After news that local toyshop went out of business owing hundreds of thousands of dollars, Charles Anderson thought he would head along to the liquidation auction to witness the pre-Christmas rush.
They streamed in, along with the heat. They perused the walls lined with Barbies, stuffed toys, Lego, board games, bikes and boards. Christmas was coming, wallets were opening.
On Sunday at 9am, viewings at the recently out-of-business Toyzone went underway. The Buxton Square shop owed more than $250,000 and, as part of a liquidation sale, everything had to go. Everything – the fridge, the safe, the stands and display fittings. Even the security system was up for grabs. And yes, also the toys.
“I won’t tolerate shoplifting,” auctioneer John Walker told buyers outside the store. “If anyone is caught it’s going to be the police dealing with you, not me.”
Parents held their children’s wandering hands a little tighter.
New Zealand doesn’t do Black Friday – the crazed, panicked rush that American shoppers engage in the day after Thanksgiving. Prices are slashed, and stampedes ensue.
There was no such crush on Sunday, but you still had to be slightly insane to want to stand in an overheated room, in close proximity to adults, screaming children and an ever-energetic auctioneer bent of selling everything but the kitchen sink.
It was a democratising experience – city councillors and business executives stood side by side with mothers and fathers cradling toddlers, all desperate for a cheap deal.
“The heat is driving me up the wall,” one shopper lamented while desperately trying to fan herself with her auction number. “Jeepers.”
The auctioneer said he would take the buyers through the whole store methodically. It would take several hours.
“I hope you enjoy the journey.”
And then the first items started selling. There were electric mini cars, drones, blocks and trains. There were soft toys, baby mobiles and huge packs of crayons. There were buyers of all sorts – vendors looking for a good deal, parents looking for a better one. In some cases, whole shelves were packaged up into one sale, leaving the eventual buyer a little shell-shocked at the mass of items they had accumulated.
One father, looking for a doll from the hit animated move Frozen for his young daughter, ended up with three such dolls, four Frozen-themed plate and cup sets and, curiously, a pile of neon-coloured nail polish.
There were serious buyers – they listed all their potential buys on ordered pieces of paper with the maximum prices they would go to. They would bid hard and then drop out just as quick, before shaking their head in disapproval as the price for miscellaneous boxes of playdough went over a number that would ensure a return on investment.
“Is it worth it,” asked one father with three young boys in tow.
“Barely,” replied another father. “It’s intense.”
A crowd stayed until 5.25pm. Everything in the store was sold – all 600-odd lots.
From the misery of business failure, at least there might be a small light of Christmas joy – even if that meant giving away two extra Frozen dolls and three themed plate and cup sets.