Vintage pen dealer Alan Penn at Antiques on High in Oxford with a customer in the centre which reopened on June 15.

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It seems an age since my last column appeared, in ATG No 2435 (March 21) – before the trade was dramatically transformed by Covid-19. The fairs and markets scene was running on empty with cancellations, postponements and a shuttering of centres.

This was a bleak time but the trade’s entrepreneurial spirit thrives and some fair organisers and dealers ramped up their online presence, with many appearing in ATG’s popular Dealers Online features.

Three months on and with lockdown restrictions lifting, some centres have reopened and an incresing number of outdoor fairs and markets are slowly and cautiously returning.

Here are two centres that have embraced head-on – or visor-on in one case – the social distancing and hygiene changes.

It’s good to be back and do keep all your news coming.

Reasons to be cheerful

Vincent Page, owner of Antiques on High in Oxford and Sidmouth, has plenty of reasons to be cheerful about the reopening of his centres on June 15. He said: “Trade has been better than expected, with Sidmouth taking more than Oxford every day for the first week. Even so it’s still been pretty good in both stores when you consider the circumstances we are all under.”

As an indication of confidence in his business post-Covid-19, Antiques on High is also opening a third branch in Ambleside in the Lake District in the autumn, which will probably be boosted by the recent reopening of hotels in the UK on July 4.

All the dealers in the centres wear masks or shields and the stringent shopping conditions include thermo detect guns, social-distancing floor tape, sanitisers on entry and counter screen guards.

Then there’s the crucial question of handling goods. Page said: “We are actively discouraging people from touching things too much but again the key issue is that they use the hand sanitiser when they come in. We have thrown two people out in Oxford who wouldn’t use it. Clothes are taped with ‘do not touch’ signs.

“In Sidmouth we can let people try things on – and we quarantine it for three days if they don’t buy it. We are doing the same with jewellery: they can try it on, but if they don’t buy it it’s bagged and dated and stored for three days.”

Open at last


A masked and gloved customer examining an object at the Click Antiques and Vintage centre which reopened on the same day.

An antiques centre in Northampton which moved to larger and more central premises in the city in February before the coronavirus lockdown hit finally opened its doors on Monday, June 15.

Claire Wallace-Sims, who runs the 35-dealer Click Antiques and Vintage with her partner Nick Smith, said: “It’s been bonkers and on three occasions on opening day we had queues and we had to ask people to wait outside.”

She added: “The last three months have been a combination of exhilaration, optimism and dread as we had only just got the build under way when Covid-19 hit. Once the traders moved in, we offered a click and collect service with contactless collection and payment which is a service we still offer now.

“We have taken many precautions to combat the threat of Covid-19. We have a floor walker who keeps an eye on the directional flow system to pre-empt potential bottlenecks or overly busy areas. We have clearly defined 2m markings in every aisle and signage advising our customers how we would like them to behave. We offer disposable gloves and anti-bacterial gel and have a supply of disposable face masks for those who require or want them.”