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Founded in 1998, in Dromore, Northern Ireland, by Derek Keys and his brothers, Euro Auctions is now 25 years old. Today, Euro Auctions conducts over 60 major auctions, every year around the globe, in six countries, on three continents and sells over 100,000 pieces of equipment annually. With a global turnover in excess of €600 million, Euro Auctions is one of the leading specialist auction houses in the world.
Globally, Euro Auctions attracts in excess of 70,000 bidders, selling machinery for over 7,000 vendors, attracting in excess of 10,000 buyers and with its Marketplace platform and the new Equipment Sales web portal, sells machinery for its customers 24/7, 365 days of the year. From that first sale in Dromore, Northern Ireland, Euro Auctions has come a long, long way.
With permanent auction sites in Europe, the Middle East, Australia and the USA, in addition to acquiring the American auctioneers Yoder & Frey, the last 25 years have been one amazing journey, but what does that journey look like? Let’s start at the beginning.
It started with a background of trading farm machinery, then tractors and excavators, and the business looking at ways to grow, selling more stock in a shorter period of time. Hosting a one day auction was the way. The first sale featured 371 lots, which were all sold, with an approximate hammer price approaching £1 million. That was the start of Euro Auctions as we know it today. This sale featured a large number of imported excavators from Japan and was 70% unreserved. By the end of 1998, Uro Auctions, as it was known then, had sold 1200 lots.
Following two years of successful auction trading in Dromore, the brothers realised there was a bigger market for used construction machinery in the UK. The Keys secured a site in Wetherby, England, holding the first English sale, featuring a consignment of Volvo Dump Trucks from the Far East. Slap bang in the centre of the UK, Wetherby was a strategic location, with quick access to major ports for Europe and back to Northern Ireland.
Euro Auctions conduct the first sale at the premises of a seller, known as an offsite sale, starting to build the world leading reputation for holding offsite sales.
Following solid years trading in Wetherby, a new permanent site was secured in Selby, Leeds, which would become the northern powerhouse of the Euro Auctions business. The first sale was a resounding success with 83 consignors, 516 buyers, 1,139 lots and £7m hammer total and in the 20+ years that followed, would attract vendors and buyers from a global audience. By this stage the name had evolved to Euro Auctions and the sales were now 100% unreserved.
With buyers from central Europe participating at the new permanent Leeds auction, the decision was made to cross the channel and seek a suitable sale site in Europe. Like the UK, it was decided a central European location was preferable and Germany was the country of choice, giving easy access to Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Dormagen was the chosen location, with the first sale in early 2006 producing a €7m hammer total.
Euro Auctions developed its web based business with 100% of items now available to buy online.
With three auction sites operating in Europe, it was decided to build a flagship auction site in Dromore which included covered viewing platforms, a raised ramp, state of the art audio/visual equipment, viewing galleries as well as workshops for preparing machinery for sale. The new facility was supported by Invest NI and was opened by Northern Irelands First Minister, Arlene Foster in December 2009.
Responding to the market in southern Europe and North Africa, Euro Auctions developed a new auction site in Valencia, Spain, catering for the markets on the Iberian Peninsula and using North Africa as a gateway to the Middle East.
In the post-recession years following 2008 / 2009, the Australian economy boomed, excavating and exporting huge mineral reserves to China. Australia needed machinery and equipment and with no local OEM infrastructure for heavy earthmoving machinery, imports were commanding premium prices. A new Brisbane auction house was established, with plans to host four auctions per year.
Emerging as a global business, the next market to attack was the USA. From a standing start, Euro Auctions leased a physical site in Atlanta, Georgia, with the first sale generating $4.3m with bidders from 20 countries participating.
2015 was a busy year for Euro Auctions, launching a second sale site in the USA in Houston, Texas, with continued growth in Spain, relocating to a larger site in Zaragoza, which offered direct access to north Africa via the ports Tarragona and Barcelona.
In 2016, Euro Auctions started expansion plans for the Leeds site. Increasing the footprint by acquiring an additional 65 acres of land for development.
Euro Auctions enhanced its local and global reach in the USA with the acquisition of Yoder & Frey, who in 1974 launched the now famous winter auction sale in Kissimmee, Florida. If that wasn’t enough for the year, the business hosted the world's biggest mobile crane auction where 127 mobile units sold with a £32m (€37.5m) hammer total in three hours, making Euro Auctions the number one for crane sales in the UK. Holding a series of off-site sales for the business formerly known as Hewden, Euro Auctions holds the most ‘off-site’ sales in its history - selling over £70m of inventory. Late 2017 also saw Euro Auctions open the Dubai site gaining access to the Middle East.
Just before the Covid lockdown in late 2019, Euro Auctions opened the doors on the newly completed ‘flag ship’ sale site in Leeds. With new sales ramps, undercover bidding arenas, office buildings, workshops and the biggest jet wash bay in the UK, the new facilities are considered to be the largest and the most state-of-the-art sale facilities in world. Leeds can now, and does on a sale-by-sale basis, showcase and sell over 6,000 pieces of construction and agricultural machinery at each sale, selling more equipment than any other auction site in Europe. A new updated website was developed with additional functionality and a better customer experience.
Mirroring the growth in Europe, Yoder & Frey acquired a permanent site in Findlay, Ohio becoming the new HQ for the US business.
With the emergence of Covid and restrictions on movement and large gatherings, Euro Auctions shows agility moving to a totally online sales model utilising technology to host live auctions and sell entirely online and with auctioneers and key operating remotely across the world. Onsite selling returned when restrictions were lifted.
At the end of December, Yoder & Frey, went live with its new Houston site, hosting its first sale, cutting the ribbon at the new purpose-built auction facility. Located in Sealy, Texas, 30 miles to the west of Houston, with a yard totaling 57 acres, 25,000 sq foot of offices and 32,000 sq foot of workshops and buildings.
Euro Auctions, Abu Dhabi, will go live in May 2023 and will be the largest auction house in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Located in the Khalifa Economic Zones Abu Dhabi, by collaborating with Abu Dhabi Customs and KEZAD Group, a proportion of the Euro Auctions yard is categorised as a ‘bonded warehouse’ offering import and export customers the same advantages as a freezone operation.
What’s the Secret Ingredient?
What has been the key element to the success of Euro Auctions? Founder Derek Keys comments, “There is no single ingredient that has contributed to the success of the business, as it has been a combination of many things. A lot of hard work is the foundation. We have a fantastic team, some of whom have been with us from the start, and a team that can go anywhere in the world and conduct a sale, and we have invested in those people and allowed them to flourish. There is no sale without stock, so we need consignors and, in the industry, we have a reputation for being fair and treating our vendors well. In turn they trust us to get best price for their equipment and to do that we market each sale globally, in over 150 countries worldwide. As used machinery and agricultural equipment is now seen as global commodity, we regularly reach out to bidders as well as vendors. Our online bidding platform is robust and easy to use so registered bidders for each sale can bid easily, regardless of where they are in world”
“We are still a family business and family values are important to us all. In turn, that sets us above our peers, I think. Lastly, at each sale, where ever that may be, my brothers and I are in attendance and whilst people joke that we know all our customers by name, we really do. We spend sale days with the crowds and we regularly help out on auction day, just because we love what we do.”