As winter approaches, one topic appears to be on the lips of ministers and on the pages of national newspapers: will the government need to implement a ‘Plan B’ to cope with rising cases in Covid-19? 

James Emson

James Emson, managing director and auctioneer, Cliver Emson

Although Boris Johnson seems determined to keep a return to home-working and Zoom quizzes on the shelf, a possible return to lockdown living has nevertheless made those in the auction world question whether auctions will be physical or digital this winter.

The message I want to put out to our sector is that there is no need to rush back to a physical auction room just yet. While this statement may annoy some of my fellow auctioneers – especially when 68% of the UK population has received their vaccination to protect themselves from Covid-19 – I think it is important to remember how well we adapted when we were in the depths of the pandemic just 18 months ago.

When the nation was under strict Covid-19 restrictions, our sector was forced to take the busy and social world of ballroom auctions online. And it worked – for the most part – extremely well. At Clive Emson, being forced to move our auctions to a virtual space was initially difficult, but we received a lot of positive feedback.

The key thing that made this transition easier was communication. We provided customers with an easy-to-use guide detailing how online auctions worked, which we published on our website. We also posted walk-through videos, so bidders could see the land or properties they were interested in.

Online Auction SOLD

While many were concerned that the move to online would deter bidders, this was not the case. Even in May 2020, when the pandemic was at its height, our auctions saw lot sales of more than 70%, while our June 2020 auction saw a total of 85%. This data proves that customers are willing and ready to adapt to a fresh style of auctioneering that does not have to compromise their health during the winter months.

New hybrid style

Those in the sector will know that the atmosphere in a bustling ballroom auction room is unbeatable – and I will be the first to admit that being able to attend these events in person is an important part of an auctioneer’s job.

However, the post-pandemic auction market has opened the floor to a new hybrid style, which allows some people to bid in the ballroom while others stream the event digitally in real time or use telephones or proxy bids.

I have found this concept, which was used less frequently before the pandemic, to be an extremely helpful way for first-time bidders and international clients to participate.

I would prefer to see a return to the traditional ballroom auction in the spring and summer months – when the weather is warmer – as opposed to a rushed return in the winter months, when infection rates are expected to rise

In addition, we have seen a growing trend of new first-time buyers attending the digital ballroom – and they have come to be some of the most successful bidders in the room.

Most importantly, reducing the amount of people in the ballroom can limit the spread of Covid-19 and prevent the contraction of other winter infections.

While there is a great social aspect to a ballroom auction, as it allows people to connect and network, moving auctions online can also free up space for other work and family commitments during the day.

If the global shift to online working has taught us anything, it is that many people can complete their job just as well from home as in the workplace – so why should we remove this useful comfort just yet?

A spring return

Another major takeaway from living in a post-pandemic Britain is that our health takes precedence over being present in a business setting. In the auction room, we have a vast demographic of people attending, from all age ranges, and it is important to make sure that they are protected.

That is why I would prefer to see a return to the traditional ballroom auction in the spring and summer months – when the weather is warmer – as opposed to a rushed return in the winter months, when infection rates are expected to rise.

Towards the end of October, the UK recorded a further 38,009 Coronavirus cases and it has been reported that infection rates are at the highest level since January. Even though we have been free from restrictions since July, clearly the nation still has some way to go before we can be truly comfortable and confident in a crowded setting.

Thanks to the use of technology, bidders who choose to use the online option will not miss out on any of the emotion or atmosphere that a day at the auction brings. The stakes are just as high, and I can promise that it is still a rollercoaster ride, regardless of your location.

About Clive Emson

clive emson logo reflex

  1. One of the top five auctioneers in the UK
  2. Regional offices with teams offering a wealth of local knowledge for buyers and sellers
  3. Over 80% sale rates regularly achieved
  4. High-profile marketing
  5. Exclusively trading as auctioneers (not part of a chain or franchise)

Time to be bold