Trade Me keeps an eye on foreign competition as it celebrates 20-year anniversary

Trade Me is celebrating 20 years as the dominant online auction site in New Zealand - but the next 20 years will see growing competition from global platforms.

Its most viewed listing is still a handbag that rugby star Tana Umaga used to whack teammate Chris Masoe in a Christchurch bar in 2006. The listing had more than 1 million views.

"I think that really caught people's imagination - it had a bit of drama, it had a bit of intrigue around it," said Trade Me's CEO, Jon Macdonald.

It also caught people's attention - media coverage of that 'handbag' incident gave the relatively new online platform huge publicity.

Head of Marketing and International Business at Victoria University, Val Hooper, says the viral listing helped Kiwis engage with the site.

"This certainly added to their popularity and New Zealand's involvement with Trade Me."

That involvement has kept growing - with 1.8 million Kiwis visiting Trade Me each day.

The site has expanded beyond second-hand auctions to insurance - and even dating.

"We are always thinking about new ideas, but we see a lot of runway in our current businesses as well," says Mr Macdonald.

So does technology commentator Paul Spain - who says Trade Me should hold onto the advantage it has in its original market.

"Really it is their core auctions of 'Kiwis selling to Kiwis,' where they're most successful."

Trade Me is currently considering a $2.5 billion buyout offer from British Firm Apax Partners, but the company insists it will keep its 'Kiwi appeal', which experts say gives it an edge over global competitors.

Mr Spain says the company's biggest competitor is Facebook - a risk Trade Me is well aware of, but one it says it can cope with over the next 20 years.