In the days leading up to the grand opening of North Toronto Auction in 2003, a competitor told its founders they wouldn’t last three months.
Today, North Toronto Auction (NTA) is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and that competitor is no longer in the industry.
“I think about that when times are tough, and I need some motivation. So, I thank him for that,” said Matt Rispin, who founded North Toronto Auction with Stuart Ralph and Frank Panza.
In Late April, NTA held an auction to celebrate the 20-year milestone with many of the dealers they’ve partnered with since the start.
“You get a little bit nostalgic about it. You think about the people and the customers that were with you or the staff and that sort of thing,” Rispin said. “We have some great partners that have either stuck with us, or we’ve stuck with them, throughout 20 years”
North Toronto Auction origins
North Toronto Auction began as a dealer-only automotive auction company in Innisfil, Ontario. Due to customer demand, the company quickly expanded into public auctions for cars and commercial trucks followed by heavy equipment and recreational items. In September, NTA was acquired by Auto Canada.
Today, the heavy equipment auctions have become a regular monthly event.
“We find that having the sales at a frequent pace helps a lot of our customers,” Rispin said, who has stayed on with NTA as General Manager.
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For the heavy equipment segment, North Toronto Auction has found its specialty in selling machines for governments and utility service companies.
“That has sort of been our niche as far as that remarketing sector,” Rispin said. “In 2007, we were awarded the City of Toronto contract and that’s really when our equipment side of the business took off. We’ve grown with them being one of our top consigners.”
Alongside Toronto, NTA’s equipment contracts now include Hydro One, the province of Ontario and other municipalities of various sizes.
“We felt that whole sector, back 15 years ago, was an area that was sort of being neglected and so that’s sort of the area we chose to go into,” Rispin said.
The biggest change in the auction industry for NTA has been the move to online bidding. While NTA has included an online auction component in their business since the start, pandemic restrictions changed how buyers bid on equipment.
“Auctions were hit hard because we deal with surplus, and we deal with live crowds. The surplus went away, and the crowds did as well,” Rispin said.
Fortunately, North Toronto Auction had the online infrastructure in place to move to a digital environment.
“Something we’ve always done is keeping up with that technology and offering those services. When something like a pandemic happens, you’re ready to go,” Rispin said. “So, to get through that and to keep trucking along, it’s been great.”
Pre-pandemic, an audience of 1,000 people would have 800 bidders on-site and 300 people bidding online. Now, an auction will see 700 people participate online and 300 people attend in-person.
“People are slowly coming back. We’ve been doing it for a year and at every sale there’s more improvement and demand for it,” Rispin said. “But a lot of people have decided to stay online because we’ve made it really easy for them to purchase and sell online.”
For Rispin, both in-person and online auctions have their own advantages. The in-person auction gives customers a chance to see the equipment and meet the industry.
“It’s a great networking place and it’s exciting,” he said. “There are just some things that some people will look for that that might not be available in the photos. So, people do love it.”
The online auction offers the opportunity to place a bid without leaving the home or office.
“They don’t have to take the time away from their everyday jobs to attend an auction. So, there’s trade-offs either way,” Rispin said.