By Gary King
Godolphin Flying Start graduate Jack Carlino and current Flying Start trainee Liza Hendriks have launched Wanamaker's, an online auction house for Thoroughbreds. The website will host a sale each month, with the first going live June 17. TDN's Gary King finds out more.
TDN: Could you give us a little information about your background(s) in the industry to date.
JC: I was most recently the Sales Coordinator at Hill 'n' Dale Farm which was a great position to learn about the sales process and operations of a highly successful farm. Prior to my time at Hill 'n' Dale, as you mentioned, I was a trainee on the Godolphin Flying Start course. I fell in love with racing on a chance visit to Del Mar which ultimately led me to the University of Louisville to start my involvement in the industry.
LH: I am currently a trainee on Godolphin Flying Start, which has been an incredible opportunity. Before Flying Start, I worked for NYRA in the TV department for a year with an amazing team around me that gave me a great introduction into my professional career in the racing industry. I grew up in Pennsylvania with two parents as trainers, Elizabeth Merryman and Richard Hendriks. Being able to observe their training operations has helped me understand the need for greater accessibility to buy and sell horses year-round.
TDN: When did you come up with the concept for Wanamaker's?
JC: The planning and development phase of Wanamaker's began in November of last year.
TDN: And what inspired you to select that specific company name?
JC: Wanamaker's was originally one of the first department stores in the U.S. and a driving force behind the evolution of retail. When brainstorming a name, we wanted to stick with an auction house type of name such as Christie's or Sotheby's and felt Wanamaker's fit this goal well along with the fact that John Wanamaker is a distant relative of Liza.
TDN: We have seen a few online sales platforms launched over recent months. How does Wanamaker's differ, and what do you see as your source of advantage?
LH: While utility was our first task in designing the Wanamaker's platform, we put significant energy into the design, user-friendliness, and security of the platform. We feel that users will find the experience on wanamakers.com equal to and better than the e-commerce platforms they use every day. Our entire payment system is integrated with Stripe, an international leader in the payment space for security and convenience used by the likes of Uber, Amazon, and DoorDash.
TDN: Lately, some of the bigger auction houses seem to be getting involved in this sphere. How do you compete against them, and is there room for everyone?
JC: We feel that the inclusion of the major auction houses in this sphere is confirmation of the need for a model like ours. Competition is incredibly healthy for any market and there is absolutely room for multiple players as can be seen in a place like Australia where online Thoroughbred auctions have really taken off. We plan to compete by offering up an exceptional user experience, a high level of flexibility with our customers, and a sole focus on our online auctions.
TDN: What benefits does the platform provide for both the buyer and seller?
JC: Giving customers opportune timing and maximum visibility along with a large reduction in costs and labor that go into traditional auctions are important advantages that we've identified. Our monthly auctions create a scenario where sellers can get year-round market value by merging the advantages of selling at auction with the ease and efficiency of e-commerce.
TDN: Have you solicited the advice from many industry participants so far? What has the feedback been like?
LH: Generally speaking, the feedback has been very positive, and the sense of urgency was noticeably heightened in feedback after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers have pointed out and are excited to have more freedom and power in the buying and selling process. We will constantly be looking for feedback and are ready to quickly implement changes that our customer base wants.
TDN: How often are you planning on conducting a sale?
JC: Our sales will be monthly, with entries open for approximately three weeks and the catalog live for nine days with bidding taking place on the final day. We felt this was a good time frame to introduce the market to this new way of buying and selling horses. It especially gives buyers ample time to inspect horses in-person if they choose to do so. Our first sale's entries will close on June 16 and the catalog will be live the next day.
TDN: Could you break down the bidding process?
LH: When a catalog is released, pre-bidding is open. This allows potential buyers to set a max bid. A max bid authorizes the Wanamaker's bidding system to bid up to that amount but never more than necessary to win. These bids are kept fully confidential and if two users enter the same bid, the first user to enter the bid is given priority.
On the final day of the sale, bidding will go live at 8 a.m. ET. At that point, bidders can bid live in set increments and the system will begin to act upon any max bids. At 5 p.m. ET, listings will begin to close in a staggered fashion. If a bid is placed in the final three minutes of an auction, the countdown clock for that listing will extend back to three minutes remaining until there are no more bids. When entering a horse, sellers are able to set a reserve and a starting price.
TDN: How does the cost structure work in terms of listing fees, commissions, etc.?
LH: We have a flat fee of $300 to enter a horse into an auction and our commission is 5% on sales and 0% on RNAs. Given the nature of an online sale, our ability to offer 0% commission on RNAs is something we felt was fair and deserving for sellers. As a company, we've decided to donate 0.1% of total sales to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) and collect 0.05% from sellers to be donated to the TAA as well.