An auction house hopes online bidding introduced in response to the coronavirus crisis will help it attract a new generation of customers when it reopens.

Bill Nelson, saleroom manager for 1818 Auctioneers, said stopping live auctions in March had impacted its cashflow but it was planning new timed auctions - similar to those on eBay - to help with its recovery.

The online auctions are open to bidders for 16 days and if bids come in close to closing time then the bid time is extended.

“As we come out of lockdown measures, with some furloughed staff returning to work in the coming weeks, timed sales are a good way to reopen,” said Bill.

“They are easier to set up, requiring less staff, and offer a much safer working environment.

"We hope they’ll provide a new, yet familiar, way for people to interact with our 200-year-old auction business.

“Whilst there’s nothing to beat the buzz of a live auction, it can be the very thing that puts people off bidding.

"So, in a first for us, we’re giving people over two weeks to bid for items."

The first online auction is a sale of fountain pens which closes on Sunday.

Bill said initial responses to the auction suggested 50 per cent of the bidders were registered for the first time with 1818, which based at the Junction 36 Rural Auction Centre, near Kendal.

It is planning a programme of online auctions between now and mid-July.

If successful, Bill says they will continue alongside 1818 Auctioneers live formats.

“The auction business is moving from one that’s about selling to the trade and professional collectors to one that’s attracting individuals and we hope this helps,” he said.

“We can see that ongoing success is about continuing to improve and grow our online client experience, as well as investing in the actual saleroom."