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The initiative is aimed at providing more user-friendly opening hours, targeting private buyers and getting more people through their door. It involves greatly extending weekend viewing times and an even more ground-breaking move – the introduction of a series of weekend auctions.

The changes are the result of market research the company undertook among existing buyers and sellers which revealed a demand for greater accessibility out of working hours. “The working folk are in their offices when we are having our sales,” said CSK chairman Hugh Edmeades.

He explained that many Londoners can’t make evening views and can only visit the salerooms at weekends.

At present the Old Brompton Road rooms open until 7.30pm on Monday evenings and have a well-attended Sunday afternoon opening. From January they will open from 10am-4pm on both Saturdays and Sundays as well as retaining a late-night Monday view. In addition to viewing, customers can place bids, pay for and collect items and take in objects for valuation or advice.

The weekend sales will be on Sundays and will start on February 20, with an auction devoted to Clarice Cliff. Full details of the programme have yet to be finalised but Christie’s expect sale numbers at South Kensington to increase from the current 230 auctions per year to 250.

The whole undertaking would, said Mr Edmeades, involve “a big human resources input” but Christie’s hope that this greater accessibility will draw more people through their doors, especially private customers in what is a heavily residential area. “We hope to encourage new audiences as well as regulars,” said Mr Edmeades, who believes weekend viewing is popular with the trade, who can avoid the congestion charge and use Sundays to get round all the London rooms.

Jane Hay, managing director of Christie’s UK, who has been heavily involved in the new CSK sales strategy, believes the initiative mirrors recent changes in opening hours that banks and supermarkets have made to accommodate working customers. “We’ve got to move with the times,” she said. “It is a logistical challenge and it requires a lot of preparation but everyone has a positive approach to this and is committed to making it work.”

With its emphasis on attracting private buyers, Christie’s seven-days-a-week venture is plainly aimed at taking the initiative in the highly competitive middle market which they share with Bonhams’ Knightsbridge and Sotheby’s Olympia. Both Sotheby’s and Bonhams also hold Sunday views and late-night weekdays views, but neither currently open on Saturdays or hold weekend auctions – although when one room attempts to steal a march, others may choose to follow.

Christie’s new 2005 viewing programme has involved several shifts to their auction timetable, including the move of their weekly furniture sales from Wednesday to Tuesday morning. One consequence of this is a clash with Bonhams’ weekly furniture sales at Knightsbridge and with Sotheby’s Olympia’s monthly sales, which both take place on Wednesday morning.

The change was necessary, say Christie’s, in order to have their furniture on show at the weekend.