With all the uncertainties and confusion over trading conditions, the pandemic lockdowns often involved cancelled and altered fair dates, putting a strain on the trade’s capacity to do just that – trade.
However, here is a snapshot of some of the highs in this most turbulent of years. The outlook is positive.
First up is Will Thomas, MD of IACF. “It has been a real challenge dealing with Public Health England and local authorities to put on these events. I am really proud of our team who have worked incredibly hard to ensure that dealers still have an outlet to sell their stock and help keep this industry ticking in such difficult times. I would also like to thank our stallholders and buyers for their continued support and patience when events have been less certain.
“A Happy New Year to everyone in our fantastic and resilient industry and let us all look forward to a prosperous 2021.”
IACF Ardingly runs at the South of England Showground on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 19-20.
This column took a break itself in March and restarted in July as events came back into the calendar. Our final instalment pre-lockdown highlighted four openings in Suffolk.
Step forward Graham Hessell of the Melford Antiques, Interiors and Lifestyle Centre and Patrick Scholz who launched his eponymous antiques centre. Both are in Long Melford. In Woodbridge in October Teresa Potts (pictured below) finally received planning for her antiques centre, Theatre Street Antiques and Vintage. Linda Wood and two friends opened a pop-up vintage shop, No6 Southwold, in a former off-licence in Southwold.
To keep the trade alive, many organisers got creative, ramping up their online activity by holding virtual events, including Arthur Swallow Fairs, Adams’Frock Me, So Last Century, the PBFA and the Portobello Antiques Market.
Dealers too either embraced online dealing or increased their presence. These included textiles dealer Meg Andrews after the Textile Society’s London event was cancelled in October and Jane Ventworth, a dealer at the Holt Antiques and Interiors Centre in Norfolk.
Ventworth said: “I have been trading online for six months and did well throughout the first lockdown gaining new and loyal customers.
The public are spending more on their homes and upgrading their furniture to give their surroundings a more individual look – picture sales have been particularly good.”
Stephanie Castell, who owns the Secondhand Warehouse in Leominster and who went to an extreme measure of knocking down a wall to accommodate social distancing during lockdown one, said: “Customers came because they were decluttering and redecorating, buying pictures, maps, prints and mirrors.”
Castell, who runs Two Cs Fairs with Ben Cooper, added a country living element to their antiques fair at Ludlow Racecourse in September, their first fair since lockdown.
Down by the riverside, Gary Wallis took up a new date in September for his three-day Henley Decor Fair. So successful was this that he has extended the May 2021 event to a five-day fair.
In June Arthur Swallow Fairs flew back with its antiques and salvage market at the Cheshire Showground. Alice Roberton from Swallow said: “It was the most unbelievably successful event – one of our busiest ever.”
In the open air
In September, the ever resourceful Edward and Jennie Cruttenden of Sunbury Antiques did a swerve and moved the August and September dates for their mainly indoor Sandown Park event to an open-air event – the Wimbledon Homes & Antiques Fair on Wimbledon Common – with the first on Sunday, August 30.
B2B Events was back on the road in August with its first Malvern Flea since lockdown at the Three Counties Showground. B2B director Helen Yourston was delighted with how busy it was, notching up visitor figures of 6200.
Still with fleamarkets, Alan Wilkinson, who owns the Brighton and Lewes fleamarkets, both popular trade pitstops, reopened them in June post-lockdown one. General manager David Skeet said: “Customers were genuinely happy to see the return of whatever is normality these days. We were really lucky and didn’t lose any of our stallholders.”
Tale of a tile
There is a lot more positive news in this vein but the last hoorah must surely go to the Tavistock Pannier Market.
Earlier this year a buyer spotted an object described as a ‘Cornish tile’ for which he paid £8. It was in fact a William De Morgan lustre tile and sold at Woolley & Wallis in October for £3800 hammer, netting the canny buyer a £3400 profit after fees.