AN Alresford auction house looks set to collapse into receivership, its manager has told the Hampshire Chronicle.

Prospect Auction Rooms, off New Farm Road, has ceased trading – owing thousabnds of pounds to a number of people or holding their unsold goods in its building.

Among the customers are people who have sold their recently deceased parent’s possessions and await payment. One woman, who asked not to be named, said: “I’m devastated. It is all about trust.”

Auctions due to have been held on November 10 and 24 were cancelled. Around six members of staff have been made redundant, said Charles Evans, its manager.

Mr Evans said: “What’s happening? It is just about to go into receivership. I feel absolutely sick about it. But it is not my fault; look at the state the country is in. We are not the only business to close up.”

He blamed the recession and fewer house sales: “Stuff to sell is not coming into the business. Why has it dropped off? I don’t know. People are not dying, people are not moving house.”

Mr Evans said he was unaware of how much money he owed to customers. “I will have to sit down with my accountant. I am trying to pay people off. If I had the money I would do.”

Mr Evans also blamed nearby competitor Andrew Smith and Son, based at Itchen Stoke, moving into general sales auctions several months ago.

“This has put me under so much stress, it’s unbelievable. I have tried my hardest to keep the place going. I am so sorry that it has not worked out, but it is not my fault that receivers will have to come in.”

But Mr Evans said customers who had left goods to be sold would be able to retrieve their possessions: “People will be able to go and get their stuff. A note will be left on the gate with a date for people to come. It will be before the receivers go in.”

One angry customer was Joan Davis, of Fleming Road, Weeke. Her 75-piece Royal Worcester china collection sold at auction at Prospect in September for £190 and she had yet to see her money.

Mrs Davis said: “It is not good. They have never given me any information. It is very poor. The money was going to help go towards Christmas. But what can you do about it?”

The business opened on Prospect Road in 2009.

Janice Smith, managing director of Winchester Auctions Rooms, part of Andrew Smith and Sons, based at Itchen Stoke disputed that they were to blame.

“We have always done Saturday sales. We have expanded recently because of the quantity of things coming through the door and opened a second showroom in August.  I don’t think we made any difference to his business. I think he was on the way out before that.

“He opened on our doorstep in 2009 which was a bit naughty. He did not have to be quite so close. I think he was trying to get some spin-off from the fact we were established here.

“I’m not surprised he has gone. I don’t understand why people went to him. We have always been in that market. We have been waiting for him to go and we are surprised it has taken so long.

“We are getting a lot of people coming in saying ‘what can we do?’” added Mrs Smith.