Tue, 23 Jun 2020
When lockdown started at the end of March, like most businesses Special Auction Services (SAS) Newbury had to shut its doors.
By mid-May it was up and running with online auctions and on June 16 the auction house held its first sale where people were able to attend.
“We lost about six to eight weeks of ‘business’ time,” said SAS director Neil Shuttleworth. “We were able to mothball sales that were due to take place and as a small business we quickly adapted to the new ‘normal’.”
In mid-May, SAS held its first online auction – a specialist camera auction and, fittingly as one of the leading camera auction specialists in the country, the company’s first auction on June 16, after opening up, was also cameras and camera equipment.
Mr Shuttleworth said: “We have worked out that we can have 10 to 15 people in the auction room and we would encourage anyone who is safe to attend to let us know in advance so we can control the numbers and ensure that correct social distancing measures are observed.
“When people enter the building there will be hand sanitisers available and face masks and gloves if they want to use them.
“We are confident that we are providing a safe environment and want people to feel relaxed.”
During lockdown SAS has been able to provide video valuations as well as running the online auctions since mid-May.
“One thing we have noticed is that we have a whole new audience – lockdown has meant that people have more time on their hands and our wider audience has grown as a result,” said Mr Shuttleworth.
“When we held the first online camera auction on May 11, it was a timed auction – bidders had to get their bids in within a certain time for each lot.
“Then about 10 days later we held our first auction when I was able to stand at the rostrum and run it live.
“We had one other person in the building and other staff taking bids via Zoom.
“It worked really well and we’ve run them that way ever since.”
SAS opened its doors on June 15, with staff gradually returning to work up to then.
Mr Shutleworth said: “Our new, much larger premises – in Plenty Close, off Hambridge Road – have made it much easier for us to accommodate staff as they return and again we have made sure all the right personal protection equipment and hygiene provision is in place.”
He said that the internet and online communication has enabled SAS to continue providing a quality service.
“During peak lockdown, facilities such as Skype, Zoom and email have meant that we have been able to provide both a valuation service and extra ‘viewing’ sessions for potential buyers interested in particular items – for instance just before our jewellery and coins auction I spent about 90 minutes on a video call with one collector who wanted to see some of the lots up close and ask more questions – it’s basically your own personal service.”
He says SAS is getting a lot of extra enquiries from people interested in its specialist auctions.
“We have an auction coming up soon of items from the estate of prolific antiques collector Joan Dunk and we have had a lot of people contacting us for extra information, which we are able to provide via video.”
Like all businesses, Mr Shuttleworth says SAS has adapted “to the best of our ability”.
“Everyone has been impacted and we have done everything we can to make the customer experience as helpful as possible.
“We are looking forward to welcoming people back to the building and we want them to know that we are very much open for business and you can find out everything online about how easy it is to have items valued and to take part in auctions.”
To find out more visit SAS at www.specialauctionservices.com or call (01635) 580595.