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What does ‘pent-up demand’ look like, in reality? It’s a concept we often associate with the property market – one that’s now seeing spikes of interest after months of hibernation.

The resilience of the Covid consumer was also in evidence last week at the September edition of IACF’s Ardingly International Antiques & Collectors Fair.

Long (and socially distanced) queues forming at the cashpoint located at Ardingly’s South of England Showground was proof of buyer confidence on the rebound.

“It’s astonishing in the current circumstances but our trade gate for Ardingly last week was up by a third on the same event last year, while the buyer gate was 25% more than in 2019,” said Will Thomas, IACF managing director.

On 8 September, day one of the two-day event, ATG encountered many private buyers as well as trade, despite the usual difference in entrance fees (£20 on day one, down to £5 for day two).

The public came too

Adam Pym, co-owner of George Adams Interiors, was selling French linen and furniture near the ‘shopping arcades’ and observed that “day one is usually mainly trade but since lockdown the public come too. The second day of Ardingly is as good as the trade day.”


Queuing for a cash machine at IACF Ardingly on September 8. Private and dealer buyers mingled on day one of the fair, with the public vying with interior decorators for pieces.

Karen Dalmeny, dealer and a regular on ITV show Dickenson’s Real Deal, stalled out as usual in the showground’s Abergavenny Building, which had the requisite gaps between tables. Overseas buyers were thinner on the ground this year because of travel restrictions, she noted, adding that UK dealers keen to replenish their stock after lockdown were filling that gap.

IACF staff were positioned around the South of England Showground offering face masks as part of the organiser’s ‘Covid secure’ measures. Its schedule of outdoor fairs continues at Shepton Mallet this week (18-20 September).

Emma Hutton (pictured above), trade buying for her shop The Collecterie (thecollecterie.com) in Teddington, said: “I’ve got my mask and am just relieved to be outside.” 

As the fair closed, IACF was relaunching its dealer portal loveantiques.com, having offered regular stallholders free listings during lockdown. It was a gesture appreciated by David Nash of Saltwood Antiques, a Kent-based dealer selling arms, armour and religious items at Ardingly.

“We got over to Holland, Belgium and France just before lockdown and then kept trading thanks to loveantiques.com,” Nash told ATG. “IACF knows its role in the antiques chain and has kept us going.”