TV antiques expert CATHERINE SOUTHON (pictured right) was forced to cancel her auction planned for Farleigh last month. Here, she outlines how her Bromley-based auction house business has coped and changed during the coronavirus lockdown
Our world has changed significantly over the last couple of months and as with so many businesses, auction houses have changed significantly, too.
On Friday, March 20, I was forced to close the doors on my business, Catherine Southon Auctioneers and Valuers, at Ripley Arts Centre to protect our staff and public from the health risks posed by the covid-19 pandemic.
We were due to be holding a large auction at our regular venue at Farleigh Golf Club in April, where we often get more than 100 customers attending.
But with our catalogue designed and ready to be printed, everything was stopped.
Through April, we watched closely as other auction houses around the country experimented and began to hold auctions online. Auctioneers were staging sales in their homes, gardens, sheds, fields… anywhere where they and the public, their customers, were safe and distanced.
The results of some of these auctions were surprising.
As has always been the case through history during uncertain times, people like to place their wealth in something reliable – precious metals, like gold, and other valuables. Stocks and shares have plummeted, and many have turned to investing in antiques.
Helped by the current strong market for gold and silver, prices at auction were incredibly high and auction houses were recording record numbers of clients bidding online from the comfort of their own homes.
Of course, all the indoor and outdoor public antiques fairs are closed at the moment, so the trade has been buying more at online auctions. With the majority of us still working from home, online auctions are proving a great distraction from the difficulties surrounding us.
Twenty years ago auctioneers would not have been been able to change to online bidding auctions – it didn’t really exist. If the public were unable to come to the auctions, the auction houses would eventually close and the businesses would fold. With digital technology, buying online at auctions gives us a secure platform to bid safely and securely with excellent results.
Catherine Southon Auctioneers and Valuers will be holding our first-ever online-only auction on June 10. Further details are now on our website, at www.catherinesouthon.co.uk, including some of the items that will be up for sale.
And we are also beginning to get back to our valuation business, too. If you have any items that you would like valued please email photographs to email@example.com or telephone 020 8313 3655.
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