Going once, going twice, sold for cents on the dollar!

A growing crowd of thrifty shoppers are staying out of the malls this season and shopping through online auctions instead, buying returned and outdated merchandise for a fraction of the sticker price.  

Driving the news: Auction houses have seen a boom in their customer base driven by an increased cost of living and new technology. 

  • Online auctions, which allow people to bid whatever they want for everything from clothes to furniture to electronics, are more accessible to the public than traditional in-person events.  

Why it's happening: Returned merchandise is big business for the auction houses but a bust for stores selling items for cents on the dollar to clear up space for new stuff. 

  • As retailers struggle to manage the cost of returns, some have decided it's better just to send the unwanted merch directly to liquidators. 

Why it matters: Everyone is pinching pennies these days, and online auctions let people get everything from furniture to clothes to electronics at a fraction of the price.

  • Some people are even reselling auction items as a side hustle, per the New York Times.

Want to try out online auctions? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Budget for each biddable item. Compare retail prices and set a cap. A good benchmark is at most 50% of the sticker price.

  • Avoid getting competitive. If you're focused on winning the bid at all costs, you might spend more at auction than if you bought brand new. 

  • Read the fine print. Some sites have fees, like a 20% "buyer's premium" fee plus 13% HST. So a $100 item will cost you $133. 

And here are some sites to get started:

  • Bidstreet.ca hosts bi-weekly auctions on Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

  • DealDash will ship items to every province and territory except Quebec.

  • Maxx.ca is one of the most popular sites with almost 75,000 registered bidders.