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Turnovers are up on the previous year and, in spite of the weak dollar, business with American buyers has been steady. However, the statistics show that members are only mildly confident about the year ahead, and the lack of younger dealers remains an issue.

The members’ survey undertaken by LAPADA, the UK’s largest professional dealer association, shows that overall more members of the trade are now seeing their turnovers rising rather than falling, a reversal of the previous year’s results.

In 2005, the survey gave markedly similar results to that conducted by the British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA), whose 2006 survey is due out in the next few weeks.

According to LAPADA’s own figures, membership has remained fairly stable, falling slightly from about 625 to 612 over the past year, but nearly twice as many have responded to the current survey (208 as opposed to 125 for 2005).

Of those who responded this time, 78 reported a higher turnover over the last year. This is up from 23 respondents last year. Back then, just over half of respondents reported a fall in turnover. For 2006, this represents less than a third of respondents.

And when it comes to the outlook for next year, 27 per cent of dealers expect to see a rise in turnover while 60 per cent expect to see little or no growth in 2007.

As with previous years, over three-quarters of respondents did at least a quarter of their business with overseas clients in 2006, with the proportion saying that America was their most important overseas market (77.5 per cent) remaining virtually unchanged. The EU comes second with 15 per cent. Interestingly, two per cent of members now say that Russia is their most important overseas market, compared with none previously.

More than three quarters (76 per cent) of respondents deal from a shop, gallery or antiques centre, and 61 per cent of sales are made from their premises compared with 27 per cent at fairs and three per cent at auction.

Perhaps surprisingly, there has been no increase in the percentage of sales made over the internet (7 per cent) even though a majority of members have their own website and use the internet to buy and/or sell.

Nineteenth century material takes up the largest proportion of specialist stock, followed by 18th century, and then 20th century.

The majority of clients (69 per cent) are couples, while 23 per cent are lone men and eight per cent lone women. The largest proportion, 45 per cent, are buying to furnish a home, while 28 per cent are collectors.

The majority of buyers (54 per cent) are aged 40-50, with the next highest age range being 50-60 year olds (32 per cent).

However, this latest survey again highlights the difficulties for the association in recruiting younger members. Despite efforts to attract younger dealers to LAPADA, the proportion of members aged under 35 has not increased and is still running at three per cent. This reinforces the trend felt at grass-roots level that fewer younger people in general are joining the trade.

The survey included a special study of the impact of droit de suite since the beginning of 2006. The results showed that 47 per cent of the artists with whom members deal have reacted negatively to droit de suite.