It all started back in 2005. At first, before we became Transition Squad, we started as a service to help people sell homes privately. Our first client had a mother who had dementia. It was really a Transition Squad type client, but we weren't doing that at the time. Our founder had gone through his own dad's transition and many of his friends were also starting to go through it. Then, a light bulb went off!
People really needed help at such a time. So he decided to pivot the business' direction to a senior downsizing company. Without much experience in the business, the first few projects helped with organizing, packing and move management. However, the biggest challenge clients had was "what do I do with all my stuff?"
After scratching our heads wondering how other companies handled this (back then, there weren't many companies to compare to), our research determined that the few people out there in the industry were simply packing everything up and shipping it to auction houses. In most cases, buyers at these auctions were paying pennies on the dollar and then the auction house was taking their cut. Our clients were getting cheques back for approximately $20 for their whole houseful of memories, which didn't even cover our charges to pack up or ship. Ridiculous! "Surely we could find a better way!"
So we set out to design a process which would take away the burden, find a good home for our clients' belongings and also maximize their selling price. We were determined, however, not to be a liquidator like many other companies in this space.
The most inefficient and expensive parts of the process were the packing and shipping. So we decided to start holding sales right from the home. There would be no packing or shipping costs as buyers would take their purchases with them and the customer would get immediate cash to cover the costs of disposing anything that was not purchased. Our first sale in Scarborough was packed with buyers. The client had come home from Spain to handle his mother's affairs. He couldn't stay long so he just gave us his keys and we handled everything from selling the contents to managing repairs to the home before putting it on the market for sale. We sold well over half of the items and generated more than enough to cover removal of the rest. The customer was thrilled.
However, there were still some nice things remaining that had good value. So we built an online auction system to do "flash" auctions of any leftover items. Winners could pick up their items along with those who had purchased big items at the sale that they could not take with them.
Over the years, our estate sales and online auctions became a very effective tool. The on site physical sale from the weekend typically cleared out 50, 60, 70% of the home, depending on what people had. Then the post-sale online auction cleared out another 10, 20, 30%, thus leaving a lot less to be cleared out, which meant cost savings. In most cases, our clients were receiving more from the sales than the cost of removal so they were in a positive position without having to do any work.
However, there were often still some nice things remaining after the auction. So we visited many consignment stores in the area to ask them to work with us but didn't get much cooperation. Heck with it, we set up our own store to help extend our clients' selling period and hopefully get them more.
Our research showed that most consignment stores focused on high end items only and were quite pricey. They had to be because that was their only revenue stream. They needed to make as much as they could on every item. On the other end of the spectrum, there were thrift stores where items were much lower end and the biggest focus was on inexpensive, used clothing. There was nothing in the mid-high end category, where most buyers are. That also happened to be where most of our buyers and sellers were.
Once the doors opened to our store, very quickly, we started getting requests from the public to take their items on consignment and even donation. With a strong belief in giving back to the community, we implemented a charity program where 10% of the sales from any items that were in our donation inventory would be donated to local charities. We selected smaller local charities that had difficulties raising awareness and funds. To them, every dollar mattered.
Today, Transition Squad is in a new location which is much bigger than our last so we can help more people find a good home for their belongings. Our charity program is now providing donations in the thousands per year. And our online auction platform is being used by those who want to run their own auctions as well as charities for online fundraising auctions.
Our vision is to expand our model of estate sales and online auctions into multiple markets throughout North America. Wish us luck!