Erica Tennenhouse, PhD
Laboratories often find themselves needing to shed some or all of their equipment, whether the lab is upgrading to newer instruments or shutting down its operation altogether. When it comes to selling used lab equipment, the more information you have about the item for sale, the market, and the available avenues for reselling, the better.
Octavio Espinosa, senior director of sales, marketing, and Reid Hjalmarson, director of marketing at BioSurplus (San Diego, CA) outline three main routes that their clients use when reselling lab equipment. First is direct purchase, in which a reseller will purchase the used item outright. Second is putting the item consignment; in this case, both parties—the used equipment vendor and the lab—share the proceeds from the sale. Third is putting the item up for auction. Which option to choose depends on the lab’s particular needs; where a lab is looking to monetize assets quickly, they would benefit from selling equipment outright to resellers. But if time is less of an issue, consignment can yield a higher return. For labs that are selling large sets of assets—for example, if a facility is closing down—they may forego consignment because they are on a timeline, but want a better return that they could get from selling the items outright; in these cases, some companies, including BioSurplus, run auction events.
“We will take care of the whole thing, the lotting—the catalog, the marketing, the execution of the event and the backend shipment, and cleaning the facility—literally from start to finish,” says Espinosa.
For labs looking to sell their used equipment, it is important to plan early, says Roger Gallo, CEO and president of EquipNet (Canton, MA). Labs should begin by establishing what they have. If time allows, Gallo recommends having a laboratory equipment specialist conduct a professional inventory, which leaves the lab with an itemized record of which items are owned and leased, which items must stay in the building, which can be redeployed to another location, what can be sold, and what the assets are worth to potential buyers. When it comes to selling lab equipment, knowledge is power.
Labs should also consider how they showcase their equipment. “Whether you’re selling real estate, clothing, or lab equipment, merchandising is essential,” Gallo says. “Equipment stacked up in a warehouse is not going to look as attractive as items that are currently being used, doing the job they are meant to do.
Many companies opt to purchase expensive, new equipment directly from the original equipment manufacturer even when a similar pre-owned piece is available at a significant discount because they want to be sure they are getting all of the relevant ancillary items, Gallo notes. Providing all of the accessories, software, and manuals is therefore a good way to maximize the value of a piece of pre-owned equipment.
The actual value that a used item will garner depends on a multitude of factors. Whether the item is functional, how it looks cosmetically, and how old it is are all part of the equation, but another important determinant of an item’s value is the demand for it in the marketplace, says Espinosa. Some of BioSurplus’ current “most-wanted” items include the Nanodrop, LC-MS and GC-MS systems, HPLCs, rotary evaporators, and ultra-low temperature cold storage.
Lower-demand items tend to be those that are frequently being upgraded because the constantly-changing technology renders these instruments archaic in a short time period, says Hjalmarson.
With a good understanding of the channels available for reselling their lab equipment, the demand of certain instruments in the marketplace, and the pieces they plan to resell, labs can position themselves to maximize their return when they sell their used equipment.