Vintage model railway dealer Mike Delaney pictured with some of the trains in his personal collection from 1914 to the 1940s.

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During the first lockdown many dealers embraced the positives of selling online despite the obvious challenges. Here we look at three businesses and their experiences.

Jane Ventworth, a dealer in art, antiques and interiors at Holt Antiques and Interiors Centre in north Norfolk, has been trading online for six months.

She said: “I find that the perfect mix is a good Instagram account with a link to a website. The website gives more information and also encourages buyers to browse your other items. I did do well online throughout the first lockdown and this has gained me some new and loyal customers.

“I work closely with a number of interior designers and it is evident that the general public are spending more on their homes right now and wanting to upgrade their furniture and give their surroundings a more individual look. Picture sales have been particularly good.”

Ventworth added: “Sales since opening up after the first closure were well above normal both for myself and the centre in general.”

‘Larger appetite’


This oval framed lithograph of horses in water costs £125 with MD Cannell Antiques. The rear oval delicate pastel drawing of a young girl in an original gilt frame with roses at the top is dated 1871 by H Carpenter and is also priced at £125.

Specialising in antique rugs and carpets, Mal Cannell and his wife Liz and daughter Sarah run MD Cannell Antiques in south Norfolk from a showroom at the Raveningham Estate and in a small antiques centre in nearby Bayfield Hall.

The Cannells usually hold an annual antiques market at Raveningham and the dealers run a once-yearly fair at the hall. During the first lockdown the family embraced, like so many, the benefits that came with virtual showcases and Instagram.

Sarah said: “We have both Instagram and a website but never used them as real selling tools before this year. We have been surprisingly busy. People have been buying a lot of kilims in bright, jolly colours but also a good range of storage-type furniture: lovely old coffers, chests of drawers, antique dressers in mahogany and oak.

“It’s lots of the types of stock we normally have but there seems to be a larger appetite for it.

“When we reopened after the first lockdown we saw plenty of new customers who would normally have been abroad for the summer.”

Hornby steams ahead

The model railway-maker Hornby has steamed ahead in its centennial year thanks to a lockdown sales boom. The company turned its first profit in almost a decade as families enjoy the fun of playing with train sets in their lofts, garages, on the living floor or anywhere where tracks can be laid.

Mike Delaney (pictured above top) who is a stalwart exhibitor at the Barry Potter Toy Fairs which will not be returning until next year, has been a collector of vintage Hornby and other commercial toy trains since the 1970s and a dealer since 2000.

Talking about the appeal of toy trains, he says: “It’s about childhood memories and remembering the toys we relate to. Families may not have been able to afford them but that did not stop us looking in toy shop windows and dreaming.’’

He added: “When lockdown came in March orders stopped within 24 hours of the announcement but within a few weeks I was shipping parcels again to the UK, US, Australia and Europe. Sales had returned and had exceeded pre-lockdown numbers.”

Delaney’s pick from his vintage Hornby stock, which is mostly from 1920-40/1, is a c.1938 boxed Hornby 0-gauge E420 loco and tender SR green Eton No 900 priced at £1395 on his website.