May  2002



To The Highest 




Selling Building Materials at an Auction 
Could be Another Distribution Point
by Brian Welsh                                                        

One of Peak Auctioneering’s ringmen holds up an item to be auctioned.

It was a misty, rainy Saturday morning in Orange County, N.Y. I arrived at the Orange County Fairgrounds about 8:15 a.m. for an auction that was supposed to start at 9 a.m. I thought I was arriving early, but much to my surprise, I found myself searching for a parking space in a parking lot that was already full of pick-up trucks, trailers, rental trucks and even some 18-wheelers!

As I entered the building, I found contractors, homeowners and property managers just shuffling about the many items that were about to go on the selling block. Many of them were walking around slowly, sipping on their coffee, tape measures strapped to the pockets of their jeans, cell phones in hand, checking out all the items or some on their cell phones, calling their associates and saying, "Hey, how much does that go for on the Internet?" 

By 9 a.m., it is still rainy and misty outside, but is about to heat up inside. The sound of a microphone gears up and the auctioneer, Richard Peak, starts talking to the crowd of 250-plus attendees and potential buyers. As he walks around the showroom floor, the crowd seems to follow his every move not wanting to miss a moment, until they all wind up in one corner of the building where the auction will start. Peak then goes over the rules and how the sale is going to be handled and exchanges some one-liners with some of the regulars, who attend the auctions each year. I saw this as kind of like a comic-relief-type thing to get the crowd in the mood and to stress the great deals they are about to get—at the same time, getting their minds off of how much money they are going to spend. Once all questions are answered, the auction begins.

"OK, let's have fun! Who is going to get us started?," Peak says. Of course, while he is saying this he is being flanked by some of his ringmen who are holding up the products.

The bidding begins. "Twenty, twenty, twenty," says Peak. "YIP!" yells one of Peak's ringmen. 

"Twenty-five, 30, 30, 30," Peak continues to say at 50 mph. 

"Forty, forty, forty dollars. Who is gonna give me forty dollars?," asks Peak. 

"YIP!," shouts one of Peaks ringmen.

Now there is a bidding contest between two individuals and the Peak auction crew continues to go back and forth. 

"Forty-five, forty-five, forty-five," says Peak.

"You in?," yells one of the ringmen to one of the bidders. The bidder nods his head in a forward fashion.

"Yip!," yells the ringman.

"OK, fifty, fifty, fifty, fifty dollars. We are at fifty dollars," says Peak as he tries to get one more bidder to bite. However, he receives no response from the crowd or his associates, so he then states, "SOLD to bidder number-20 for $45." As only an auctioneer can say, "Take one or take 'em all."

Then the whole process starts over with the next product or lot number. The ringmen and the auctioneer work hand-in-hand to create the excitement and buying frenzy.

Now most of us have seen, or heard of, the above scenario at one time or another. But this auction should catch your particular interest because it is all about the building-material industry. Peak Auctioneering was created to serve the building-material industry by turning overstocks, discontinued and surplus materials, mistakes, etc. into capital for the dealers of building products. 

By going into major markets across the country and partnering with the lumber associations and building material dealer associations, Peak Auctioneering gives a wholesale jobber, dealer and manufacturer an opportunity to compete on an equal level. 

This particular auction I attended happened to be sponsored by the Mid-Hudson Retail Lumber Dealers Association, which gave its members an opportunity to turn some of their excess inventory into capital.

Mid-Hudson Retail Lumber Dealers Association has sponsored a Peak auction since 1995, when Seth Arluck was president of the association.
Asked why the association decided to get involved with Peak Auctioneering, Arluck said it's a way for many dealers to get rid of products they can't sell. Arluck also said that Peak gives a first-class auction and most people are happy that they don't have to take their products to the dump and are surprised pleasantly at what price they receive for their products at the auction. "[Peak] brings in a lot of high-quality material and sends out mailers to a lot of interested buyers in the area." 

Arluck said that the association gets a commission from the auction, and with that money they give back to the industry through a scholarship fund.

At this particular auction there were too many items on display to mention, but mainly items from the building-products industry, such as windows, doors, kitchen cabinets, mouldings, etc. So you can see how a do-it-yourselfer, handyman or contractor could go crazy at one of these auctions. "I have practically renovated my whole house from these auctions," said one buyer, who drove all the way from Philadelphia, which is about a two-and-a-half hour drive.

Another said, "Now what am I going to do with all this stuff?" He had just purchased about ten of the same item.

Not all bidders were as impulsive as this one. Some just sat back and waited on the item they wanted and then jumped in on the bidding. Some buyers seemed to me to be caught up in the excitement and were bidding on everything.

Richard Peak, owner of Peak Auctioneering, briefs the crowd of potential bidders.

Some of us don't particularly like the word auction because it usually means some company is closing up shop and needs to sell its remaining items. On the other hand, some of us do like the word because of the great deals it could present. Fortunately, this auction was not about a mom-and-pop shop closing up its doors. This was about dealers coming together and doing some inventory housekeeping . The best part is Peak Auctioneering knows the building industry and how items should be priced. "We are the only auction firm dedicated solely to the building-supply industry, which is only meaningful to the extent that we have to perform for their companies or we don't perform at all. And since this is all we have ever done, we know more about building materials, the value of building materials and the way in which to sell building materials than anyone," said Richard Peak.

If you are one of those dealers with a warehouse that has some excess merchandise in it just collecting dust, you may want to take a look at the word auction as a means of an extra distribution point. In Peak Auctioneering's case, certainly the people come ready to buy. 


Brian Welsh is the publisher of SHELTER magazine.


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