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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.

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Fair regular and “hyper eclectic” dealer Nick Allen (right) said lockdown gave him time to reflect. “You’re so busy in this business, working 100 hours a week sometimes. Lockdown was a blessing in disguise for us – it allowed me to move with the times and get online.”

Early bird charge

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Pent-up demand kept dealers busy throughout Kempton on April 13. Stallholder Rosalind Bord of Quint-Harris Antiques noted the “amazing turnout” with most business coming from “retailers who were clearly restocking”.

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

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The first Kempton for four months was held under strict social-distancing rules.

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.

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Calvin Shulman of Botanica Vintage & Antiques: “We understand why a door charge needed to be imposed and at £10 they’ve set it at the right level. It’s the price of coffee and a cake and maybe buyers just do without that.”

“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.” 

sunburyantiques.com