These are days when the future of bookselling is a bit clouded and the coin and fabric of the field seemingly subject to relentless retesting. Even so there are glimmers of new realities that exploit opportunities in the rapid changes. Consolidation is the new ‘it’ as the shift to the web demands high and continuing investments in order to be ever complete and always up-to-date. Ten years ago software upgrades were done and then thought complete. Today software development never ends, the shark in replacement of the lion.
So it is logical, and probably inevitable, that smart people would see the logic in combining disparate auction houses under a single umbrella to share costs and benefits - from advertising to display and bidding and all things financial. Such roll-ups gain significant advantages.
Heritage comes to mind as the textbook model writ large of an auction house selling across a range of categories. Bonhams too is redefining auction services. One step up Sotheby’s and Christies have created marketing juggernauts that sell most things collectible when the quality and potential realization are high. They have effectively organized their own brands and shifted the focus if not the emphasis from what is being sold to who is selling it. The notion of brand is now deeply embedded; the request at lunch for a coke, not a soda, recognition that our personal dictionaries are increasingly populated with marketed names whose goals have long been to become verbs.
It is too early to say how this fresh combination will work. Brilliant thinkers have long dominated the auctions. Rarer still are the brilliant executioners and in this new model it will be the conceptualist with great programming and marketing resources that will carry the day.
Nobel Investments has brought Dreweatts and Bloomsbury to the starting line of the next big race, to becoming a marketing verb in the United Kingdom and on other continents where there will be much to be sold and where marketing powerhouses will handle most of the best material.