Bobby Zen

Fasig-Tipton Digital has been hitting the mark with flash sales as of late. While the auction house is selective when it comes to picking out the right kind of horse to offer in these exclusive auctions, the two flash sales that they’ve conducted so far this year have been shining success stories for the sellers and for Fasig-Tipton.

Mensa, the first 2-year-old winner for his freshman sire Complexity, set a record as the most expensive offering to sell on Fasig-Tipton Digital when he was purchased by John Stewart’s Resolute Bloodstock for $740,000 on April 29. Last week, Cloudy Dancer (GB)(Invincible Spirit {Ire}) became the subject of a second flash sale after her son Shareholder (Not This Time) won the G2 Norfolk Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting. The 8-year-old mare sold on Friday, June 28 for $430,000 to David Hutson.

The TDN is in the process of launching a new weekly podcast, The Racing Business Hour. Hosted by Bill Finley and Katie Petrunyak, the show will focus on news in racing that has a direct impact on businesses within the industry. As part of our pilot episode, we brought in Fasig-Tipton’s Director of Digital Sales Leif Aaron to discuss the growth of flash sales within the digital sales arena.



 TDN: What was the process like of getting in touch with the Cloudy Dancer’s owner, Skyfall Thoroughbreds LLC, and then getting the ball rolling to conduct a flash sale? 

LA: Well Grant [Williamson] and Boyd [Browning] had gotten in touch with the owner about the possibility of doing a flash sale. I was actually on vacation with my family. They called me and said they were wanting to do this and asked me what I thought. I thought it was a great opportunity to show what our digital website is capable of to capitalize on an update. I was thrilled to have her on there and it ended up being very successful.

TDN: Bidding opened up on Cloudy Dancer just five days after Shareholder’s Norfolk win. Was that a tight turnaround to get everything in motion?

LA: For a one-horse sale, it’s not a tight turnaround. It is tough in a normal digital situation because we only give ourselves about a week to turn around a catalog. We will have 100 to 150 head in a catalog and we only have a week to turn that around. That is a ton of work as far as collecting paperwork, getting good pictures and video, getting all the vetting done and all of that, so when you take that and you turn it into one horse, it seems very easy compared to what it’s like to do a monthly digital auction.

TDN: Cloudy Dancer drew 2,432 views over the four days of bidding. That’s a huge number, but how do you ensure that you’re getting the right people and the right type of buyers visiting the website and checking out her page?

LA: I think the best part for me about Digital is that it’s still Fasig-Tipton, the oldest auction house in North America. So there’s a huge emailing list we have and we use the TDN to get the word out. Getting this in front of the people that we think need to have it is easy, but when you take a guy like Mr. Hutson who hasn’t been as active as he had been in the past, none of us would have expected him to be the purchaser of the horse. So that’s kind of the beauty of digital is that it’s bringing in a whole new segment of the market that we’re not expecting. We have our expectations of the buyers that will come to the sales, but when you go digital, we’ve had a whole other group of people come in that have never done business with Fasig-Tipton. So it’s exciting to see growth in the auction business in general, which is great for everyone.

TDN: We’ve all grown so accustomed to the digital sales arena, but it was only a little over two years ago that you launched Fasig-Tipton Digital. What have you learned and how has the platform evolved since you first started?

LA: We have taken baby steps and learned the best way to set the catalogs up with what is going to sell during certain times of the year. We’ve gotten to the point now where we know it’s hard to sell a broodmare or broodmare prospect in June if she doesn’t have an update. In general, mindframes are starting to move towards racehorses. I would have told you in the beginning that I think young stock–weanlings and yearlings–would never be able to be sold online. They would always be in person. But now we’re seeing a boom of those kinds of horses being sold online.

It has evolved at a very rapid pace. I mean, exponential growth. We’ve already sold more horses this year than we did last year. When we first started doing it, it was about how often can we have a sale with a critical mass of horses? Now we don’t have a choice. If we don’t have a sale, people are saying, ‘Why aren’t you having a sale this month?’ Which is a blessing for us, there’s no doubt about that.

The whole point in doing this all along was to offer our clients another avenue to sell horses and to make it more liquid. I think from the sellers to the buyers to us, it has been beneficial for everyone involved and I think that’s why it is working so well. We have the highest average in digital sales in the world. We also have the highest clearance rate. I think the thing I’m most proud of this year is that we’ve boasted a 90% clearance rate and we’ve sold over 500 head of horses. There is just not another segment of the market that is as strong as that. I think when you do things that are of benefit to your client, that’s why it works. This was put out here for them to use and they have. We’re very appreciative of that and I think the clients are too. I have a lot of people that are returning customers.

TDN: So now you have monthly digital sales, flash sales, and of course the “old school” in-person sales. If you’re approaching an owner about potentially selling through Fasig-Tipton, under what circumstances are you going to recommend a flash sale, a monthly digital sale, or waiting until the next in-person sale comes around?

LA: So I’ll say this: flash sales are extremely difficult. It’s very difficult to get a huge update no matter who you are. To get that horse winning the Norfolk like he did, to look like he could possibly be one of the best 2-year-olds in Europe, that’s hard to get. It’s even harder to find an owner that is realistic about what the value of the horse may be. So we’ve been approached quite a few times about different flash sales where owners had astronomical expectations, but that’s the one thing for me that’s so important is if you do a flash sale, it has to work. That’s a lot of pressure, but if we put up flash sales and they RNA every time, no one is going to return to that. So for us, it’s getting that recipe right of a huge update, a realistic owner and a buying base that is willing to participate. That’s why we have so few of them is because all of those buttons have to be pressed in order for us to take that task on and that’s why the ones we’ve had have been so successful.

When it comes to deciding between a flash sale and a monthly sale, you know when you have a flash sale horse. It’s a huge update and it doesn’t come around that often. With the monthly digital sales, it depends on the time of year. Right now, I would say you want any racehorse you can put online. With our July Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale coming up, a lot of people feel more comfortable selling in that arena and that’s great. I’m glad that Fasig-Tipton has options for people to choose from going in person to going digital.

The post Q and A with Leif Aaron on the Growth of Flash Sales appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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