Powerful upsurge in bidding from China helps push 2013 online sales to $222.5M
LiveAuctioneers, the world's most trusted Internet live-bidding platform for fine art, antiques and collectibles, recorded its best year ever in 2013, with gross online sales of $222.5 million. Founded in November 2002, the privately owned Manhattan-based company has maintained profitability literally since its inception.
"While LiveAuctioneers has enjoyed a phenomenal growth rate that has defied all economic downturns over the past eleven years, 2013 was, by far, our most successful year to date," said LiveAuctioneers CEO Julian R. Ellison. "We're in super-growth mode for 2014, with plans to introduce many exciting new online products and services over the next 12 months."
During 2013, there were 37.6 million visits to LiveAuctioneers' website, with the number of unique visitors jumping 11% over the prior year. It was a year of substantial growth in mobile use, as well. In the fourth quarter alone, mobile visits rose by 28.72% compared to those of Q4 2012, while tablet visits surged nearly 32%.
Ellison attributes LiveAuctioneers' seemingly unstoppable success to several factors, not the least of which is the company's emphasis on allowing its sellers total flexibility to choose how they wish to market themselves. Specifically, LiveAuctioneers championed non-exclusivity for auction houses and other sellers at a time when competing platforms were saddling clients with restrictive policies that hampered their ability to grow and prosper, Ellison said.
"Any platform that bundles its products into exclusive contracts is making a tacit statement that they can't survive in a open-market environment - and in such cases, the party that always suffers is the seller," said Ellison. "If a provider holds its sellers hostage by forcing them into exclusive contracts, then where is the incentive to provide better customer service or invest in new technologies and products to benefit those clients? We want our sellers to be successful. They're free to use multiple live-bidding platforms simultaneously. We're not afraid for them to try them all. They'll soon see which one brings them the most traffic and bids - LiveAuctioneers."
Seller confidence throughout 2013 was evidenced by the 27% growth in catalog listings appearing on LiveAuctioneers as compared to 2012. Last year 3,657,074 items were listed in auctions utilizing LiveAuctioneers, while the prior year's total was 2,881,369.
In 2013, LiveAuctioneers' brand identity took flight worldwide, as reflected by the 70% increase in direct traffic over that of 2012. "This metric measures the number of visitors who type the site address directly into their browser or click on a bookmark," Ellison explained. "In just twelve months, our direct traffic went from 6.4 million to 10.9 million visits."
Recently released data* confirming that China led the world in art purchases in 2013 ($4.078 billion) was consistent with statistics and trends recorded by LiveAuctioneers. Last year on the website, the number of executed bids from China-based users increased by 37% over the prior year. Also in 2013, the number of registered users in China rose by 43% and auction signups climbed 35% as compared to the previous year.
Asian antiques claimed seven out of the year's top 10 slots for highest-priced items sold online through LiveAuctioneers. Highlights included:
A pair of Chinese blue and white porcelain shallow bowls with reign marks
(William H. Bunch Auctions & Appraisals) $196,800
18th-century Chinese carved rhinoceros-horn libation cup
(Neal Auction Co.) $184,500
Chinese Qing Dynasty 25¼in carved rhinoceros horn
(California Asian Art Auction Gallery USA) $181,900
Another category that landed firmly in the top 10 - including the coveted No. 1 slot - was rare and important cameras. Two notable items were:
1995 Leica M6 platinum camera, Sultan of Brunei 50th-birthday edition
(L & H Auction) $602,642
Alfred Eisenstaedt's 1937 Leica IIIa camera with which he took the iconic V-J Day photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square
(Westlicht Photographica Auction) $159,698
As any auctioneer will attest, the second-most-important person at any auction is the underbidder - the competitor who places the last non-successful bid before the winner's bid is accepted as unchallenged and final. "That's a part of the auction process where LiveAuctioneers consistently steps to the head of the class," said Ellison. "Time after time in auctions held last year, underbids placed through LiveAuctioneers helped push the prices on art and antiques to new levels. The impact was irrefutable."
In 2013, several underbids of $1 million or more were placed through LiveAuctioneers. They included:
$2,052,071 underbid on 12-shutter Homu wood screen
May 22, Cambi Auctioneers
$1,600,000 underbid on Lu Yanshao ink and color artwork
Dec. 8, Maple Auction Galleries
$1,250,000 underbid on Zhao Ziang painting
June 29, Maple Auction Galleries
LiveAuctioneers concluded its banner year with particularly strong fourth-quarter results. The 2,092 auctions scheduled through LiveAuctioneers during the months of October, November and December attracted 6.2 million unique visitors and prompted 85.5 million page views. Significantly, visitors to LiveAuctioneers' online catalogs spent, on average, 27.46% more time browsing than they did in Q4 2012. This resulted in gross fourth-quarter sales of $65.8 million.
* Artprice via Agence France Presse