Deals are going once, going twice …

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 15, 2009

This morning, while many residents are getting ready for church, a virtual gavel will drop, opening the bid process for The Democrat’s latest endeavor — an online holiday gift certificate auction.

Dubbed “Biddit!” the auction is our first foray into such a promotion.

Fortunately, we’ve had some help, partnering with a company that helped provide the online software.

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We’ve also teamed up with local auctioneer Barry Maxwell to oversee the auction’s results. Barry’s reputation for being an honest, community-minded fellow is well known and we’re happy he’s helping us with the auction.

So why did the newspaper decide to dig into such a new and different venture?

First, one of the newspaper’s goals has always been to bend over backwards to meet the needs of our advertisers.

That means listening to businesses when they talk about their needs.

In the last year, we’ve heard from a number of small businesses that have plenty of inventory, but in some cases not enough cash flow to feel comfortable spending money on marketing.

At the same time consumers are increasingly on the prowl for great deals — quality merchandise at low cost. During this past year as the global economy fell into a recession, both of these forces grew in numbers.

In looking at ways to meet the needs of both of these groups — businesses who wanted to hold onto to cash, but still wanted to market and consumers who need goods and services, but want a bargain — we came up with the idea of holding an online auction. The auction also benefits businesses that have great cash flow and already market themselves well, too.

The auction works like this.

A business agrees to put up a gift certificate for an item in their store — or a service they provide.

We set up the auction Web site and promote the items up for sale through newspaper marketing and the auction guide that is printed in today’s edition.

We’ll collect the winning bids. Any items that sell earn the business marketing credits (valued at the retail value of the item) that can be used to run advertisements and thus help them generate more cash flow for their business and help them move more merchandise.

A business’ pre-purchased inventory can turn into future marketing dollars, if their items sell.

Winning bidders potentially get some amazing goods at as low as 50 percent of their retail value.

By next Sunday night — at 8 p.m., the virtual gavel will fall, stopping the bidding.

Until then, please poke through the Web site and realize that your bargain hunting can help in a couple of ways.

You can get some Christmas shopping done early and conveniently online, while still shopping at home and supporting local businesses.

Businesses — ranging from Sports Center and Home Hardware to Sammy’s Fashions and Billie’s Bridal and Formal Wear — will benefit from your help in turning over their inventory and helping them fund future marketing.

Finally, and perhaps most important, auctions are fun for bidders — and they can provide amazing values, too.

Good luck to any and all bidders and please let me know if you have questions about the auctions.

On your mark, get set, Biddit!

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or