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Sotheby's Targets Online Audience Through eBay

Sotheby's Targets Online Audience Through eBay
© Ebay; AFP
August auction house Sotheby's is teaming up with eBay to expand its online reach.

Sotheby’s and eBay will partner in a new online auction venture that will see art, wine and other collectibles auctioned through the popular website.

The companies announced on Monday that a new portal would be added to eBay shortly, tailored to “collectors of rare, unique and premium art and collectibles, as well as first-time buyers”, the companies said.

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Sotheby’s would be the “anchor tenant” of this new online retail space, which will include a new live auction feature and real-time bidding from around the world.

The Sotheby’s auctions will present 18 collecting categories. The partnership will explore themed and time-based sales, and as-live auctions from Sotheby’s other global salesrooms.

“The growth of the art market, new generation technology and our shared strengths make this the right time for this exciting new online opportunity,” said Sotheby’s chief operating officer Bruno Vinciguerra.

“We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world.”

Sotheby’s communications director Andrew Gully said: “An on-line presence can make our sales more accessible to a much larger number of collectors. If only 1 percent of eBay buyers see our auctions, that’s 1.45 million more people.”

Rival Christie’s had a record year in 2013 and explains it by their growth on-line. It has its own on-line auction portal and does certain exclusively on-line sales. Christie’s says that 45 percent of their internet buyers are new clients.

As technology evolves and mobile commerce becomes the norm, collectors are increasingly purchasing high-end items online and even on-the-go from their mobile devices. Both eBay and Sotheby’s will focus on growing the market at price points where they expect their collectors to converge in the future – particularly in the segments such as jewelry, watches, prints, wine, photographs and 20th Century design.

The global art market is currently estimated around $65 billion, with annual online sales far below averages for other luxury goods. Projections show online art sales could reach $13b by 2020.

“We believe there is a great opportunity, through this partnership, to truly make art more accessible to exponentially more collectors. That’s what makes this so exciting,” added Vinciguerra.

Across all of Sotheby’s different sectors, online trade has increased dramatically in the past two years, with online purchases in 2013 up 36 percent over 2012. Mobile traffic in 2014 accounts for 25 percent of total Sotheby’s website traffic.

The U.S. wine auction market grew 22 percent last year to a value of $73.3 million, according to estimates given by leading U.S. wine auction house Hart Davis Hart. Sotheby’s holds an 8.7 percent share of that market at present.

Sotheby’s last wine auction was on June 21 and totaled $1.7m. Almost 40 percent of the lots were bought by online bidders. The company’s next live auctions are July 16 and 17 in London.

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