Sotheby's, the British auctioneers, are opening their online auctions to customers in Switzerland in a bid to attract a wider clientele.
"By opening bidding in Switzerland, we can make Sotheby's accessible to an entirely new audience of Swiss art and antiques collectors," said Craig Moffett, president of Sothebys.com.
The online auctions, which began in January in the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany, are being extended to Switzerland and seven other countries. Sotheby's said it was including new markets as and when legal and safety issues are resolved.
The company says it is able to offer a much wider selection of goods in online auctions than in traditional auctions, and is confident it can attract new customers.
Michael Bing, of Internet Auctions London, told swissinfo that, 10 months after the launch, Sothebys.com had a better idea of what sells on the Internet.
"The items which are selling most effectively are generally in a range from $1,000 (SFr1,780) to $5,000. So we're able to focus more clearly now on the sort of goods we need to be offering online."
Switzerland has always been an important market for art, and therefore for Sotheby's. Two issues could affect the success of the online offer: the level of confidence about the safety of financial transactions over the Internet, and not being able to see or feel the goods on sale.
Bing says Sotheby's held back on the launch in Switzerland until it was confident about the security issue. He added that, so far, getting only a virtual view of an art work had not turned customers off.
"We were concerned about that... But we've been surprised at how many people, particularly American buyers, are happy to buy things without seeing them," Bing said.
"We shouldn't really have been surprised by this, because there's always been a history of people buying from our catalogues without necessarily seeing the items."
by Malcolm Shearmur