The British Antique Dealers’ Association’s annual survey of its 388 members shows that, despite economic jitters, their aggregate turnover rose from £727m in 2000 to an estimated £782m last year.
However, the rate of growth has slowed dramatically. The terrorist attacks on New York have been blamed for a downturn in the antiques trade, but do not tell the whole story – the slowdown of growth in the market predates the World Trade Center disaster on September 11, according to the BADA report. However, export figures – particularly to the United States – offer encouragement to dealers hoping to broaden their horizons in the long term.
More than half the dealers questioned in 2000 reported a rise in turnover, but that figure had dropped to 42 per cent in 2001. Two thirds of sales went overseas, and two thirds of those exports went to the US.
However, the period covered by the BADA survey predates September 11 – many British dealers and fair organisers have noted a dramatic slump in US buying in the aftermath, which has yet to see any real signs of recovery. But while US buyers may be thin on the ground in Britain and Europe, their appetite for antiques is unabated, and dealers who have touted their wares across the Atlantic have found a burgeoning market on the Americans’ home ground.
This trend reflects dealers’ selling habits – never slow to pick up on new markets. While dealers’ attendance at UK fairs has remained stable, rising slightly from 69 per cent in 1997 to 72 per cent in 2001, the number showing at fairs abroad rose from 12 per cent to 23 per cent last year.