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This staging was, by some measure, the most successful of this year’s three NEC fairs, and the good sales must have surprised more than a few.

Even more surprising, and right against the current trend, was the fact that furniture of all periods proved a big seller. But it had to be of some quality and reasonably priced – there was still resistance to the more mediocre brown furniture unless it was very cheap indeed.

Matthew Fowler from Marston House Antiques, London, had a large stand of period furniture in Section 1 and enjoyed his best ever fair at the NEC, selling pieces from early Georgian to Art Nouveau to Home Counties private buyers and the London trade.

Beechwood Antiques from Hertfordshire sold five mahogany extending dining tables, quite a feat in itself, and La Chaise Antiques from Stow-on-the-Wold sold many upholstered pieces in addition to a Georgian chest-on-chest at around £8000. Northamptonshire country furniture specialist Paul Hopwell, who was one of the dealers who did enjoy a strong Olympia, followed up his success with a bumper NEC.

Among his sales at the fair were two farmhouse dressers and he was expecting a deal of post-fair business.

He also bought at other stands, including in Section 1 an item of early 18th century furniture he described as “of Grosvenor House quality”.

Fellow country specialist Sandy Summers of Cheshire’s Adams Antiques also bought well, and she also sold very well with business far exceeding what she achieved at Olympia.

Pictures sold across the board and clocks proved especially popular. Silver and ceramics performed much as expected, although blue-and-white seemed very successful, with Gillian Neale, the Buckinghamshire specialist who has been showing at the NEC for many years, enjoying her second-best outing at the venue.

An NEC veteran of some 14 years is London glass dealer Jeanette Hayhurst and she also had one of her best NEC fairs. This was the first time Mrs Hayhurst has tackled the Winter NEC and she tells me she met many new clients she had not seen at the other NEC events.

Organiser Fran Foster was justifiably happy with her last fair of the year and said: “It has been a pleasure to close 2003 with one of the most successful fairs of the year for many of our exhibitors.”

All eyes will now be on The National Fine Art and Antiques Fair which Mrs Foster will launch at the NEC from January 28 to February 1 next year.