WHY HAS THE ANTIQUES WORLD CHANGED?
The first question to ask is, do you think the antiques world has changed?
From my own experience, I can only say yes and beyond all recognition as to when I started collecting over 35 years ago and entering the trade some 27 years ago, I also think the pace of change gets quicker and quicker every year.
Then you could find antique shops of all varying qualities in nearly every city, town and village, which is no longer the case. Indeed, you are hard pressed to find many antique shops left anywhere now as they seem to be closing at an alarming rate.
I think it was these shops that gave many people their first experience of the antiques trade, by looking in the windows and seeing all those marvellous goods on display. Today I think many peoples first experience of the antiques business are the many television programmes available. But sadly, these seem to concentrate solely on the monetary value of antiques and collectables, rather than the joy in owning and collecting them.
It is also interesting to remember that 27 years ago, there weren’t computers available to everyone, no mobile phones, the internet wasn’t for force it is now and Google didn’t exist. So, if you were interested in antiques, you had to get in your car and search high and low for them.
Whilst I think web sites are a great selling tool, enabling you to reach everybody in the world at a click of a button, which was not possible using press advertising. Indeed, we were one of the first antique dealers to build a web site as we could see that this was going to be the future. I find that many clients only wish to communicate by email and therefore you do not form that personal bond you would have got from the showroom.
Many years ago, all I had to do, was open the showroom, switch on the lights and kettle and wait to see customers who we had conversations with, sometimes sold something, locked up and went home. Today I seem to spend the vast majority of my time in front of a computer screen, answering emails, talk to no one, sometimes sell something, go home and work on my ipad in the evening.
A lot of antique dealers I talk to are now finding, as we have, that the vast majority of their business is conducted through their web sites, to the extent that it is not viable to have a high-street presence and to reduce costs, moving into a warehouse environment, or having just an online presence.
That said, there are still a large number of dealers who operate from showrooms and at antique fairs, who are very successful, but I still notice that each year antique fairs are finding it more and more difficult to fill the stands and the dealers in showrooms say that more of their business is conducted online and less and less through the showroom.
One section that seems to continue to buck the trend is the decorative and vintage market, which was fuelled by the magazines and decorators promoting the minimalist and shabby chic look and whilst I understand the minimalist look, which works just as well with antique furniture, objects and art, I still cannot get my head around the shabby chic look.
I am pleased to say that there are signs that we are at least attracting a number of new younger dealers into the trade and the Antiques Young Guns initiative is to be applauded and hopefully these younger dealers will find a way of communicating with the younger generation and inspire them to look at antiques in a new way.