Government Auctions Grow Up - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Other
News
12/15/2003
12:43 PM
50%
50%

Government Auctions Grow Up

In the mood for a bargain? Check out the action on auction sites specializing in government surplus property. There are things here you'll never see on eBay.

In the market for a nearly new power boat? How about 20 acres in New Mexico or a Rolex wristwatch? Or perhaps you're interested in 10 cartons of Chinese medicinal sliced orchid stems or a slightly used strip club in Baltimore. All of these items, and thousands more, are available for purchase at a growing number of Web-based auction sites specializing in government surplus, seized, abandoned, and forfeited products and property.

Government auctions of the "Going, Going, Gone" variety have been around for years, and many still flourish. But the growing use of the Internet as an auction medium, combined with general dissatisfaction at the travel, expense, and effort involved in staging and attending land-based auctions, has led to the growth of the government Web-auction model.

Government agencies of all types, from the U.S. Treasury and U.S. Marshals Service to individual counties, have come to rely on private government auction sites as an efficient way to dispose of billions of dollars of equipment and property quickly, with higher returns than they could realize by selling on their own. Numerous entrepreneurs are happy to oblige while grabbing a piece of the lucrative business--a business that yields returns 25% to 200% higher than traditional auction methods, according to Bill Angrick, CEO of Government Liquidation LLC, a subsidiary of Liquidity Services Inc. And buyers, both individual buyers and small businesses, see Internet-based government auctions as a great way to get bargain-basement prices on a variety of new and used items.

Not only is there a steady stream of products to sell via Internet auction, but entrepreneurs need very little in the way of startup costs and expertise. "Anyone with common sense and some form of capitalization can get into this," says Louis Columbus, a senior analyst at AMR Research Inc.

To succeed when competing against dozens or hundreds of similar sites, however, expertise in dealing with the government, as well as state-of-the-art technology and a unique business model, play key roles, some say.

Few Web-based government auction houses run bare-bones operations, similar to eBay, that simply bring buyers and sellers together. Those that succeed must have a more robust model of some sort, something that appeals to both buyer and seller. GovLiquidation.com, for example, handles the entire asset sale process for its government customers--everything from warehousing and logistics, customer service, and buyer transportation to funds collection, documentation handling, and enforcing unique terms and conditions. Because of its high-touch business model, the site charges a 20%-to-50% commission using a consignment model, depending on services rendered. Angrick considers his site to be a success, noting that auctions have seen as many as 46,000 bids from 1,700 individual bidders in a 48-hour period.

Bid4Assets Inc., a Silver Spring, Md., government-auction house, uses the eBay model, never taking ownership of property. Customers visit Bid4Assets.com to gather information about products and properties. But unlike eBay, the site works like a live auctioneer. "The hammer doesn't come down until the bidding stops," says CEO Richard Hayman. Bid4Assets also provides some value-added services, such as product promotion and customer service for both buyers and sellers, and works on commission.

GovernmentAuctions.org, a subsidiary of Cyweb Holdings Inc., employs yet another business model. The site acts as a clearinghouse for local, state, and federal auctions. Customers pay $39.95 per year to access the listings, which currently consist of about 1,600 live and online government auctions. Once they find items they want, they visit the individual auction sites to carry out the bid process, explains president Ian Aronovich.

Another differentiating factor for these sites is the technology, which, while it may seem simple, can be quite sophisticated. GovernmentAuctions.org, for example, developed a homegrown system based on Active Server Pages, a Microsoft SQL 2000 database, some JavaScript, and VeriSign Inc.'s SSL encryption. The site is managed partly by an outside source and partly internally. GovLiquidation.com also developed its platform in-house at a cost of $5 million to ensure complete control. The site consists of several applications used to receive, manage, sell, track, and audit its clients' inventory and users while stressing security. The system mines about 25 million records daily, Angrick says.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
2020 State of DevOps Report
2020 State of DevOps Report
Download this report today to learn more about the key tools and technologies being utilized, and how organizations deal with the cultural and process changes that DevOps brings. The report also examines the barriers organizations face, as well as the rewards from DevOps including faster application delivery, higher quality products, and quicker recovery from errors in production.
Slideshows
Data Science: How the Pandemic Has Affected 10 Popular Jobs
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  9/9/2020
Commentary
The Growing Security Priority for DevOps and Cloud Migration
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  9/3/2020
Commentary
Dark Side of AI: How to Make Artificial Intelligence Trustworthy
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  9/15/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
IT Automation Transforms Network Management
In this special report we will examine the layers of automation and orchestration in IT operations, and how they can provide high availability and greater scale for modern applications and business demands.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll