Although 2021 was about as abnormal as 2020, the auction industry experienced a pretty good year.
Younger users are shopping via auction and the popularity of second-hand items has become perfectly acceptable, right up there with vintage designer items. Younger shoppers have taken multiple seats at the auction table in 2021 and high net-worth millennials took some of the top spots at some key auctions. More and more millennials are registering and getting involved in the bidding and buying. Perhaps it is due to being hold up in our homes during the pandemic? Millennials are also much more comfortable buying online than those in their 50’s and 60’s. Oddly though, it is retro and vintage items that are catching the eye of millennials: collectibles like vinyl records, Pokémon and monopoly items were among the most popular.
Eco-conscious millennials appreciated auctions as a sustainable alternative to buying new items, a sentiment also echoed by Gen Z buyers – a 2019 Forbes report found that 62% of Gen Z’s prefer to buy sustainable products. While manufacturing new items creates waste and pollution, auctions provide a chance at a new life for second-hand pieces. Many well-crafted designer items like handbags and watches last a lifetime anyway, so well-preserved pieces are just as good used as they are new.
Items that did especially well were fine jewelry, watches (especially Omega and Rolex) and handbags were some of the most-searched items in 2021. It is thought that many people had extra disposable income from not traveling or going out as much during the pandemic, and auctions provided a safe, fun, and convenient way to get their shopping thrill. Special items like diamonds and limited-edition designer handbags can increase in value, and since many people choose to invest in hard assets during uncertain times, other investment options were concidered during the pandemic. This may have contributed to the rise of new collectors: Auction firms saw that up to 50% of their watch buyers in 2020 were new to the auction market and in 2021 it was even greater. Rolex was one of the top-searched brands in 2021 and Europe had the largest increase in traffic followed by the USA.
Designer handbag buyers also chose to buy luxury items at auction because of convenience of online auctions. Whether the bag is still in production or considered to be vintage and rare, both do well at auction as long as the conditions are good. Designer brands like Hermes are famous for having long waiting lists, so finding your desired bag at an auction is extremely satisfying to buyers.
Redecorating with second-hand furniture has also caused an uptick in the auction game. Intermittent lockdowns forced people to stay home more than usual, and many turned lemons into lemonade taking the opportunity to refurbish and redecorate or create new spaces like home offices. Used furniture and décor were popular categories over 2021 and they’re a sustainable and unique alternative to buying new items.