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True to form, the objects from 70 dealers at Winter Art & Antiques Fair at Olympia last week were mouth-watering, and elegantly displayed under the venue’s vast Victorian roof arches.

The event, running from November 5-10, has an enviable calendar slot as London’s final vetted art and antiques fair of the year, positioned in the Christmas gift-buying period.

At a fair such as this, selling work by Matisse and Warhol, Meissen and Archibald Knox, Cartier, Gillow and Lalique, the bandwidth for haggling must surely be narrow.

Undaunted, ATG donned its thicker skin and went looking for negotiating tips in the fair’s final hours on Sunday, November 10.

'Ignore those TV shows’

Can buyers bag a meaningful discount at an upmarket fair such as Olympia? “Of course!” one exhibitor replied. “But we have to tell those people who ask for big reductions, that they should ignore what they see on those antique TV shows: the most you’ll get at an event like this is 15-20%.”

Pic 5 - Serhat Ahmet.jpg

Serhat Ahmet sells European porcelain, mainly Meissen, Sèvres and other factories, from 1720-1935. “Fairs like Olympia are great for letting buyers handle the pieces," he says. With a pitch also at Grays Antiques Centre in London, Ahmet says that "a physical presence is still very relevant for dealers like me, especially for meeting new clients".

The next rule of thumb, in common with any negotiation, is to put yourself in the other side's shoes.

This was the lesson from a dealer selling an expensively framed, quite lovely oil on canvas street scene by Tom Coates (b.1941).

Ticketed at £1450, the dealer was willing to negotiate, but politely rejected an offer of £700. “We've invested in these objects and have to value what we’re selling." he said. "So we can't give things away."

Price is right

Above all, timing your discount pitch correctly is critical.

“The final day of a quality fair isn’t the best time to get discounts,” horology dealer Richard Price counselled.

Selling time pieces dating from 1780 to 1900, with nothing for less than £1000 on his stand, Price was very happy with Olympia this year.

He had sold six French carriage clocks, including one by Drocourt, three wall clocks and other French mantle clocks, with half of his sales to new customers.

“Bear in mind that at a fair like this, dealers are looking to cover their costs in the first day or two,” Price continued. "Then they can relax.

“So, if you want to do a deal, you need to do it in the first two days.”

With the clocks on Price's stand ticking down to fair closing time, ATG left the 29th Winter Olympia all the wiser about the art of negotiation at high-end art fairs – where dealers rightly protect their margins, but not so absolutely that they forfeit a reasonable sale.