Literally speaking, it has been relatively quiet around Ritchie Bros. auction sites recently. The world’s largest heavy equipment auctioneer is known for its energetic equipment auctions held all over the world with “singing” auctioneers, rolling machinery and big bidding crowds. But the theaters have been empty and will remain empty for now.

Has the industry stopped buying and selling machinery? Quite the contrary. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ritchie Bros. temporarily holds all its auctions via the internet and is currently seeing unprecedented online participation. Businesses continue to buy equipment in great numbers at the auctions.

In 2019 Ritchie Bros. sold $5.1bn worth of machinery, tractors and trucks. Over the last two decades, the company has invested heavily in technology and seen a steady increase in internet participation at its auctions. Alongside bidding in person at the site, new online bidding features and products were developed, such as the Ritchie Bros. mobile app. Nowadays 78% of the winning bids are placed via the website or app.

In March, three of the company’s European auctions were held as online Timed Auctions – an easy to use bidding system, with multiple days of bidding and auction items that close on a set day and time. These Timed Auctions were held in France, the UK, and Germany, and featured 5300+ auction lots; sold on behalf of 460 equipment owners. Ritchie Bros. registered 6200 bidders, more than half of them from abroad.

Notable sales at the March auctions included:

  • A Caterpillar 320EL hydraulic excavator that sold at the Gaillon (France) auction for $83,000 to a bidder from Austria
  • A Volvo EC220EL hydraulic excavator that sold at the Maltby (UK) auction for $56,000 to a bidder from Poland
  • A John Deere 8345R tractor that sold at the Meppen (Germany) auction for $135,000 to a bidder from Romania

Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers in Dubai is all set to conduct its upcoming June sale (29-30 June, 2020) entirely as an online Timed Auction. Eduard Faig, regional sales manager for Ritchie Bros. in the Middle East, says: “Across the world and in the Middle East many businesses are going through challenging times. Our industry is no exception. Ritchie Bros. adapted fast to the changing circumstances, pivoting entirely to online selling at our auctions and marketplaces. Appetite for used equipment remained strong with high online participation and solid price levels.

“Our next auction in Dubai, entirely held online, is shaping up well and still open to equipment owners looking to sell one or more of their machines. With online-only auctions, the biggest thing we are seeing is that demand is still strong across the board, online participation is very high and selling prices are holding up well. Other than that, it is too early to discuss buying trends. We are seeing quality items coming to our auctions and marketplaces. Our upcoming Dubai auction features both used and unused items, with ‘low-hours’ items from top brands. We see especially for these items there is good appetite from the international market.”

Ritchie Bros. offers various selling contracts to its customers, including advance payments and outright purchases. These options can be interesting to businesses looking to convert assets to cash without having to wait for a scheduled auction.

Faig continues: “In a way we are uniquely positioned to connect supply and demand, as well as offer fast liquidity solutions to businesses in these challenging times.”

More people than ever before are buying and selling online, and it seems the industry has caught on. Ritchie Bros. website visits and web account creations increased by 15% and 19% respectively. Its mobile app users have risen perhaps even more dramatically, up 90% year-on-year.

There are dozens of auctions on Ritchie Bros.’ calendar, including in The Netherlands, France, Germany and Italy. In addition, the company is also seeing a growing interest in its subsidiary online equipment marketplace, called Marketplace-E. Items listed here can only be purchased online and sellers can set a reserve price on their items.