23 Aug 2022

Business Insights from Online Auction Host

Hermès bag, Autumn 2021 ad campaign

Many retailers face difficulties when navigating and managing their online presence. Selling digitally has many advantages, from being able to reach customers worldwide to minimizing the impact of rising bricks and mortar costs.  We talked with Alexandra Whittaker, PR at Fellows Auctioneers, to learn more about their online business model. 


When did you start doing the Designer Collection Auction?

We used to sell vintage handbags and accessories in our Vintage Costume Jewellery auctions. These pieces became increasingly popular so we started a new department and auction called The Designer Collection in April 2016.


What’s the most expensive designer bag ever sold at Fellows?

It was a Birkin (of course!) and we sold it for £23,606.


How do you ensure the authenticity of luxury brands?

Our specialists use their knowledge and experience to authenticate all the items in our auctions, whether it is a watch, a handbag or a painting. They examine the piece and ensure that all the key indicators are there. This varies from brand to brand, but you would be surprised at some of the fakes we see.


You host viewings for the Design Collection in Birmingham and London, which are also offered virtually via zoom. Do people prefer to attend online or in person?

About 90% of our buyers will be completely online. Many are based miles away from our offices so it wouldn’t make sense for them to travel to us. We have customers all over the world, from Australia to America and everywhere in-between.


Your bidding service is online only. What issues did you have to overcome to make it successful?

We have invested heavily in our infrastructure to produce the best customer service experience possible. We offer virtual viewings so people can have a personalised one-on-one shopping experience with our specialists. All of our auction catalogues have multiple images per lot as standard, as well as in depth condition reports.

We made the decision to ship internationally for free for the majority of our auctions, and it is one of the most commented on features in our reviews . The biggest issue for us is man power. It takes a lot of people and time to make everything run smoothly, but luckily the team is dedicated and extremely hard working.


What’s your digital marketing strategy to drive the right people to your website, and for them participate in the auction?

We use social media a lot to showcase not only the products for sale but also our team members. It is the specialist knowledge that sets a reputable auction house above the rest.


Do you have any business partnerships in place to widen your reach?

We work with multiple auction aggregator platforms.


How about brand ambassadors? Do you use influencer services to drive engagement?

Yes. We work with influencers to promote our auctions. Our aim is to demystify the auction process and we feel that brand ambassadors are a good way to do that.


Do you have a strategy for international markets or are you more focused on the UK?

Our free shipping offer applies globally and we see that a lot of our international customers really appreciate it. We also have a currency converter function on our website as well as on the auction room feed during a live auction. A few of our international customers will take telephone bids in different languages which we try to accommodate as far as possible.


Are all pieces secondhand? If yes, is circular fashion part of your marketing communications?

Yes! Auctions are the ultimate sustainable fashion source. We love preowned items and see the trend in sustainability within the fashion world as a very good thing for the world (as well as for bargain savvy shoppers).



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