Online auctions boost Sotheby’s Asia sales

Auctioneer Sotheby’s saw its Asia sales reach HK$7.2 billion (US$932 million) in 2020, bolstered by a 440% increase in online auctions.

The auction house led sales for international auctioneers in Asia for the fifth consecutive year and posted an 18% lead in market share over its nearest rival. Sotheby’s Asia also sold the top three highest-value lots in Hong Kong auctions through 2020.

Online sales for Sotheby’s Asia rose by 440% in 2020 compared to full-year results in 2019. In total, the auctioneer held 63 digital auctions this year, including its largest online spirits sale comprising more than 130 lots.

In 2020, 55% of lots went to online buyers and the auction house said its clients “demonstrated an increased interest and confidence” in high level online transactions.

Further digital engagement for Sotheby’s Asia came through its live-streamed auction format, which debuted in October. During four evening sales, Sotheby’s offered a live multi-camera feed and enhanced video content, which “generated unprecedented engagement” and attracted two million views.

Through its 2020 auctions, Sotheby’s witnessed the highest average lot value in the past five years, up 24% compared with 2019. Total sales for the year were also 1.5 times the low estimate and 56% of lots in live auctions sold at or above their high estimates.

Sotheby’s also found that nearly 40% of all bidders and buyers through 2020 were new to the company, and more than 30% of bidders and buyers were under 40.

Kevin Ching, CEO, Sotheby’s Asia, said: “2020 has marked a year of unprecedented challenges and yet, we are proud to have continued to deliver strong results that cement Sotheby’s market leading position in Asia for five consecutive years.

“Our exceptional performance was driven by the resilient demand from Asian collectors, Sotheby’s unrivalled expertise and trusted client relationships and, above all, our unrelenting drive to innovate and adapt. From silent auctions, global live streaming to our robust online sales programme, we evolve to meet the needs of our clients in a fast-changing world.

“Our transformations have laid a solid foundation carrying us into 2021, which promises to be an exciting year.”

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Author: Owen Bellwood

Timothy Kelly

Tim is the Founder & Master Distiller at Felene. He developed his passion for the spirits and hospitality business while growing-up and working in his family's restaurant and liquor store business. Tim’s passion for the epicurean lifestyle has found it’s latest manifestation in the Felene Distillery. Tim is a 5-time Gold Medal Award winning Distiller. He has won a Platinum medal at the Prestigious Los Angeles Spirits Awards and his signature vodka was named Best-in-Category by the American Distilling Institute. Mr. Kelly is also a prolific author and writer and his blog is filled with ideas, discoveries, observations and recommendations to help his readers enjoy life’s simple epicurean pleasures.

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