At the beginning of this month Prime Minster Boris Johnson announced the third and strictest lockdown in England since they began. It is expected to last for about two months – almost a year since the first lockdown started.
Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are also under separate lockdowns.
We asked the owners of three antiques businesses in Cornwall and one in Herefordshire how they see the coming months when all non-essential retail premises are closed to the public. They were able to open their premises briefly in December, being in tier 1 regions.
One day at a time
Alex Robins of Antique Fairs Cornwall has run her biannual two-day antiques, vintage and decorative fairs at the Royal Cornwall Showground in Wadebridge for 12 years. She also owns the Wadebridge Antique Centre.
Robins (pictured top) says: “It’s one day at a time in the lockdown. We will be getting the government grants which is very helpful and the centre’s stallholders don’t pay rent during lockdown. We will trade online as before and a click and collect system will be in operation.”
Last year was a “challenging trading environment for antique centres in Cornwall”, although December did allow that brief respite of premsies open to the public.
“Social media presence with daily stock-takes and offering appointments to shop produced good trade as customers emerging from lockdown looked for traditional and decorative antiques, vintage furniture and lighting,” says Robins.
“We have a solid loyal customer base who were pleased to see the centre trading and the holidaymaker custom last year was also strong.”
TV set to dealer outlet
“During this latest lockdown, I shall continue using our website where dealers’ cabinets with stock are featured on our Facebook page, and on Instagram, with click and collect, local delivery or posting items,” says Jane Powell.
She took a chance last summer when she opened Bridge Antiques, an antiques centre in Truro in July. “Business has been very good, with December excellent.”
Powell worked in television for 20 years and then became a dealer specialising in decorative antiques, jewellery and silver.
“I had the opportunity to take over the centre when the previous owner retired and as the only antique shop left in Truro I felt there was a need for one for both locals and visitors,” says Powell.
Before the latest lockdown, she said: “Even in Covid-19 times there is a demand for an outlet for dealers to sell, especially when fairs are not operating and they do not sell online.”
‘Best December ever’
Lee and Debi Williams own Cougar Antiques & Vintage near St Austell.
Regarding the centre’s plans during the new lockdown, he says: “We will change the displays around in preparation for the reopening date and spend time in our warehouse cataloguing and preparing new stock ready for sale.
“We will be expanding our online platforms to maintain sales and posting out items for delivery or click and collect
“The best idea is to remain busy and stay positive. We must stay strong and look for the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Like Bridge Antiques, Cougar had a brilliant trading month at the year end.
“Best December ever,” says Lee. “We only source our stock privately and largely sell to existing customers. We do an excellent trade here with the many second home owners in the area.”
“We all knew the latest lockdown was coming but we will get through this and having government funding certainly helps,” says Trudy Spratling. Her family business Herefordshire Antiques, near Hereford, has a small numbers of dealers on board.
“We will concentrate on updating our stock online and promoting ourselves through social media.
“I’m itching to become more confident in IGTV and Reels, which gives a more personal approach to a face behind the scene with online selling, and looking into other ways of keeping up with the outside world and ecommerce sites.’’
Spratling adds: “Since the April lockdown the business has grown with most of the online sales being furniture. Facebook and Instagram are gaining followers which link back to the website to that’s important.
“Most of our customers are privates updating their homes but we are also attracting trade buyers including from the US.”