The antiques trade has a long association with Brighton stretching back hundreds of years but just like most commercial enterprises in the current climate it is finding conditions tough.
All businesses suffered in the recession of the 90s and the antiques trade was no exception but the escalation in terrorism in 2001 when the Twin Towers in New York were destroyed has had a longer lasting effect on antiques than on other businesses because it has robbed the trade of Americans. The long term weakness of the dollar hasn’t helped either.
The Antique Collectors Club suggests that trade has declined by 5% over the last two years with a loss of 1000 dealers – a decline of 15%. This helps to explain the fact that there were 25% fewer antique fairs, where dealers purchase their stock, in 2003 compared to 2002.
The moribund state of the business may not entirely be due to 9/11 and weak American currency. Starved of foreign customers the trade could turn to the domestic market but the new rich in the UK are young and fashionable and may not see antiques as being an essential part of their lifestyle. Another problem has been one of supply. Large quantities of antiques were shipped to America in the three decades between the 60s and the end of the 80s with much of it coming from the estates of the deceased. Children inherited their parents antiques when they were in their 40s and needed the money so sold them off. Now they inherit later and there is a much less pressing need to raise the cash so supply has dwindled.
Some towns are renowned for their antiques trade e.g. Petworth and will probably weather the hard times. Brighton too is still a centre for antiques, especially the Upper North Street area and will undoubtedly survive as such but for the moment this is just another retail sector trying to come to terms with the fickleness of their customer base and the vagaries of the national economy.
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