SELLING wine can be tough at times but Wickman’s Fine Wine Auctions has proved consumers are still spending big on premium drops. Stephanie Timotheou caught up with auctioneer Mark Wickman and discovered how he went from a computer programmer to the owner of one of Australia’s biggest wine auction websites.
Need to clear excess stock to make room for next vintage? Or maybe you found a dusty bottle of 1970s Grange that needs a new home. Wickman’s Fine Wine Auctions has assisted people with these types of requests for more than 10 years and has turned a local online site into a nation-wide business used by winemakers, wine collectors, businessmen, sommeliers and connoisseurs across Australia.
Operating out of Kennard’s storage facility in Thebarton, 4km from the Adelaide CBD, owner and auctioneer Mark Wickman hosts between 11 and 12 online auctions a year and sells up to 3000 bottles of wine a month. As a lover of all things wine, Wickman found it fitting to create a site dedicated to premium wine and collectables to assist wine lovers – like him – in finding hidden treasures.
But while in conversation with Grapegrower & Winemaker he said he couldn’t take all the credit. Wickman’s son Kane sparked the idea at the shy age of seven and now at 20 works alongside his father to dispatch the wines after they’ve been auctioned.
Twelve years ago Wickman junior approached his father to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Read-a-thon. “At the time we foolishly agreed to help him reach the top prize for the most money raised in Australia which we didn’t realise was more than $10,000 just for reading a book,” Wickman said. “My wife at the time took him to the mall every day where he read a book and ended up raising around $4000 purely from busking.”
To reach the goal he set out to achieve for his son, Wickman created an auction website using his computer programming skills, phoned hundreds of wineries to ask for donations and before he knew it Wickman’s Fine Wine Auctions was born. Wickman helped his son by raising a further $8000 with the support of the wine industry and an original 50 bidders. “I got such a wonderful response from the wineries and we sold every single bottle,” he said. This intensified Wickman’s interest in wine and while he had no experience in auctioneering, he quickly learnt the trick of the trade.
Since beginning the business in 2003, Wickman has built a strong rapport with clients including private collectors, large scale wine businesses, winemakers who had their own collections and importers that needed to clear stock to make room for the next release. “Recently we had a collector in WA who was moving to Canada for work and he provided us with more than 3000 bottles to sell,” he said. “We arranged to pick up the wine, palletise it, bring it to Adelaide, inspect it, put it up for auction and it all sold.” Over the years Wickman’s Fine Wine Auctions became popular through word of mouth and has now turned into a national network of wine buyers and sellers.
It’s one thing to gain a great relationship with suppliers, but Wickman said knowing the target audience was equally as important as running a successful business, whether it was an auction site or online cellar door. After 12 years he’s gotten to know his audience and every auction was held with them in mind. “Wickman’s Fine Wine Auctions is not for the person who only drinks wine as an accessory to a Sunday barbeque,” he said. “It’s for people who highly engage with their wine collection, wine is a passion for them and they are always on the lookout to unearth a new wine experience. We aim to attract the person who appreciates wine at many different levels, not the average drinker.”
The full article will appear in the October 2014 issue of Grapegrower & Winemaker. To secure your copy, visit https://www.winebiz.com.au/gwm/subscribe/
To view Wickman’s Fine Wine Auctions’ website, visit http://www.wickman.net.au/