The Business of Buying in the UK: Part 2 – Business of Doing Business – The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles – June 2003
by Ed Welch
Continued from The Business of Buying in the UK, Part One
Buying in the United Kingdom is not complicated or expensive once you have solved the problems of shipping, lodging, transportation, and discovering the best places to buy.
This month’s article is the second in a series detailing the antique markets of London. Major markets such as Portobello Road, Bermondsey, Camden Passage, and Covent Gardens where covered last month. Information included directions to the market, hours and days of operation, and tips to make your visit exciting and profitable.
This month Part 2 will cover antique centers, clusters of shops along a road, and districts that are home to a dozen or more shops.
The Grays is a large multiple dealer antiques center specializing in rare, hard to find, and expensive antiques, so you are unlikely to find a bargain or a sleeper here. The dealers who display at this center are full-time professionals. Many specialize in a very limited area. However, I spend thousands of dollars here each year and make substantial profits on the things I do buy. If you have customers for top end, high-quality antiques, this shop is a must. I have developed a good relationship with one dealer who saves rare medical and optical antiques for me. I purchase several items from this dealer each year. The auction companies Phillips and Sotheby’s are located on New Bond Street. Two other smaller multiple dealers shops are located on New Bond Street. Visit New Bond Street to check out the group shops and up-coming auctions as soon as you arrive in London.
Directions: Take the Underground to the Bond Street Station. Grays Antiques Center is on 58 Davies Street. Davies Street is a side street off Oxford Street. Exit the Bond Street station on the right hand side.
New Kings Road
New Kings Road is home to several multiple-dealers shops, a monthly indoor antiques show, and more than a dozen individually owned shops. It is located in Chelsea next to Fulham.
The heaviest concentration of shops is at the Chelsea/Fulham line, making this is a good place to begin. The dealers on New Kings Road offer mid- range to high-quality furniture and accessories. Speciality shops offer guns, globes, maps, nautical antiques, architectural elements, painted furniture, silver, porcelains, fine china, art, sculpture, and more. New Kings Road is several miles long. You will run out of time before you find all the shops. You can take bus 28 back to where you began or hail a taxi.
Directions: Take the Underground to the Fulham-Broadway Station. Turn left when you exit the station. Walk briskly 30 minutes to New Kings Road or hail a taxi. Also, bus No. 28 travels the entire length of this road. You can catch bus 28 at Piccadilly Circus.
Wandsworth Bridge Road
The place to buy stripped pine furniture, pub furniture, garden furniture, chandeliers and lighting, oriental rugs, and lots of country type accessories is on Wandsworth Bridge Road.
Most of the dealers on this road are about 1/2 mile from the park. All the shops have storefronts on the road. However, the major inventory is stored in warehouses behind the shops or a few miles away. If you start buying, you will be passed from dealer to dealer. They all want your business and they all want to sell. If you want to dicker price, this is the place.
Directions: Take the Underground to the Fulham-Broadway Station. When you exit the station walk straight ahead through the five-way intersection. Be careful of the fast traffic. Across from the station is a short street with a pub at the end. When you face the pub, look left, and you will see a park. Walk through the center of the park. The street directly across from the park is Wandsworth Bridge Road.
Lillie Road at Fulham Cross
Lillie Road is an emerging antiques marketplace, and prices tend to be cheap. Do not be in this section of London after dark.
This neighborhood, like many London neighborhoods, is being rebuilt after decades of neglect. New businesses are moving in, storefronts are filling. Antique dealers historically seek out such places to take advantage of low rent and to make a substantial profit on the property once the neighborhood has recovered. For now, taxis do not serve this section of London well. Ask the dealers from whom you buy for bus numbers and direction to the Underground station “Hammersmith.” This is a major tube station connecting this area to all parts of London.
If you need to buy cheap to fill a container, check out this antique area. The more you spend the cheaper the prices become. If you return a second year, prices drop more.
Directions: Take the Underground to the West Brompton Station. When you exit the station, turn left and walk straight ahead about one mile.
Antique Markets and Fairs Outside London
Antique Fairs located outside London require the use of the national rail system. London has several train stations. Ask your host of hostess which station serves the community closest to the location of the antique fair. A few fair promoters provide a shuttle bus from the closest rail station to the fair, most do not. Chances are that you will need to hire a taxi. Fortunately, taxis outside London are much less expensive. Get the phone number of your taxi driver so that you have a number to call when you are ready to leave the show.
Newark is a small town about 100 miles north east of London in the Sherwood Forest area. The Newark antiques fairs are much larger than Brimfield and are held several times each year. This show is expensive for buyers. First, it is impossible to get a room within 50 miles of the market. Most rooms are at least a two-hour drive away. Dealers should attend this show only if they intend to purchase enough large pieces to fill a container.
