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Downham auctioneer enjoying successful sales after adapting to new circumstances in lockdown​

A Downham auctioneer is enjoying extremely successful sales since lockdown, with bosses saying it shows the market's ability "to adapt" to the new circumstances.

Barry L Hawkins has had to change the way it operates since the pandemic but, despite this, online bidders have increased three-fold for some auctions.

Speaking about the high demand, Marcus Hawkins said: "We have had to adapt and it's changed the way we operate to a certain extent.

Downham auctioneer Barry Hawkins. (44349388)
Downham auctioneer Barry Hawkins. (44349388)

"Most auctions used to be held within four walls, but now we are open to any audience due to the power of the internet.

"We have continued to sell purely live online, maintaining within the regulations and providing clients the opportunity to purchase items online then collect the item via a click and collection system.

"Online bidding remain strong with some buyers spending thousands of pounds without even seeing the item.

"They do rely on us to provide a professional description and condition reports, which occasionally can bring its own headaches."

Mr Hawkins added: "We shut up shop during the first lockdown and were forced to furlough some staff but we've had to bring these people back to help cope with the demand.

"To start with we had between 150 and 200 people register to bid online but it has increased to between 300 and 500 and in some cases up to 700 people for some auctions.

"The beauty of itis that it has put Downham Market on the map as items are being sold globally across the world."

The auctioneer, synonymous with auctions in the town for over 170 years, had more than 580 buyers register to bid online for its latest sale.

These came from all corners of the globe, including the US, Germany, Austria and Russia.

And despite the current restrictions, they are still able to hold livestock and farm machinery dispersal sales on site, as long as social distancing is maintained.

"Farm machinery sales have been exceptional," said Mr Hawkins.

"We are still able to hold dispersal sales and the domestic market has still been strong because of the need for farming and food production.

"In some cases we are finding that some of the local farmers are prepared to pay a little bit extra than some of the dealers."

Antiques and collectable auctions are held every three weeks with war medals and a collection of 2,000 woodworking tools have sparked a lot of interest in the last few months.

"Collectors like to buy into the story and the war medals came from someone who had survived the Crimean, First and Second World Wars while the woodworking toys saw two particular buyers battle it out for two-and-a-half hours once the lot had ended," said Mr Hawkins.

But not being able to welcome buyers into their auction room does come with it's drawbacks as Mr Hawkins explained.

"Our business is a people business and I do miss them coming into the sales room," he said.

"I miss the banter and now everything is done on camera."

The next online auction takes place on Wednesday (February 17).

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