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YES

Jamie Rountree, owner of Rountree Tryon, who opened a gallery in Petworth in 2016.

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Jamie Rountree, owner of Rountree Tryon.

“The idea of an art and antiques town should be seen on a slightly wider scale. It should be about making the town a destination for either day trips or long weekends.

Take Petworth, which has a twitter tagline #townforart and is fast becoming a destination for culture as well as quality shopping and eating.

There are London-class restaurants, fashion and interior shops, cafés, a delicatessen, pubs as well as high quality fine art and antique dealers.

There is the National Trust’s wonderful Petworth House, with its excellent art exhibitions and Capability Brown gardens, a tourist hotspot especially in the summer.

Being only an hour from London brings all ages into the town, from young couples looking to furnish their houses through to older generations browsing around the beautiful surroundings.

A Saturday morning farmers’ market fits the ‘buy local’ aspect, and wealthy locals in the town and environs are helping to make Petworth an excellent gallery location all year round.

So yes, art and antiques towns are still viable, but they have to be so in conjunction with other types of markets and ideas.”

NO

Richard Gardner, owner of Richard Gardner Antiques, who closed his large Petworth shop in 2011.

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Richard Gardner, owner of Richard Gardner Antiques.

“We had a very large shop in Petworth – one of the largest antique showrooms in the country – but we found the footfall was going down and the traffic to our website was going up.

The rents in a town like Petworth are nearly as much as London and there isn’t the volume of people in a town like that to justify the costs.

I was in Petworth for 19 years and then moved to a Georgian four-storey house in Chichester for five years. We continued to see a decline in visitors to the showroom and an increase in web-based business, so decided to move to a warehouse.

I have now decided to return to the high street and have just opened a very small shop in Emsworth, Hampshire. Having a shop window is useful, as long as the rent is covered by the interest it generates. But there are not enough walk-ins to justify the costs of an expensive large shop.

We are next to a wine merchant, a print shop and a hairdresser. You don’t need to be in a town with other dealers, you just need a presence in a nice town and this shop window drives people to my website.

I have my stock in storage and rotate it in the shop window regularly. Websites take a lot of work and you have to be on top of it every day. Now more than 90% of my business comes via my website and that is the future.”