Dealer Spencer Swaffer was excited to be ready to go at the Bath Decorative Fair, occupying his traditional first place in the queue on the event’s famous trade day.
The fair ran from March 9-11 at the Pavilion in Bath with stands fully booked.
Swaffer has never exhibited at Bath himself but says he will never miss the fair as a buyer: “It’s more real stock and less fiddled about with, more antique and less contrived.”
By the end of the preview, he had found numerous treasures for his shop in Arundel, including two from Acanthus Antiques: a West Country painted dresser base and a folk art painted rocking horse which fit the aesthetic of his shop perfectly.
The connection to trade buyers was key to the latest edition of the event where some reported overall sales to be slow.
However, Acanthus Antiques was among those selling out their stands on trade day. So too did Simon Wharton, who dubbed it the best trade day he’d ever had at the fair.
He said: “When times are tough, it’s the trade that keeps you going.”
Stalwart exhibitor Mary Hossack agreed.
“The best thing about this fair is it’s different every time but you can always rely on the trade day”, she said.
Her sales included a pair of 1980s ‘Hollywood Regency’ side tables for £600.
Anthony Hepworth, meanwhile, sold one of his offerings on opening day to a visiting dealer for £20,000. After this promising start he added to his sales sheet a kneeling sculpture in carved alabaster from the studio of Dora Gordine (1895-1991).
It was snapped up by a private client for £1200 on the Friday.
Mix of old and new
Fair manager Gail McLeod and the team secured a mix of new and returning exhibitors, and reported that ticket enquiries were up 25% on last year.
One of the newcomers she brought on board was Andy Walker of Desired Effect. New to this calibre of fair, he saw it as a good networking opportunity for industry contacts and private clients.
He was pleased to sell an 18th century elm reclining armchair to a local art gallery as a prop for £800 on the final day.
Like many exhibitors ATG spoke to, he found the fair marked by slow sales but good community spirit.
New dealers, husband-and-wife team Mat Smith and Rachel Moon of Smith & Moon, found “a great atmosphere among the dealers, cementing just what a great community there is in this industry.”
They sold a pair of 1920s bespoke European oak and marble side tables to a trade buyer for £900.
Smith & Moon was a late entry to the fair. With only two and a half weeks to prepare, the couple were pleased with what they achieved and they reported making some great connections.
Good to share
Fellow newcomers included Luke Fitzpatrick of The Thrifty Gent and his brother Johnny Fitzpatrick of Lucifer Fitzwardo. They shared business across two stands, much as they do in their split Birmingham shop.
For them the fair brought new buyers – including one who never set foot in the venue. After seeing a promotional Instagram video, the buyer loved the brothers’ aesthetic, got in touch, and expects a delivery from them next week.
Elsewhere at the fair William Morris Antiques & Fine Art offered a set of four Japanese lacquer panels, which sold to local interior designer Rebecca Morgans. She picked up the panels for a client at £700, planning to hinge and concertina them as a TV cover.
Returning dealer Henry Vaughan from Antique Gent also made a few good sales including a beaded deer head that Vaughan gets supplied to him direct from the Masai Tribe in Swaziland for £350, with a similar lion head being snapped up the previous day straight after the fair opened.
He also sold an elm bench for £300 and a large antique bathtub to another dealer.
The Bath Decorative Fair remains an important date in the calendar for dealers and buyers alike and will be back in March 2024, although there is no set date yet.
Maybe next year a few more signs in Bath town centre would make it easier to find, but with numbers up by over 20% and exciting new dealers in attendance, it’s one to remember.