Delivery and logistics firms have all noted the continuation of the increase in demand for delivery for remote buyers from auctions and dealers.
James Simmons, marketing manager for delivery firm Mail Boxes Etc, said: “The art and antiques market has been transformed by the explosion of online channels, fuelled to a large extent by the impact of Covid-19.
“The growth we’ve seen in the sector is both significant and sustained. If our business in bespoke collect, pack and ship for art and antiques is a micro-barometer of the market, we can say that growth will continue in 2023.”
Mail Boxes Etc’s Auction Logistics delivery service operates from 150 specialist ‘collect pack and ship’ centres and it has more than 300 auction houses and close to 2000 art and antique specialists as customers around the UK.
Logistics firm Pack & Send has also seen a significant rise in demand. Graeme Rhodes, head of marketing at the firm, says: “The growth in online sales has contributed to the expansion of our network of specialist service centres in the UK as buyers and sellers of unique, valuable and fragile pieces are increasingly looking for an endto- end packing and shipping service – especially if they are unable to physically visit the seller and are often in another country.”
Pack & Send, an Australian firm that expanded into the UK in 2009, now has 20 service centres while Postit4me has also been expanding and just opened a new hub in Stoke-on-Trent to cover the Midlands and north-west England to cope with increased demand.
Although the online buying trend has continued there are subtle changes. Duncan Hypher, business development manager at Mail Boxes Etc, says: “Whereas last year there was a bit of a feeding frenzy and the feeling was that anything would sell, this year some lots are remaining unsold as people become more selective”, he says. “In effect, although sales have grown in general, the preference for better quality items is back to where it was before the pandemic.”
The expectations of customers has also changed with more pressure for a more efficient service.
Edouard Gouin, co-founder and CEO of Convelio, a logistics firm that collects, packs and ships artworks and valuable antiques around the UK and internationally, said: “More and more art world businesses of all sizes are seeing an increased demand from their own clients for logistical efficiency, particularly when buying online. Over the past two years, an accelerating number of UK galleries, auction houses and art fairs are requiring increased efficiency.”
And the growth is not just in the UK and Europe. Gouin adds: “Alongside our UK and EU operations, our largest and fastest growing market is the US and our most popular route is between France and the UK to the US.
“We have found our US clients to be highly engaged in the benefits of technology in the art market. As the ‘phygital’ era continues and the demographics of buyers are younger and hence more tech-savvy, clients everywhere are trying to provide a strong digital experience simultaneous to the experience in their bricks-and-mortar locations.”