The car park at Surrey’s Kempton Racecourse was over-flowing with a queue of buyers building up before opening time at 6.30am.
Under a cloudless blue sky, post-lockdown demand was palpable across the day. Could it get any better for fair organiser Sunbury Antiques Market?
In truth, the road to Kempton on Tuesday, April 13, had been a long one for Edward and Jennie Cruttenden, owners of Sunbury Antiques.
In the middle of the UK’s third lockdown, talks with Kempton owner the Jockey Club resulted in holding the first fair post-lockdown outdoors with social-distancing restrictions.
Early bird charge
This involved tiered buyer entry with a £10 charge – a first for Kempton (ATG No 2489) – for early birds wanting to attend from 6.30-8.30am, designed to manage crowd flow.
“I’m worried people will stop coming,” one dealer said of the move, though the continuous flow of buyers on April 13 seemed to prove this concern was unfounded.
By and large, reaction to the charge was acceptance.
“It wasn’t Edward’s decision,” said jewellery dealer Debbie Evans. “He had to stagger the arrival of people after the crowds at Kempton following the last lockdown.”
Evans welcomed the entry charge for encouraging “only serious buyers” before 10am.
Making the cut
Stall numbers were capped at 300 – Sunbury hopes to increase this for April 27’s fair, rules allowing – with those dealers who made the cut outwardly relieved.
One of those was Botanica Vintage & Antiques, which sold out of garden and carpentry tools on the day. Co-owner Calvin Shulman put this demand down to new hobbies picked up during lockdown.
“It’s great to be back,” Shulman said. “I don’t think anyone went hungry in the four months without fairs but today is all about getting stock moving again around the trade. Otherwise you stagnate.”
Fair regular and “hyper eclectic” dealer Nick Allen said dealers have tended to take fairs such as Kempton “for granted” because “they run like clockwork”.
After months of lockdown, Allen said, “we’re more grateful for them now”.
As for the Brexit-related thin turnout by Continental dealers, UK dealers said they were missed on the day.
“We don’t see them as competition,” Nick Allen said. “They sell different things to us and fairs like Kempton bring us together, as the sum of its parts.”