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"This has been a very difficult decision but due to the insufficient commitment from the trade we believe our reputation for delivering an impressive variety of antiques and fine art would be compromised and ultimately the visitor and exhibitor experience would be adversely affected," said fair director Tiffany Pritchard.

"It is a great pity and we are particularly sorry for those dealers who had committed to the fair and to the many regular visitors who will miss their early New Year visit to 'The National'."

The 2013 event would have been the 23rd edition of the fair, which was marketed as the more upmarket alternative to Clarion's triannual Antiques for Everyone fairs, also held at the NEC. Until 2004, the event was restricted to LAPADA members only, and until February 2012 it was still held in association with LAPADA.

But the National fair has struggled to maintain exhibitor numbers over the past few years, despite being open to non-LAPADA members, averaging around 55 exhibitors.

In 2011, Ms Pritchard said: "We struggled with exhibitor numbers and I think this was because many dealers hadn't had a good autumn trading. This, combined with the snow before Christmas, knocked confidence in the market at the end of 2010."

Once again this year, many dealers wanted to see how the autumn fairs went before commiting to exhibiting at the National and, after another difficult season of trading, many decided against it, leaving only around 30 exhibitors signed up by late November when the fair was cancelled.

Alternative Events

Fresh competition in the form of a new London fair in January, The Mayfair Antiques & Fine Art Fair  organised by The Antiques Dealers Fair Limited from January 10-13, has also proved attractive to some dealers as an alternative.

Clarion are not ruling out holding the National fair in future, but this will depend on the economic climate and the fairs calendar for January in 2014, and it may have to take on a different format.

They are also keen to stress that the Antiques for Everyone fairs will remain unaffected and, at the time of writing, 55% of stands for the spring event from April 4-7, 2013, were already sold, with 185 three-fair contracts signed and more expected before the deadline of December 3 when stands go on general release.