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The promise came from Gavelnet Emporium, the new retail/auction site, to be found on the Gavelnet.com home site, launched this week with Gavelnet’s acquisition of Antiques Portfolio.

For what they are calling a small monthly fee to help pay for administrative costs, Gavelnet will manage the whole process of Web trading for dealers who sign up.

All the dealer needs to do is phone them and tell them what he/she wants to sell. If the item or items are of reasonable quality and value, Emporium will send out their own photographer – to wherever the dealer is in the UK – to take pictures of the items for the site. The dealer can give their own description of the item over the phone which will then be uploaded along with the image, which is treated by an expert to give the best possible reproduction on screen. The dealer is then shown copies of how the items and descriptions will appear on screen, signing their approval (and thereby guaranteeing the description) when they are satisfied.

Gavelnet Emporium estimate that the turnaround time for the whole process is between a week and ten days.

For Antiques Portfolio, who, since their inception in October 1999, have been no more than a conduit between buyer and seller for decorative art and collectables, it means a complete change in the nature of their business. “Now, as Gavelnet Emporium, we will manage the whole deal,” says managing director Peter Shoobridge. “We will gather as much information as possible from potential buyers and will contact dealers who may be able to help them. As well as posting the lots on site for the dealer, we will also arrange shipping and insurance. All the dealer needs is a phone.” If the service works as promised, it could prove an attractive option for the sole or small trader who does not have the capital or will to invest in inhouse facilities and staff.

Emporium will also be on hand to advise dealers on whether they would be better off selling their items on the retail or auction sites. Dealers will be able to transfer their goods between sites, choosing the retail site, a fixed term or rolling auction and possibly even to have their items included in specialist sales. New expertise is being brought in to manage this service. “We have created a low intrusive/low maintenance service,” says Mr Shoobridge, who is hoping to attract the large number of dealers who do not want to invest in, or use, digital cameras, computers, scanners and the like themselves, but simply want to get on with the business of buying and selling antiques.

Gavelnet bring their million-dollar transaction guarantee into play on the site to help settle any disputes – although it is notable that buyers still have only five days to put in a claim. And there is what they call a “very painless” commitment for the dealer to answer queries promptly from potential buyers or Emporium.

Apart from the monthly fee, costs to the dealer are a ten per cent vendor’s commission for items sold on the auction sites and a smaller percentage charge for those sold on the retail site.

Emporium are aiming at the middle to upper end of the market and say that a dealer wanting to use their services must be offering items that make it economically viable. In other words, photographers will not be travelling to John O’Groats just to take images of low value collectables.

Antiques Portfolio bring more than 200 affiliated UK and Europe-based dealers with them, a useful addition to Gavelnet, who have largely concentrated their expansion efforts in the United States until now.

In the meantime, Gavelnet are still developing their live interactive TV service and have plans to launch their own channel in the United States with access to 32 million homes. Mr Shoobridge and Michael Thomson-Glover, Gavelnet’s European business development director, told the Antiques Trade Gazette it is too early to say how business could expand into areas such as a TV shopping channel for antiques and collectables.