ATG went along to the first edition to view the results and gather opinions from buyers and sellers.
“It’s our first time buying at this fair for about 10 years,” said Carrie Jane Pogoloff, owner of a Dallas, Texas-based interior design business. She was talking to ATG at Arthur Swallow Fairs’ Antiques & Home Fair on April 3, hosted as usual at Lincolnshire Showground.
What isn’t usual is that the fair is now held on one day, rather than two, and has moved from its Monday-Tuesday slot to Wednesday. That’s just a day ahead of IACF Newark on Thursday and Friday, held at Newark Showground 18 miles down the road.
Pogoloff and her business partner, Lisa Wardlaw, cross the Atlantic twice a year to restock their shop at UK fairs and registered the changes to Lincoln’s schedule. “We’ve come back to Lincoln because the organisers have moved this fair to fit more neatly between all the others happening this week,” Pogoloff said.
The Dallas buyers’ endorsement will hearten Arthur Swallow Fairs, which last year took that bold decision to compress six two-day fairs into four one-day events in 2019.
Richard Burgoin, who runs Arthur Swallow Fairs with his brother Marc, told ATG it had been “a big decision to condense Antiques & Home into one day, next to IACF Newark.
“The move means we’ve reduced our overheads – that includes the cost of hiring the 200-acre showground itself – and have passed those savings onto exhibitors.” An outside stall is now £90 inc VAT, down from £127 and an indoor table inside the Epic Centre is £90 inc VAT, down from £150.
For trade buyers, switching weekdays presents the potential of three consecutive days of purchasing in Lincolnshire – a convenience that had gone down well with buyers ATG met at the fair.
Milan-based Roberto Gerosa, an architect specialising in renovating period homes, combined a buying trip to Lincoln and Newark this month. “Before the changes it was hard to come here as well as Newark, with a gap of a day between both,” he told ATG. “What is very good now is how close this fair is to Newark – timing-wise as well as physically.”
In the Epic Centre, Irish dealer John O’Connor was “having a good day” selling Edwardian, Victorian and 20th century gold jewellery to UK and overseas dealers. Recalling Arthur Swallow Fairs’ three-day shows at nearby RAF Swinderby from 1995 to 2009, he said: “We can do good business in one day here at the Lincolnshire Showground.”
Dealers on the double
For sellers with heavier stock, including those from overseas who want to stall out at Lincoln and Newark, closure of the gap between both fairs is less straightforward.
“For overseas dealers, it’s complicated,” said Charles Center, a Belgian dealer based in Portugal, who sells furniture and garden statuary. “There was always a gap of a day. I have so much gear here and tomorrow at 5am at Newark we’ll have to unload again.”
As Center spoke to ATG, a queue of buyers had formed at his pitch. At this the Belgian smiled, acknowledging the faster pace of buying at a one-day event, and promising to “give the new format a try”.
Fair regulars told ATG that van and lorry traffic seemed heavier than at previous Antiques & Home shows, as buyers reacted to a tighter purchasing timeframe. Trade buyers entered at 7am, followed by private purchasers at 9am, both groups speeding around to make purchases.
“We’ve put our first purchases into the van and are on our second time round the fair,” said Belinda Kilduff, who with husband Tom trades on Instagram as a hobby. “We have noticed a difference this year – it does seem a lot busier,” she added.
Organisers estimate that nearly 1000 sellers stalled out for the inaugural one-day Antiques & Home, up 15% on the previous show. At the fair’s end, as stall holders queued to pay and rebook for the next fair on May 29, Burgoin was relieved at the “mainly positive” feedback he and his team had received about the new format.
'Can't please everyone'
“With a move like this you can’t please everyone,” he said. “The past two years have been challenging – and I can’t help but mention Brexit here – not just for the antiques trade but for business in general. We listen to what people say and adapt to these changing times.”
Georgian and Victorian furniture dealer Adrian Perry is used to moving with the times. Having stalled out at Lincoln since the Swinderby era, he now “mixes it up” by sharing a marquee at Lincolnshire Showground with a dealer selling painted French furniture and another specialising in 20th century.
“This is the first condensed show here and it will take a few fairs to get to where everybody needs to be,” he observed. “But it has been well attended by sellers and buyers. The problem is, if you’ve travelled far, as I have from Stafford, and you do well, as I have here at Lincoln, I can’t restock for Newark in time for tomorrow morning. So, I’ll go to Newark with what I’ve got left.”
Perry agreed that given those challenging and changing times, that’s a nice problem to have.