11th January 2017
To warm up the winter months we thought we'd track down some interesting and knowing characters within our industry and present them with a Q&A. So, we asked ASFairs PR person, and Reclaim Magazine news and features writer, Alice Roberton to pose the questions. Enjoy the second in this series of winter interviews (see our first winterview here with Barrie Reeve).
How did you get into the antiques business?
It was by accident really, as I already had a career working on cruise ships which I was quite enjoying. Things changed when my Mum Josie, who works with me nowadays, was renovating her house in Normandy and started visiting local markets to furnish the house and I started to go along with her. I began to enjoy bringing the odd thing home that I liked the look of. I put a few pieces alongside Mum’s country clothing stock at UK fairs and, bit-by-bit, I realised that there was a demand for the kind of thing I was bringing back. I’d always had a love of decorating and styling, even from a young age I would spend time making my bedroom look like something out of an interiors magazine, so I was happy to be getting the chance to buy things I love and styling them up.
Do you have a specialist area?
Yes, authentic, pretty French Decorative Antiques and Textiles. But, I only buy and sell things that I would have in my own home, so I’m a specialist in my taste! Luckily my taste is shared by many, so I’m happy.
How and where do you source your stock?
By and large France, although we occasionally pick things up at UK fairs which we know a customer will like. We travel to France with our van every four to six weeks.
What kind of clients do you have?
Mostly trade; a mixture of props buyers, stylists and independent retailers. Our stock is particularly popular with Japanese buyers, they love the French decorative look. We have some clients who buy for a shop in Chile too, so our antiques end up all over the world.
What are their expectations?
They want one-off original things in good condition and at a fair price. My clients know that I will buy with them in mind, which is important, and they have come to expect me to sell collections of things, such as a shelf of tins, a basket of one kind of book, or a display of old mirrors – this helps them buy to a theme in one fell swoop.
What’s the weirdest or most wonderful object, or item, that you have ever bought or sold?
When I was first selling alongside my Mum she took a stand at Whitby Goth Weekend selling mainly black clothing. I bought ten theatrical flat-pack black coffins to sell, and they did sell, eventually! It was an interesting purchase and about a million miles away from the pretty things I sell today.
Have you ever found something that you love so much that you can’t sell it?
Yes, two things. A taxidermy swan which I bought at a really good price, especially considering how desirable they are. I’ve named him Steve and he lives in my spare room. The other item is a hand-painted, Mora Swedish Grandfather Clock. I convinced my stepdad to buy it, which he did. I later convinced him to sell it to me as I loved it so much. I could never sell either of these pieces.
What do you think makes a successful trader?
Being genuine, honest and setting prices reasonably.
Do you have any advice to give traders who are new to the industry?
I’ve learnt that no matter what people tell you will sell, or won’t sell, or which events to sell at, you have to try things for yourself. Just find out what works for you. Observe what others are doing, and selling, but don’t copy, always be original. Never stop learning and never get too big for your own boots!
What trends are you seeing at the moment?
Folk art and botanicals are very much ‘in’, but I think the trend is leaning towards people buying very much to their own taste and setting styles that way, rather than following the crowd. People really want to be original and make their own mark.
Until next time, Alice.
Many thanks to Lucy Nugent of Brocante Decorative for taking the time to be 'Winterviewed'. You'll find her exhibiting at our next Lincoln Antiques & Home Show in the shopping arcade leading up to the Epic Centre - the show takes place 30th - 31st January.