Are antique fairs making a comeback?

New antique fairs, impressive figures and an iPhone app shows how the antique market is fairing, says Annie Deakin

Against all odds, business is booming for antique fairs. With more new fairs opening, the release of an Antiques Roadshow iPhone app and soaring sales figures, life is looking up for British dealers. Next week is Battersea Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair (18-23 January) and expectations are high.

If last year’s figures are anything to go by, scouting for hidden treasures at antique fairs has become a national pastime. LAPADA Art and Antiques Fair in Berkeley Square gained 15 per cent more visitors than previously. Similarly, the two largest antique fairs in Europe, Newark and Ardingly, reported an average rise of 12 per cent on the attendances across their 26 shows in 2010.

With such a growing interest in antique fairs, it was only a matter of time before tech geeks designed an iPhone app. Launched last week, the Antiques Roadshow iPhone App demonstrates how antique fairs appeal to a young demographic. Players virtually collect, appraise and bid on antiques based on images of real objects. ‘Antiques Roadshow remains a huge hit on-air, and local events draw large crowds,’ says Marsha Bemko, Executive Producer of the Antiques Roadshow. ‘The series is part adventure, part history and part treasure hunt, and now the app takes it to another level, allowing players to become antiques dealers-in-training.’

Whether this app will boom or bust is yet to be seen but what is certain is that antique fairs are a growing sector in the antique industry. This is a welcome respite after years of hardship. The late Nineties were tough for the antique market as shoppers veered online for bargains and withheld spending. Fairs and markets responded by getting smaller forcing many stallholders out of business. But those dreary days are coming to an end.

Why the renewed interest in antique fairs? ‘Despite the recession over the last couple of years we have seen an upturn in business,’ says Robbie Timms of S&S Timms Antiques. ‘I think one of the reasons surprisingly was the recession itself. Interest rates dropped so low that antiques and art became a viable long-term investment compared to elsewhere in the market.’ People take comfort in the (perhaps delusional) belief that spending on antiques is a way of hanging onto their money.

Finances aside, the rise in antique fairs is also due to a change in taste. Nostalgia and the traditional look are back in the game as we hope to give our homes more personality. Most of us aren't looking specifically for antiques, more for pretty things to live with. 'The market for antiques is subdued generally, but what people like to do is surround themselves with a look, an image that reflects themselves as a person,’ says Matthew Adams who holds monthly antique fairs at Chelsea Town Hall. ‘They want a bit of fun and a bit of creativity and there is a plethora of makeover shows on television.'

These home makeover TV programmes encourage us to look beyond the high street when furnishing our homes and introduce antique fairs to the mainstream. ‘After ten years of a more minimalist look being featured in magazines, now buying vintage and antique items is trendy with programmes such as Kirstie Allsopp’s Homemade Home,’ says Timms. Allsopp described Ardingly antiques fair as her ‘Nirvana’ and was filmed browsing the stalls at Shepton Mallet antiques fair. The result was instantaneous with the fairs’ websites receiving 4,000 extra hits.

‘Another reason I think business is improving is that looking round antiques fairs and shops is becoming a more popular pastime,’ observes Timms. Whether you spend or not at an antiques fair doesn’t seem to matter. People enjoy the experience of browsing through the unknown and chatting to stallholders.

Next week is the thrice-yearly Decorative Fair at Battersea that will specialise in vintage and antique lighting and mirrors. If the last show – the Autumn 2010 Decorative Fair – is anything to judge by, it should be a triumph. Described by exhibitors as ‘a feeding frenzy’ with people ‘queuing to buy,’ the September show was a resounding success with some dealers almost selling out on the first day.

‘Antique fairs are not making a comeback because they never really went away,’ insists Pippa Roberts of the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair. ‘Having said that, in the past 18 months ago, there are more new antique fairs; a couple are upmarket boutique fairs and there are at least ten new regional ones. Demand for more antique markets comes from exhibitors, many of whom are shop owners who aren’t getting the footfall in their local shops. Demand also comes from customers who find it much easier to shop under one roof. Lovely as it is to trail around regional antique shops, most of us don’t have lots of time to spare at weekends. Dealers are looking to meet customers and the customers are looking for convenience.’ Comeback or not, business is booming for antique fairs.

Annie Deakin is interiors writer for sofa and interior design website mydeco.com.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions