What percent of the retail value of your goods can you expect to recover when you sell them on the secondary market?
It’s a simple question, but both first-time suppliers of excess inventory and seasoned liquidators are often surprised by what sells well - and what doesn’t.
At Amplio, we strive to make liquidating excess inventory and surplus assets easier and more lucrative. One of the ways we’re doing it is with data. By monitoring millions of data points across tens of different selling channels, we can determine the best selling strategy for different items in a rigorous manner.
As a byproduct of that approach, we end up with a ton of interesting data on liquidations - some of which we’re sharing with you here. We collect data from major online liquidation auctions, and we’ve analyzed results and trends from Q3 to form the backbone of this analysis.
Recovery Rate Deep Dive
Our first chart shows a count of auctions and median recovery rates by category for the twelve most common categories across the major online liquidation auction markets that we surveyed.
As you can see, both the number of auctions and recovery rates vary tremendously between different categories. Home & Garden sees the largest number of auctions, and it also supports a relatively strong recovery rate of 12% - comfortably above the overall median of 9%.
On the other hand, categories with smaller consumer goods - Clothing, Jewelry, Beauty, to name a few - all suffer from extremely low recovery rates. All of them have median recovery rates below 2% (when they sell at all).
In the following sections, we’ll dive into the different variables that impact median recovery rates.
New, Returns, and Used
Item condition plays a huge role in its ultimate recovery rate, but not in the way you might think - in fact, ‘Returns’ see the highest median recovery, followed by ‘Used’. ‘New’ brings up the rear. This is mostly a function of what categories are sold in what condition; low-recovery categories are typically sold new, while higher-recovery categories are sold as returns and used.
We break down the dynamics below.
Paradoxically, New items see by far the lowest recovery rate - mostly because ‘New’ is dominated by Clothing and Jewelry, which have low recovery rates. On the other hand, high-recovery categories like Appliances and Tools are almost never sold new on these auction platforms.
Returns are dominated by the Home & Garden and Consumer Electronics categories. Recovery rates are good - 12.8% for H&G and 17.8% for Electronics. Part of the reason H&G is so strong is that many consumer appliances end up in this category - and Appliances have strong recovery rates.
Finally, the ‘Used’ condition is about half as common as ‘New’ and ‘Returns’, but it’s spread evenly across many categories. Notably, Appliances and Business & Industrial are common and strong here. Toys & Hobbies see more ‘New’ and ‘Returns’ auctions than ‘Used’, but ‘Used’ auctions recover over 40%.
Retail Value of Goods
The retail value of auction lots also has a significant impact on the overall recovery of the lot of goods. As you’ll see below, lower value lots of items tend to see stronger recovery rates.
This dynamic holds true within most categories and isn’t simply driven by mix. For instance, lots of appliances with retail value >$10,000 have a median recovery rate of 14.2%, while lots of appliances with retail value of <$1,000 have a median recovery rate of 20.6%.
When we exclude small lots of inventory with less than $1,000 retail value, we see median recovery rates go down. Generally speaking, bigger lots see lower recovery because the buyer is getting a bulk discount and taking on a greater resale risk. Narrowing our view to lots with retail value above $10,000 further depresses recovery rate, with just Appliances staying in the double digits. The overall median recovery rate for these more valuable lots of inventory is just 1%, driving home the challenge of recovering value on large lots of excess inventory.
41% of auctions that have retail values published are for goods with less than $1,000 retail value. Much of this is driven by Home & Garden, which has a high prevalence of small auctions for valuable home items (e.g., kitchen & bath reno items, appliances, etc). These smaller auctions see much better recovery rates.
Wrapping Up Recovery Rate
At an aggregate level, recovery rate is primarily a function of Category and Lot Size. Certain categories sell for much better prices than others, while smaller lots recover more of the original value of products than others.
When we look more specifically within categories, though, we’ll see the extent to which recovery rate can vary on a case by case basis.
Auction Tendencies and Bidding Behavior
Understanding the overall lay of the land can help set expectations and guide overall strategy, but it doesn’t tell us much about how to approach individual auctions in different categories.
That’s what we’ll address here - how much do recovery rates vary within categories? What auctions draw lots of bids, and what don’t? How does that influence our selling strategies?
We’ll go category by category to shed light on auction behavior.
One of the strongest categories - almost every auction gets bids, and recovery rates are relatively high. Median and mean recovery of 19.2% and a standard deviation of 9.2%, meaning that ~68% of auctions have a recovery rate between 10% - 28%.
Typical auction: 4 brand-name washer/dryers valued at $2,745 attracted 28 bids and sold for $550.
Business & Industrial
Nearly half of B&I’s auctions gather over 10 bids, by far the strongest category on that metric.
Median recovery is lower at 8.7%, while a high standard deviation of 10.2% means that many auctions go for low recovery.
Notable auction: a single Sharp 1340VS Lathe Machine garnered a whopping 109 bids and sold for $3,310.
Cell Phone & Accessories
Over half of Cell Phone & Accessories auctions fail to get a single bid. Median recovery is 1.7%, mean is 5.5%, and std. dev. is high - meaning a small number of high-performing auctions do really well, while most flounder. Unlocked phones do well, while accessories do not for the most part.
Notable auction: $36k retail value of unlocked iPhones went for $2,950 – an 8% recovery.
