Belfast Telegraph

Auctions 'an opportunity'

Liquidation sell-offs can mark beginning as well as end for firms

By Clare Weir

A Northern Ireland auction house has said that they are "extremely busy" with liquidation sales as companies go to the wall on both sides of the border.

Wilsons Auctions, formed in 1936 by William J Wilson, has sites in Mallusk and Portadown, the Republic, England, Scotland and Wales.

A liquidation sale last night featured original and signed paintings by Terry Bradley, other artworks, office furniture, a mini-motorbike and even a "large selection of hair extensions". It's thought the items for sale were the stock of a number of different businesses.

Peter Johnston, group operations director at Wilsons, said that liquidation sales are not always a sign of bad news for everyone.

"While it is true that businesses are going bust every day, especially in the Republic where they seem to be falling very rapidly, these sales also provide an opportunity for others trying to start their own businesses," he said.

"We've seen bigger companies with fleets of vans or cars failing, then those same drivers coming to the auction, buying the vehicles they used to drive and starting up their own firms.

"The bigger car dealerships are also often seen at our auctions.

"Things like paintings and art are coming from a variety of sources, like galleries, shops or they may even come from the private collections of company directors and the receiver or liquidator has ordered them to be sold."

He said canny buyers could pick up great bargains at liquidation sales.

"We are getting a huge level of interest in these sales and we even hear of people buying their Christmas presents at these auctions.

"Yes, these are hard times and we are very busy with liquidations, but liquidation auctions are not automatically a sign of doom and gloom.

"They can also represent a real 'phoenix from the flames' type situation allowing others who could be seen as previously being at the bottom of the food chain, to start their own firms."

Last year saw one of Northern Ireland's biggest ever liquidation sales with the closing down sale of the failed Laser electrical goods chain. The sale, overseen by administrators KPMG, raised £767,942, meaning that after expenses and commission, just over £650,000 was available to be returned to creditors.

The company collapsed in April 2010 with the closure of 10 stores and the loss of 140 jobs.