As the year’s end approaches I thought it may be a moment to reflect on 2013 and speculate on 2014. Certainly the last 12 months have seen changes on many diverse fronts. I decided not to participate in the Olympia Antiques Fairs for the moment and held two in-house exhibitions instead. Both of these were very well received and gained exposure in the press both at home in magazines such as Country Life and as far away as an Interior Decorator’s monthly in Bolivia! There were also several sales of important pieces at these two events.
I had a stand at the Mayfair Antiques and Fine Art Fair in January as this was the inaugural event held at the Grosvenor Square Marriott Hotel and I wanted to see how it would fare. It was busy all the way through and being only a few days was easy enough to cope with. I was very impressed with the appearance of this Fair as well as the calibre of visitors which resulted in sufficient sales for me to re-book for 2014 immediately. Just for the record, the Fair will be on from January 9 and what better way to kick-start the New Year.
The CADA Fair at Blenheim Palace in April has gone from strength to strength under the stewardship of the CADA Chairman, John Howard, and with more stands and members queuing to take them it bodes well for the coming year.
April Showers at the Blenheim Palace Antiques Fair 2013
The LAPADA Fair in Berkeley Square in London was certainly successful again for Harvey’s and culminated in the sale of several important pieces including the wonderful Gillows Four Poster Bed which is shown below
Stand at the LAPADA Fair, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, September 2013
My annual trek to Esher for the Esher Hall Fair was also a pleasant surprise with a couple from Cobham buying a table for delivery to their home near Witney once they moved a couple of weeks later. In every event, most of the items sold went to new clients which is always very rewarding and underlines the durability of the Antiques trade. It has shrunk massively over a 12 year period but has recently started to grow again particularly outside of London.
It has been an interesting year for Great Britain plc after 3 years of belt tightening by the coalition government who inherited a disastrous situation – I am sure you will recall the letter left by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to his successor in May 2010 “Sorry, the money has all gone!” Having experienced recessions several times over the past 4 decades in the Antiques World, there are a number of interesting points to consider. The biggest driver for most people to want furniture of all descriptions is the single act of moving house and with the housing market both here in the UK and in many other parts of the World being stagnant, that driver was parked at a red light.
Somehow, we have carried on both acquiring and selling beautiful things and have met some astonishing and truly wonderful people who still aspire to furnishing with great Antique Furniture which can, of course, be used daily and sympathetically restored as and when necessary unlike most modern furniture. The cabinetmakers of the 17th, 18th and 19th. Centuries certainly knew how to make exquisite items in a way to ensure their availability for many generations still to come.
Wouldn't you prefer to keep your socks and jumpers in this rather than a plasticised MDF example?
So, all things considered, not a bad year even if turnover was not as brisk as a few years ago. Where do we go from here now? Every day the news is now full of speculation that house buying is about to boom if it is not already doing so and the numbers of people here in the UK applying for and getting mortgages are growing by the month. As more people move house, so the Antiques Market should recover as well and this growth is by all accounts happening elsewhere as well.
From the summer onwards I have seen just about every economic indicator for the UK pointing in the same direction- upwards - and it seems as though Chancellor George Osborne has got things right with growth returning to the home economy in a very strong turn around. All the talk of double or even triple dip recession has disappeared to be replaced with forecasted growth of 2.4% GDP next year. Of course the Government has to be cautious in its predictions but the figures coming from such august bodies as the OECD are confirmation of a rapid change. I did smile over Christmas when I read that our economy is set to grow and overtake those of both France and Germany amongst others in the next few years. The general feeling is that interest rates will remain low in 2014 with a probable rise in rates paid to savers as things improve and banks turn to savers to provide the cash to lend on. House prices will rise and forecasts vary between 5% and 8% for the forthcoming 12 months. Many will remember the phrase “the green shoots of recovery” which Norman Lamont coined back in the early 1990s when he was John Major’s Chancellor.
So what do I think the year ahead will have in store? (Great big green shoots!) I believe the economy will improve and this will accelerate as I also believe the Stock Exchange will rise significantly. I expect some of the “feel-good factor” to return and for Antiques Dealers to see an increase in business though I do not think this will see a return to the buying patterns of 20 years ago. I do think the effort the major Auction Houses are putting into the Chinese Market will pay dividends but further down the line. There is already an increasing aspiration amongst some Chinese Collectors to show they have knowledge of and appreciate western culture by moving into European Antique Furniture and there are parallels to other emerging markets from 50 and 60 years ago. It will be very interesting to watch the results of sales in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to get a feel for what sells and how much it goes for.
Here in Witney, I have certainly noticed an upturn in numbers of people visiting the shop buying and increasingly talking of their new homes or how they are soon to move house. I shall continue to offer the warmest of receptions to friends across all the continents here in my shop, or at fairs and exhibitions and feel as passionate about good old furniture today as I did over 40 years ago. On New Year’s Eve we shall certainly be drinking a toast to friends everywhere and as yet unknown.
Happy New Year to you.