• gerard van weyenbergh

In France, war of online auction platforms, worldwide event?

In the age of Covid, online auctions are exploding, and everyone wants their piece of the pie. In France, the aggregators Drouot Digital and Interencheres are trying to lock their position.

Since the containment this spring, online auction platforms (or sales aggregators) have been waging a relentless war to retain auction houses. The crisis has indeed led to an increase in bidders on the "live", parallel to the development of sales "in camera live", and the increase in completely dematerialized sales ("online-only") on certain categories of objects.

While the vast majority of auction houses have a showcase site announcing their future vacancies, only a few have developed their own technology in-house, such as Millon, Christie's, Sotheby's, or even Rouillac. From simple publication of catalogs to live retransmission of the physical sale via the "online-only", the others rely on these platforms. And there are many: the French Drouot Digital, Interencheres and Auction.fr, the American sites Invaluable and LiveAuctioneers, The Saleroom (English), or even Lot-tissimo (German).

As for the bidders, this profusion of offers does not pose a real problem because they tend to favor only one site, "otherwise, we are scattered and we waste a lot of time! » dixit Considers Claude-Hubert Lecarpentier. In terms of auction houses, on the French market, they are at the center of a real war that is played out mainly between Drouot Digital (589 partner auction houses, of which 202 are French, two thirds in the provinces) and Interencheres (318 exclusively French member houses, including 37 Parisians).

Broadcast as many sales as possible "live".

In addition to putting sales catalogs online, creating and managing websites, and "online-only" sales (that is to say, online-only, a service that will soon arrive at Interencheres), the two platforms offer a live broadcast of sales. "In terms of new members, we're almost at a ceiling, so we're focusing more on converting their sales to live," says Bénédicte Valton de Jorna, Sales and Marketing Director at Interencheres. The platforms are now fighting to broadcast the auctions "live". "Since confinement, it has become the real issue of tomorrow. During our "Garden party" sale at the beginning of October - for the first time we were broadcasting simultaneously on Drouot Digital, Interencheres and Rouillac Live. There were only 100 people in the theater and 2,000 active on the "live"! », Reports auctioneer Aymeric Rouillac.

"In France, far too many players share a fairly narrow market in terms of value," observes Jean-Christophe Defline, president of Auction.fr, whose "live" is more focused on Europe, especially the markets. Belgian, Swiss, and Luxembourgish. "We all want to broadcast the same sales, the volume of which per year is not expandable, so inevitably, it's war! ", confirms Olivier Lange, Managing Director of Drouot. The stake is naturally "in fine" financial because these platforms are remunerated on the auctions. The sales charges levied by Drouot Digital went from 0 to 1.5%, while other platforms do not hesitate to go up to 5% (3% at Interencheres).

The business strategies are different, however. At Interencheres, only auctioneers with both judicial and voluntary hats - and in the same place - can access it. This "lockdown" is a concern to many judicial auctioneers, especially those appointed following the Macron law . "Interencheres set absurd rules, shooting the new generation in the foot in the process of taking hold. I cannot be on Interencheres and work on my judicial part because I do not have my voluntary section's accounting headquarters in the same department as my judicial section 40 km away. The judicial officers, much more numerous than us, will take the market", laments the auctioneer Florence Cabarrouy (Basque Coast Auctions).

© Le Journal des Arts