Ipswich: Lots to be positive about at Lockdales as auctioneers beat the recession

Lockdales new premises

Lockdales new premises - Credit: Contributed

NOT all of Suffolk’s businesses are suffering in the recession. In fact some are growing – and growing fast. Some businesses have escaped unscathed.

Lockdales staff

Lockdales staff - Credit: Contributed

And according to the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s latest survey some local firms are performing better than the rest of the UK.

But the picture is patchy and the service sector isn’t doing quite so well – the general feeling is the recovery has yet to begin.

As reported in The Ipswich Star, Dr Peter Funnell, the president of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “As the results for the last five or six quarters have shown, the local economy is moving forward but the economic recovery is yet to genuinely take off.”

But some businesses are bucking the trend and Martlesham-based auction house Lockdales is one of the recession-beaters.

Specialising in the sale of coins and medals, the company started in 1996 in a small shop in Ipswich’s Upper Orwell Street.

It soon expanded and eventually took over three shops in the street which has more lately become synonymous with retail decay and planning blight.

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Chris Elmy, a numismatist – an expert on antique coins – has worked at the auction house for 10 years.

He said: “Five years ago we were in Upper Orwell Street and our auctions were held in local hotels. We were expanding and we were running out of room.”

Since February 2012 the company has been in large offices at Barrack Square, Martlesham, where it is has plenty of space as well as its own auction room.

Chris said: “The idea behind coming here was so that we would have everything under one roof.

“Three to five years ago we had 10 members of staff and just a few consultants, now we have 16 members of staff and more consultants and we are still expanding, we will soon need more people.”

Chris, 31, also deals with the company’s website and desktop publishing.

He added: “Five years ago we were conducting six auctions a year, now we are doing nine auctions a year.

“We are receiving more lots and people are more prepared to sell things. Our revenues from the auctions have grown 50% in five years. Three years ago our company was turning over £2million a year in total sales. This year we expect to gross £4 to £5million through our auctions.”

Though the company’s roots were in coins, medals and stamps, the company has expanded into the fine antique market.

Chris said the closure of a branch of another auction house in Ipswich meant Lockdales was able to expand into the new market.

He said: “We managed to recruit some of the staff who were working for the other auctioneers and they came here. Our antiques auctions began as single-day events. Our next one in June will have to be three days long in order to process the number of lots we are receiving.”

Securing lots is the key to ensuring a lively and interesting sale and Lockdales scours the UK in search of sellers.

Chris said: “We go to a lot of trade shows and we are building on word of mouth and our reputation. We are now, we believe, one of the largest independent auction houses in East Anglia”.

But why has the auction house done so well during years through which many businesses have struggled?

Chris said: “People who find themselves in difficulty often decide to sell things they have of value and unlock cash.

“Another reason is that people are less keen on investing in banks and the property market has been depressed. People have decided to invest in other things like antiques and collectables.”

Growth markets such as China, India and Russia where there is an emerging middle class have also bought from Lockdales.

Chris said: “We do a lot of international business and increasingly with other countries such as Brazil, South Africa and the Arab nations.”

But has the company’s growth been due to or in spite of the recession.

Chris said: “I think we would have expanded and done well without the recession as we were already expanding and in a position grow. Though I think we grew a bit quicker than we would have because of the recession.”

n How is your business doing during the recession? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email starletters@archant.co.uk