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One of the great obsessions in our industry is how you attract the next generation of buyers and sellers. Forty or fifty years ago, newly married couples tended to go to auction to buy furniture and decorations for their first home. Then the era of mass consumerism, with its disposable, flatpack furnishings, took over, tastes changed, and the local general weekly auction started to look like a thing of the past.

Well, half a century on we’re still here and as relevant today as we have always been. Yes, we have had to adapt, offering more specialist sales, better catalogues, clear costings and, in the advanced technological age, live bidding via the internet.

What hasn’t changed are the twin thrills of finding something special hidden among the day-to-day items and the charged atmosphere of competitive bidding and ultimate victory as the hammer comes down. I’d say they are as attractive characteristics of the auction process for the young as they are for the more mature among us. However, by themselves, they are not enough to sustain a healthy level of business going forward. As auctioneers, we must make sure that the new generation feels as well-informed and comfortable with the process as its predecessors. In modern parlance, it’s known as building a trusted brand.

Dealers face similar challenges. I was chatting to one last week about his recent experiences standing at antiques fairs. When times are uncertain or tough, he said, he adapts the stock he presents on his stand so that it appeals to richer, older people who are less likely to be affected by fluctuating financial fortunes.

However, what he really wants for long-term success are new, younger buyers who are setting off along the road to a life of collecting. They may spend less in the short term, but they will be around longer, graduating to more valuable pieces as life goes on.

The other challenge for both him and auctioneers like me is the changing nature of buyers. When I started in the business, most people who bought at auction were dealers who would turn up every week to restock and spend a reasonable sum. Now more private buyers are raising a hand or clicking a mouse to bid – and very welcome they are too. However, fewer take the form of traditional collectors looking to see what’s on offer, week in, week out. A far greater percentage are those wanting something to decorate their house with, which means they tend to be one-off purchasers. This means we must all be much more proactive than ever before to make a success of this business.