The auction business hasn’t been successful just by using smoke and mirrors in the bidding process. The secret reserve is very effective however their institutional organizations will now be on display with the Antiques Trade Gazette’s promotion of the Auctioneers’ Conference taking place next week in Birmingham, England. In looking at the program for the conference, it is quite instructive. (http://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/7054.aspx)
The scope of such a conference is like nothing that can ever been conceived by dealer and their various “representative” organizations. From what I understand the only opportunity for various dealers to actually get together to discuss industry issues is at antiques shows, or at an auction (be careful not to talk and bid at the same time). The issues facing dealers are just as pressing as those facing auctioneers and in many ways overlap.
One of the most impressive features of the conference is how the list of sponsors represents many interests in the success of auctioneers and international scope of the attendees. The fact that ATG Media (the parent company of the Antiques Trade Gazette) has created this conference for the auctioneers is also very telling. They could effectively do the same thing for dealers, but would dealer organizations and their members have the time, money, and inclination to design and structure a conference on this level? It’s an unfortunate missed opportunity.
Dealer fragmentation in levels of price, specialty, location, and operating style can and never will be reconciled, but they should be able to evolve with technology, a discerning eye, and business savvy. Knowing one’s limits in the antiques trade is usually based on liquidity and the ability to buy. The understanding of what the competition (be it another dealer or auctioneer) is doing and how they are doing it should be constructive and practical in its adaptation.
The program includes approaches on how to have a good personal and professional presentation of yourself to your clients, to techniques for selling locally or around the world. The concept of thinking “green” and “recycling in style” are promoted along with methods of marketing and understanding today’s retail environment.
I would love to go to this conference just to learn what ideas are circulating among this part of the industry however I’m sure as a dealer I would look like a fish out of water. Then again, are dealers and their representative organizations hopelessly embarrassed to admit that they too could use a live forum to improve their condition?