A case in point is the advice given by Tennants of Leyburn, North Yorkshire to W&H Peacock, as recently recounted to ATG by Mark Baker, managing director of the 116-year-old Bedford-based auction firm.
Early in 2017, Baker and his team embarked on the ambitious build of a 35,000sq ft auction centre in Eastcotts Park outside Bedford, expanding beyond the firm’s town centre base. Beforehand, Baker contacted Rodney Tennant, the family-owned auctioneer’s chairman, for advice.
After all, Tennant had masterminded the year-long build of a new extension to the firm’s Leyburn premises in 2013, thought to have cost in the region of £8m.
“Rodney has been really helpful,” Baker recalls. “He invited us to Leyburn with our architects to see his new buildings, including three salesrooms and two restaurants.”
Baker was not looking to copy the Tennants buildings’ stone-clad look – in fact, he describes the new Bedford Auction Centre as a “steel box” (see above) – but the W&H Peacock team noted the North Yorkshire firm’s “inspired use of display cabinets and rostrums”.
They also saw how Tennants had revamped their premises as an events venue as well as to encourage people to attend auctions as an enjoyable experience.
Down south, the Bedford Auction Centre features a restaurant with a vista of the building’s six salerooms at once – “like a live version of the BBC’s Flog It!,” as Baker puts it – a device designed to entice people into W&H Peacock’s auction environment for entertainment as well as to buy.
W&H Peacock’s mix of sales may be very different to Tennants’ – Baker estimates that 30% of his firm’s sales are antiques-related, the rest large and small industrial and commercial items. But Peacock’s expansion had something else in common with that at Tennants: they shared the same financial backer.
“We mainly funded the new build ourselves,” Baker says. “The big banks weren’t willing to support us, so our accountant suggested Handelsbanken, a Swedish commercial lender to small businesses it views as forward thinking. It’s a feather in our cap that they support us.”
Now the Bedford centre is up and running (ATG No 2313), the tips-swapping travels in both directions between Bedford and Leyburn. “Rodney and I recently compared notes on storage units,” Baker says. “I told him that with our investment in loading facilities and parking, we are strict on the collection of purchases, which must be picked up within two weeks or we will resell.”
■ This auctioneer version of phone-a-friend shows all signs of continuing and ATG’s Around the Auction Houses column would love to hear of more examples.
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