Clothing, Shoes & Accessories
Nearly 80% of auctions fail to get a bid. Median recovery is 1.4%, mean is 2.7%, and std. dev. is 5.2% – most auctions do not do well. Brands matter a huge amount: most well-performing auctions are for luxury brands.
Highest bid: a truckload of Nike and Jordan 1 shoes went for $24,080 after 304 bids – but still only 7.2% recovery.
Computers & Networking
Over half of auctions don’t get bids. Low median recovery at 2.9%, much higher mean at 7.8% and std. dev at 11.1% – meaning there’s a lot of stuff no one wants, and a few valuable lots.
It's difficult to draw distinct conclusions; no clear patterns emerge in sub-categories.
Typical auction: Xerox toner and print cartridges worth $9,491 retail sold for $781, good for 8.2% recovery.
Over 40% of auctions don’t get bids, but those that do get bids perform well. Median recovery 10.1%, mean 12.9%, and std. dev. 12.5% – showing that there’s a wide range of positive outcomes. Many different types of electronics do well, and no one sub-category dominates.
Best recovery: $5k retail value of Sony cameras and accessories went for $2,852 – a 57% recovery rate.
Health & Beauty
More than half of auctions don’t get any bids. High variance in performance; median recovery 2.0%, mean 5.6%, std. dev. 8.3% – meaning some auctions do really well, while most get very few low-value bids. Like the apparel categories, brands make a big difference in recovery for H&B.
Typical auction: a mixed lot of mid-range cosmetics worth $10k retail went for $175, or 1.7% recovery.
Home & Garden
Almost 95% of auctions get bids. Median recovery of 12.0%, mean 14.6%, and std. dev. of 10.1% shows a category that is strong across the board. Many different sub-categories all perform well: home improvement, furniture, kitchen, and bath.
Highest bid: housewares worth nearly $100k including a patio set and chandelier went for $10,877 after 63 bids - 11.2% recovery.
Jewelry & Watches
The single worst category - most auctions never get bids, and those that do see poor recovery. Median recovery of 1.3%, mean of 1.4%, and std. dev. of 3.3% means that most auctions that do sell do so for cheap, and very few outliers even break 5% recovery.
Typical auction: $5.2k retail of freshwater pearl bangle bracelets went for $100 with only a single bid, netting 1.9% recovery.
The smallest category in our analysis, nevertheless sees good bid activity. Median recovery of 7.2%, mean of 11.0%, and std. dev. of 12.1%, making it moderately skewed towards fewer high-performing auctions. Best recovery concentrated on value-dense workout equipment auctions.
Typical auction: ~$3.5k worth of Camelbacks went for $402, or 11.6% recovery.
Tools & Machinery
Over 95% of auctions get bids. Median recovery of 16.4%, mean 19.2%, and std. dev. of 11.7% makes this one of the most consistently valuable categories. Lots of power tools and outdoor power equipment see high recovery rates.
Most bids: a mix of power tools from major brands worth $16.4k attracted 95 bids and sold for $3,300 - or 20.1% recovery.
Toys & Hobbies
A somewhat unique category that has high diversity – every auction is unique. Median recovery of 22.9%, mean 22.2%, and std. dev. of 18.4% means that when toys do sell, they sell for high recovery. Many very small lots of items and single items go for over 50% recovery in this category due to scarcity and collectors.
Highest bid: ~$14k retail value of LEGOs went for $6,800, good for 48% recovery.
Wrapping Up on Auction Tendencies & Bidding Behavior
Each category has a unique profile of bidding behavior - from high-value categories like Appliances to low-value ones like Jewelry & Watches.
The best categories rarely see auctions go without bids, and they also rarely see auctions go for recovery rates in the single digits. When you’re selling something like used Appliances on liquidation websites, you can do so with a decent amount of confidence that you’ll get between 10-30% recovery.
On the other hand, the vast majority of Jewelry & Watch auctions go without any bids, simply costing their sellers time and money with no return. When they do sell, the vast majority of them recover 1-2%.
If you’re looking to liquidate inventory in lower-value categories, then you’ll need something to set your goods apart, like a big brand name. The few auctions that do well in the consumer goods categories generally are decent-size lots of branded items, which hold their eventual resale value much better than others.
What explains the huge differences between categories?
One major driving factor is the identity of buyers on liquidation auction websites. Even though many lots are for single items, the majority of buyers are planning on reselling the items themselves and aren’t the end user. They’re thinking about their own ability to get a profit on the goods that they buy, and since they’re going to resell at heavily discounted rates, factors like storage cost and shipping have a big impact on their decision-making. The best categories are characterized by value-dense items that hold their value well off of retail shelves.
Need to liquidate inventory?
Getting a Fair Market Value return on excess inventory and surplus assets is a challenge primarily due to the fragmentation of liquidation markets.
The liquidation auction websites that make up the core of our data here are just a few of the myriad channels that suppliers can use to move their excess, and each channel has huge blind spots. There’s no guarantee that the right buyer will see your inventory - so you can spend months looking for liquidators, or just accept a low return.
Amplio has done the hard work for you by building a network of specialized liquidators and a pricing database that holds them and us accountable to getting you a fair price while liquidating.
All you have to do is send us your excess lists, and we handle the rest as a one-to-many gateway.