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Ritchie’s Statesville Office Strives to Live Up to Reputation

Fri January 07, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson

For John Fairley, his job is simple: To make sure that the Statesville, N.C., office of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers lives up to the parent corporation’s reputation as the top construction equipment auction house in the world.

Fairley, the area manager for Ritchie Bros.’ Statesville operation since July 1, 2010, is committed to giving his customers outstanding service by ensuring that each and every piece of equipment is marketed and offered properly, thus making sure that the customers receive the highest return possible for their equipment.

At the same time, Fairley and his staff of 10 also have to see to it that they make it easy and convenient for bidders to buy that equipment.

“We know that we have to appeal to both buyers and sellers equally and that is what we work hard to do,” said Fairley. “My own personal motto has always been, ’Whatever it takes’ and by that I mean that we will do whatever is necessary to make a consignor’s or buyer’s experience at our auction the best it can possibly be. That is part of our overall corporate philosophy. We feel this attitude helps set us apart from every other auction business.”

The Statesville office of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers is one of many auction sites maintained by the company in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Fairley’s location holds four unreserved public auctions each year where it sells a broad range of used and unused equipment for the construction, transportation, agricultural, material handling, mining, forestry, petroleum and marine industries.

At its most recent auction on Dec. 7, 2010, they sold more than 650 pieces worth more than $9 million. Prior to that, during the Sept. 28, 2010 auction more than 1,000 machines, worth more than $15 million, were sold.

Ritchie Bros. is well-known in the construction industry for its unreserved auctions, meaning that none of its auctions allow minimum bids or reserve prices to be set, ensuring that every item is sold to the highest bidder on auction day, regardless of price.

“It is a strategy that has proven to work, with often spectacular results, for both the buyer and seller. Seldom do pieces sell far below market value, and the potential upside is by far greater than the potential downside,” Fairley said.

That is because Fairley has the power of Ritchie Bros.’ reputation and its global marketing power behind every auction they hold. Because online bidding takes place at the same time as on-site bidding, people from around the world can bid on any item during the auction. As an example, Fairley counted almost 1,700 registered bidders in its third-quarter auction.

In addition, because bidders from around the world participate, each piece will sell for its global fair market value — regardless of local market conditions.

Fairley said that about 25 to 35 percent of the items up for bid at the Statesville location are sold over the Internet, which is about the company-wide average.

Every item being auctioned is photographed and a detailed description is prepared before being put on the company website.

“It seems that the majority of our bidders, though, like to come out to our location and look over a piece of equipment before bidding,” he explained. “Those folks like to touch it, feel it, put their hands on it, and we encourage that.”

Indeed, Ritchie Bros. Statesville organizes its inventory of equipment weeks before each sale day at its 40-plus acre yard just off U.S. Highway 70/Salisbury Highway on the east side of town and makes it easy for prospective buyers to come by the location to test, inspect and compare the equipment before bidding.

On auction day, all pieces of equipment are meticulously displayed in their auction yard for prospective buyers to view before and while the bidding is taking place. Mobile equipment is driven up on “the ramp” in front of the always-large crowd in an auction theater setting.

The Statesville office of Ritchie Bros. has five full-time sales representatives with a coverage area of North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, southern Virginia and West Virginia. Fairley said that his office had gross revenues in 2010 of approximately $55 million and revenues have increased each year since the location was first opened in 1999.

Most of his customers are involved in site development, road building, utility contracting or equipment rental/sales — people that he considers a “great, solid customer base.” He also added, that his office tends to auction a “mixed bag” of every type of industrial equipment available to bidders from every type of business.

“I would say that the main advantage of using our services is, if you are someone looking to liquidate a package of assets you can do that in one day with Ritchie Bros. You will get a quick turnaround,” Fairley explained. “If you are someone who has 70 pieces and you tried to move those on your own, you can only imagine how long that would take and that is without the ability to market those pieces around the world like we can.”

Fairley added that his office contracts with the nearby Carolina CAT office to paint and refurbish equipment that is brought in for auction. This service is offered to both Ritchie Bros. consignors and buyers.

“Carolina CAT has an excellent facility adjacent to our property and we have them perform all the paint work that is needed prior to auction. In addition, we have a tin worker and a mechanic that can take care of any cosmetic or mechanical repairs that might be needed. These are services we offer our customers to enhance their equipment and help their equipment realize the highest return possible. They can choose whether or not they want to utilize these services,” said Fairley.

As part of an expansion in the late 1990s, Ritchie Bros. acquired the Statesville office when it purchased one of its competitors, Forke Brothers, a Nebraska-based equipment auction house with offices not only in Statesville, but across the South and Midwest. Established in 1958, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (NYSE and TSX: RBA) is the world’s largest industrial auctioneer, selling more equipment to on-site and online bidders than any other company in the world. Ritchie Bros. offers services that enable the world’s builders to easily and confidently exchange equipment. The company conducts hundreds of unreserved public auctions each year, selling a broad range of used and unused industrial assets, including equipment, trucks and other assets utilized in the construction, transportation, agricultural, material handling, mining, forestry, petroleum and marine industries. Ritchie Bros. has more than 110 locations in more than 25 countries, including 43 auction sites worldwide. The Company maintains a website at and sponsors an equipment wiki at

Although the weak global economy over the last two years has had a detrimental effect on all construction related businesses, Fairley has plenty of reason to be optimistic.

“Beginning in late 2008, we saw equipment values drop because of the surge of equipment coming into the market and that continued through 2009,” he said. “In 2010, though, we have actually witnessed a shortage of equipment coming to market because there was so much sold through 2008 and 2009. As a result we have started to see a recovery in used equipment pricing. We feel pretty good about the future.”

Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (America) Inc. in Statesville is located at 2718 Salisbury Highway.

For more information call 704/873-6633 or visit CEG

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