Bargain hunters keep Grove Mill busy

Hazel Burgess and Caroline Fleming, owners of Grove Mill Auctions in Eccleston
Hazel Burgess and Caroline Fleming, owners of Grove Mill Auctions in Eccleston

Traders are turning their back on the High Street and choosing to sell their goods at auction.

Buoyed by the popularity of TV shows such as BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Cash in the Attic, auction houses are shedding their image of being only for dedicated collectors and experts as the general public discover the delights of bidding for items in increasing numbers.

For newly-established auction houses, such as Grove Mill Auctions in Eccleston, founded two years ago by business partners Hazel Burgess and Caroline Fleming, business is definitely booming.

Hazel, 41, said: “It’s easy to sell with the auction house, as there’s no outlay, we do all our own advertising online, and you just drop the stuff off and we do all the rest for you.

“We get regular suppliers each week with 40 or 50 lots, and they’re clearly doing it for a living instead of having a stall.

“The people who come to the auction houses to supply us buy the stuff as well so it goes round and round.”

In addition to the collectors, increasing numbers of people are using the auction houses to look for ordinary household items and sell unwanted items.

Hazel said: “I think it’s due to the recession. People haven’t got the same amount of money to buy new, and all the programmes on TV have helped. People don’t just bin things, they seem to know the value of items more and are a bit more clued up about what they can actually sell.

“They see auctions on television and pop down to see what an auction is actually like, and when they get here they think it’s quite exciting.

“They are always amazed at what sells and start bringing things in to sell themselves.”

Another growth area for auction houses has been people doing a house clearance after a divorce or family death, or if they are choosing to downsize.

Hazel said: “When people split up, rather than argue over the table, they decide to put it in auction and split the money. I think in the past most of that stuff would have just been binned, but it’s been a huge growth area over the last few years.”

Hazel believes the traditional auction houses are also in a good place to lure back some business from the recent rise in online shopping.

She said: “A lot of people are now using eBay but when you start doing that you have to pack it and post it and all that. Our commission of 14 per cent is also competitive with the online, as eBay take 10 per cent and then there’s a PayPal commission on top of that, so it works out about the same.

“Online is all very good, but sometimes it’s easier to just speak to someone. You can also see the goods at auction rather than taking a chance on something and finding it’s completely different.”