Auction houses become retail outlets for buyers

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 12th January, 2013

Once upon a time, furniture auction houses were the places people would go to offload their less than desirable items that no one else really wanted. Usually holding weekly sales, often these venues would be crammed to the rafters with either unwanted junk or items that would be sold off at very competitive prices.

Auction houses had neither the time nor inclination to worry about presentation – it was just a case of accepting everything a vendor turned up with and getting rid of it as quickly as possible. Most vendors reserved any of their valuable furniture items for antique shops, where they might remain for months with a high price tag before an interested buyer came up with the funds to take the piece home.

However, in this fast-paced 21st century world vendors are no longer prepared to let items languish for long periods of time before selling and buyers are keen on a variety of goods to furnish their houses. As a result, antique shops have declined in number while auction houses are now operating more like retail-style businesses. It is no longer sufficient to throw auction items together in an amorphic mass – with presentation of individual items becoming all important for effective sale.

“People are going to auction houses like Sotheby’s, Aingers and us to buy quality items,” explained Philips Auctions managing director Tony Philips. “Instead of picking up goods cheaply, dealers now have to compete against private buyers who are looking for something that can go straight into their home.” Auction houses never stand still – each auction is a new sale with completely different items – and as such are a good indication of people’s tastes.

“We soon find out what doesn’t sell and auction houses can sense changing tastes very quickly,” Mr Philips said. “For example, Victorian furniture is no longer popular and buyers want French or 20th century modernist styles like deco art nouveau and 1950s pieces.” Philips Auctions next fine and decorative arts auction on February 17 is typical of these latest buyer trends with Australian and international design pieces by Featherston, Rossando and Laliqueand nouveau ivory pieces among the items on offer.

“As younger people become interested in buying at auction, the marketing strategies auction houses use to appeal to a new generation of buyers have changed,” Mr Philips said. “Through our willingness to be flexible, there is no doubt we are setting the trends for future collectors of goods.”

Items popular at auction in recent times: Art deco spelter and marble ‘penguin and ice’ table lamp French walnut open sideboard in Louis XVI manner Provincial Louis XVI-style cherry wood sideboard French Empire-style marble topped mahogany console

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