For consumers, grocery auctions are a way to get dry goods, toiletries, even perishables, at a steep discount.
For more Auctioneers, they’re a way to turn a tidy profit.
Jeffrey Weinberg noticed how successful grocery auctions were in Pennsylvania Dutch country, and two years ago he decided to give it a try in North Carolina.
“With the economy on the way down, I thought, ‘let’s see if we can make this happen,’” says Weinberg, CES, of Wilmington, N.C.-based Auction Orange.
The appeal of grocery auctions for consumers is clear, Weinberg says. It provides them the opportunity to buy at a huge discount.
But sometimes, he says, it can be hard to get people to buy into something that brings the words “auction” and “groceries” together.
“They think it’s a bunch of expired, about-to-rot stuff,” he says.
To counter that perception, if Auction Orange is auctioning meat at its monthly grocery auction, it bends over backyards to get the freshest meat possible.
Portable freezers transport the meat to the sale, so the cold chain is never broken, Weinberg says.
Monroe Meadows of Meadow Bridge, W.Va.-based Meadows Auction & Realty, also sees a steady uptick in the grocery auction business.
“I used to sell a lot of antiques,” he says. “Right now, groceries are doing a lot better than antiques. It’s a real good market.”
It’s a question of “need” vs. “want,” says Meadows, who holds grocery auctions on a monthly basis. In today’s still-sluggish economy, people are more inclined to hunt out good food deals than hunt for a Tiffany lamp.
Cereal, coffee, candy, jam and jelly and canned vegetables are some of Meadows Auction’s big sellers.
And it’s not just customers who are reaping the benefits, Meadows says. Grocery Auctioneers can clear 75 percent profit on some items, he says.