Last February, I shopped the Newark Fair. My out of pocket expenses for train tickets to and from Newark was $140. Taxi from the train station to the hotel was $17. The hotel room was $105. Taxi from the hotel to the fair was $24. Taxi from the fair back to the train station was $30. Finally, the early buyers premium was $70. This all came to a total of $386. Much of this expense is because the show promoters will not assist in finding rooms for their customers. They will also not provide a shuttle bus.
On the plus side, my shipper has a booth at this show. They provide packing materials and boxes, a convenience that allows me to handle all the shipping and paperwork at the show.
Also, I did buy more than enough items at this show to cover my out of pocket expenses, shipping and custom fees, and still made a profit. This show is very popular with foreign buyers. Such buyers usually attend in groups on chartered buses. Because of this, buying expenses are much less.
Ardingly is a mid-week show located south of London. Travel time is 30 minutes by train from London, and the train fare is $70 round-trip. Taxis at the station will take you to the fair for a cost of $17.50. The early buyers premium is $70. Taxi from the fair to the train station is $21.
Ardingly is a large fair, about the size of Brimfield. Stalls are located in five large buildings and in many tents. In addition, some vendors set up along the roads without tents. Our shipper also has a booth at this show, so everything we buy is packaged and shipped from the grounds.
This is a good place for dealers to buy furniture in bulk. Architectural elements and garden furniture are also plentiful. In addition, hundreds of vendors specialize in small-sized items such as jewelry, sterling, majolica, transferware, blue and white, country accessories, baskets, and pottery.
Detling Fair is a small weekend market consisting of approximately 600 vendors. Some booths are inside, but most are outside. Train fair from London is $55. Taxies to and from the show are $84. The early buyers fee is $26. Our shipper has a booth at this show as well.
You will likely find more small items than furniture here. Check out this show for advertising items, paintings, prints, and sculpture. You will also find jewelry, pottery, majolica, porcelain, and lots of lamps and lighting.
A small antiques fair held indoor at the Racecourse in Esher, Surry, Sandown Park’ show is usually held on Tuesdays. Although the show is tiny compared to most antique events in the UK, it is fast moving. Dealers and customers are allowed in the building at the same time. We have actually helped unwrap merchandise for dealers who have things that we may want to purchase.
This is not the place to look for furniture. All the vendors carry small items. However, the selection is broad and prices tend to be favorable. The show does not open until noon. This gives you plenty of time for your train journey from London. Also, the show promoters provide a shuttle bus. Early buyers fee is $21. Train fair to and from London is $16. Shippers do not have booths at this show, so you must take your purchases with you.
Contact Information for Shopping, Lodging, Antique Markets and Fairs
Below you will find web addresses, telephone numbers, and postal addresses of the antique market promoters who sponsor shows, along with information on shippers and lodging. Please note that a zero within parentheses (0) may, or may not, have to be used when dialing direct without the aid of an overseas operator. Dial the number without the (0) first. This works most of the time. If you get a recorded message saying that the call will not go through as dialed, dial again using the (0). The time difference between here and the UK is plus 5 hours. If it is noon here, it is 5 p.m. in London. The best time to call is between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., Eastern time.
Contact information for Detling, Ardingly, and Newark Antiques Fairs
- DMG Antiques Fairs Ltd, PO Box 100, Newark, Notts, NG24 1DJ, UK
- Telephone: 011 44 (0) 1636 702 326. Fax: 011 44 (0) 1636 707 923
- Website www.dmgworldmedia.com/antiquefairs/antiques.html For general
- enquiries email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact information for Sandown Park
- Sandown Park Racecourse, Esher, Surrey, KT10 9AK, UK
- Telephone: 011 44 (0) 20 7249 4050
- Email: Alanemail@example.com
- Contact information for Portobello Road Market
- Portobello Antiques Dealers Association, 61 Portobello Road, W11 3DB London, UK
- Telephone: 011 44 (0)20 7229 8354. Fax : 011 44 (0)20 7243 3419
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.portobelloroad.co.uk
Contact information for Robinsons International Shipping Services
- Robinson International Shipping Service, Aldermoor Way, Longwell Green, Bristol, BS30 7DA, UK
- Telephone: 011 44 (0) 117 980 5858. Fax 011 44 (0) 117 980 5830
- Email: email@example.com Website: www.robinsons-intl.com
Bed & Breakfasts
This website, www.londonbb.com offers a great selection of mid-price B&B facilities. Be sure to note how far the B&B is from the Underground.
I recommend Anne Rouach’s B&B. It is a 10-minute walk to the Underground and a 5-minute walk to New Kings Road where you can catch Bus 28 into the center of London. If you use this B&B, you should make your first contact 6 to 8 weeks before you plan on going.
- Phone: 011 44 (0)20 7731 0225
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org/ or email@example.com
Anne Rouach operates a Bed & Breakfast in Fulham. Fulham is a London neighborhood about one mile from the city center. Many antique dealers choose this B & B. Anne’s home is a 10-minute walk from the Underground and close to three large concentrations of antique shops. Contact information is Telephone, 011 44 (0)20 7731 0225. Email, firstname.lastname@example.org