraft, from kayaks and jet skis to power boats and water sports gear.
Bicycles: I read recently that some experts are saying bikes are “the new toilet paper.” There’s a huge shortage, with some on back order until 2021. Back in April, national sales of bikes, helmets and other accessories reached $1 billion, nearly double of what sales were the year prior. It’s no wonder people are turning to auction houses to find bicycles and gear. Many of the bikes we receive are in mint or near-new condition. We also have a strong demand for vintage bicycles.
Home and Design Products: Not only are people redecorating by switching out their art and other home décor, sales of outdoor furniture and accessories have seen unprecedented growth as people create fresh new looks for their patios, decks, and gardens.
Firearms: Guns and ammunition sales have been on the rise since March, particularly among first-time buyers. Nationally, gun purchase background checks have increased 69 percent since last year and checks for handgun purchases are up over 80 percent from 2019.
No matter what type of item you are seeking, don’t discount the secondary market. Do your due diligence in researching auction houses and the auction history of the items you are interested in buying. Most reputable auction houses also offer a free preview a few days before the online auction begins. And if you can’t inspect an item in person before the auction begins, check the online catalog for photos and request a condition report from the auction house.
Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale.