From ramps to apps: 60 years of auction evolution

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Part 1 of Ritchie Bros.' 60-years series: looking back on technological change.

Six decades in business and 7,000+ auctions around the globe – the evolution of Ritchie Bros. auctions is nothing short of remarkable. And to think it all started in a Kelowna, BC, furniture store in 1958, when three brothers tried auctioning to pay off a bank loan.

While the core model of auctioning – honesty, fairness, high bid always wins – has remained the same, the mechanics and process has evolved dramatically. As part of our 60-year retrospective, we're going to examine some key developments in the evolution of the equipment auction.

Ramp takes Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers onto new road.

Equipment lined up at historic Ritchie Bros. auction in Radium Hot Springs

Ritchie Bros. was born in the Canadian province of British Columbia, where it's not uncommon to go for months under grey skies and heavy downpours or snowstorms. It was because of this kind of inclement weather that the now-famous Ramp method of selling came to be.

In 1963, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers secured a contract to sell equipment used in road construction in the Rocky Mountains. During the ensuing auction held in Radium Hot Springs, BC, the skies opened up, forcing founder Dave Ritchie and his brothers to confer on a new game plan.

Instead of selling along the line of equipment in a downpour, Ritchie Bros. set up an auction area under the eve of a nearby shop building, then drove each piece of equipment in to sell one by one, with music being played between each sale. This was a game-changer and we've been using the Ramp method ever since, minus the music.

Auctions enter the computer age.

Auction brochure for historic Ritchie Bros. auction

By the late 1980s, Ritchie Bros. was ready to take advantage of the recent technological innovations of the era and offer customers a new service. In 1989, the company posted a first for the industry – a “live video” auction. An auction in Edmonton's suburban Nisku area was broadcast live to a nearby forestry conference happening at the city's AgriCom complex. Interested bidders at the conference were able to participate in the sale by bidding live.

Ritchie Bros. introduces live bidding over the internet

This website that you're reading today was launched in 1996, and four years later we conducted an internet broadcast of an auction during one of our sales in Ocala, FL. This was a view-only service at the time. We introduced real-time online bidding in 2002 to increase convenience for our global buyer base. Suddenly, each auction was open to the world like never before.

Ritchie Bros. introduces the Virtual Ramp in Dubai

In 2006, The Virtual Ramp – where equipment items are sold using a large video screen – was created to beat the heat in Dubai, where temperatures routinely reach 100 F/40 C degrees, and it was eventually rolled out to all our auction sites. This helps us sell large or stationary items, such as cranes and excavators, that are difficult to move across the Ramp.

Mobile makes it easier than ever.

Ritchie Bros. introduces a mobile app for customers to use anywhere, anytime

Ritchie Bros. joined the mobile app movement in 2016, and today you can bid from anywhere, in any auction right from your handheld device. Whatever comes next in the evolution of auctions, you can be assured Ritchie Bros. will be at the forefront.

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