One of the largest consignors in the Thoroughbred industry, Eaton Sales plans to reduce the number of horses it will offer for sale by approximately half in 2023, Reiley McDonald told the TDN Thursday, citing a renewed focus on quality versus quantity.
“We have been concerned with the growing number of horses we’ve been selling the past few years, even though I think our staff has done it as well or better as any other large consignor,” said McDonald, “but I believe we can offer our clients, buyers and the horses better overall service and care with a smaller consignment. We will continue to sell high-quality horses as we always have, but we are looking to reduce our numbers and to do this, unfortunately, we have had to make staff changes in an effort to take the consignment business to a new level.”
McDonald said the limited availability of experienced staff both on farms and at the sales was affecting everyone in the horse industry. While Eaton Sales has been extremely fortunate to have a top sales team, he said, “we have found it harder and harder to maintain our high standards with the larger numbers of horses. The big numbers just don’t work for us financially because it costs as much to sell a $2 million horse as it does a $2,000 horse. This year, we will have only the best showmen and sales team in the business. Our team, headed by Sales Director Shanon Coccari and Communications Director Pam Deegan, will concentrate on procuring the best horses to offer at public auction, and at the same time provide our buyers with an easy and seamless inspection experience. Most importantly, we will provide the safest environment for the horses we have been entrusted with.”
Eaton Sales consigned 325 horses in 2022 for approximately $45 million, and 366 in 2021 for over $38 million. “Those numbers sound impressive, but the cost of running a large consignment business has gone through the roof,” said McDonald. “Processing the enormous amount paperwork and adhering to increasing rules and regulations has become incredibly labor intensive, requiring more and more people to avoid potential liability issues. I also think those of us in the consignment business have cut commissions to a point to remain competitive, but in doing so we have cannibalized our bottom line. And in reviewing the business plan, we simply have to make changes and streamline the company.”
“I’ve been in the consignment business for decades and it has been very rewarding, but in business one has to adapt and change,” said McDonald. “We think our new business plan will make us more competitive and provide a better experience for our clients, buyers and, of course, the horses.”