Edmonton area auction house breaks company's attendance record with online-only auction

Nisku-based auction house Ritchie Bros. set an attendance record in its online-only auction of heavy machinery items last week.

The pandemic forced the company to pivot to an online-only auction that ran from May 11-15.

More than 23,500 people registered from 58 different countries to bid on a variety of items.

"The interesting thing for us was just to see that there is still a lot of demand out there for assets," said Brian Glen, Ritchie Bros. chief sales officer.

Almost 10,700 items sold for $184 million to people around the world in last week's auction.

Close to 10,000 people were able to inspect the items at the company's yard weeks prior to the auction, with off-duty firefighters manning the gates and ensuring social distancing rules were followed.

The majority of the items sold were construction or oilfield transportation-related.

"Obviously the oil and gas sector is under a lot of pressure right now. So companies are certainly positioning themselves for life at the end of the tunnel," Glenn said.

Ritchie Bros.

He said the auctions get a lot of attention from companies in the United Arab Emirates, Germany, the U.S. and Australia. Some of them are looking to bank on Alberta oilfield transportation companies downsizing during the province's current economy.

But in this auction, 87 per cent of the items were sold to Canadians, almost half purchased by Albertans specifically. 

"We also sold some oilfield transportation assets for a couple of different companies that ... their work projections for the next few months are very low so to speak," Glenn said.

"So they're looking to turn underutilized assets into cash to reposition their portfolio to I guess better be prepared for when the lights do come back on in that sector."

The online-only model has been a success so far, and Ritchie Bros will continue to use it for the time being.

Glenn says it may even be the norm for the company when the pandemic ends.