Some dealers stalling out at the London fair last week had thought twice about attending.
Others were more certain about taking part. “It’s the best fair in London on a Sunday,” said Lucy Verity, who deals 18th and 19th century jewellery with her daughter, Verity. “Matthew keeps it very tight and doesn’t allow reproduction in.”
The warm applause for Adams was for “going the extra mile”, one dealer told ATG, such as reducing the entrance fee from £4 to £1.
Former dealer Adams had done the rounds at Portobello the day before, reminding people to attend.
The number of stall holders at the table-top fair was inevitably thinner this time, down from the 142-dealer norm to under 100. Some were given two tables as a bonus to fill the room.
Stands prices were not reduced, and dealers were reluctant to drop prices beyond their usual discount. “We’ve paid a certain price, and auctions are still running,” said Kitty Verity. “If we stop, then everything in the chain stops.”
A queue of buyers formed before opening time at 10am. Noticeable by their absence this time were Asian buyers, in particular the Japanese.
‘Hold our nerves’
As the fair drew to an early close, Adams said event organisers had to hold their nerves. “The day before the fair, one caller said I was irresponsible for going ahead. But I balance that against all the other messages I had asking for this to go ahead, because it’s vital to their cashflow”.
Heeding government advice, Matthews has postponed the April fair. His Frock Me event has also been cancelled.
In the meantime, dealers are being guided by their own intuition, which suggest that online is the place to go.
“This crisis is likely to last for months and selling face-to-face opportunities will become rare or disappear,” one dealer said. “I’ve got four shops online. This crisis shows dealers can never have too many”.