From April 12 art and antiques retail, auction houses and markets (all classed under the wider non-essential retail segment) can allow the public inside. Indoor venues such as fairs, museums and galleries will have to wait until at least May 17 in England and Wales.
In Scotland limited nonessential retail reopened from April 5 and ‘click and collect’ services from all retailers could resume from that date.
However, the remaining retail – including art and antiques shops and auction houses – are expected to be able to open their doors to the public from April 26.
In Northern Ireland, contactless transactions for all non-essential retail can operate from April 12 with a full reopening of non-essential retail reviewed on April 15.
In the Republic of Ireland an anouncement of the easing of restrictions from May is expected.
Many businesses in England and Wales are, for now, retaining a mixture of online and in-person servicess. Salisbury auction house Woolley & Wallis will reopen to the public on an appointment-only basis, with the firm allowing physical attendance at auctions in a socially distanced manner.
Some auction houses have decided against room bidding in the near term. Dreweatts of Newbury begins viewing by appointment from April 16 (for The Transport Sale and the Fine Clocks, Barometers and Scientific Instruments sale) but is not permitting viewing or bidding in the room on sale day.
In Wales, Rogers Jones & Co is operating in a similar way. Ben Rogers Jones, partner and auctioneer, said: “We are allowing bidders to view in person by appointment but we will not be permitting bidding in the room for the time being.
“I do not expect us to re-open [fully] until we are clearly out of the pandemic, without there being a threat of another wave.”
Dealers are also looking at ways of mixing physical and digital opportunities.
Retrovation is returning to St Albans and Chiswick High Street Antique Markets but has also launched a digital trial replacing paper labels with QR bar codes that customers can scan to view the details of the item on its website.
Retrovation said: “As we go back to the high street, we want to take our online experience and audience with us. We have loads of ideas to merge the high street with online.”