Posted 1st December 2017
For the past two years, we’ve run a series of interviews with some of our regular exhibitors; feedback is always good so we thought we’d delight you once again with a little bit of industry insight. So, to warm up the winter months once more, we’ve asked ASFairs PR person and Reclaim Magazine news and features writer Alice Roberton to pose a set of questions to a selection of our fair stalwarts, kicking off by quizzing Charlie Bates of decorative antiques business Jeffrey & Day, about how he got into the business.
Charlie pictured with business partner Sophie Bates
How did you get into the antiques business?
I was working in an independent wine merchants in Market Harborough about five years ago when my father-in-law, who is in the antiques trade, took on some new American clients. He needed a bit of extra help sorting new stock and shipping it, so I jumped at the chance to help and get involved, before I knew it I had started my own business. Since then, the business which I run with partner Sophie Bates, has expanded dramatically; we now have a 2,500 square-foot warehouse in Leicestershire and regularly travel to Europe to replenish our stock.
What do you sell?
We mainly deal in French antique furniture and architectural salvage, but we never like to say no to a great find! To this end we have a very eclectic mix of things, including beautiful 1900s French marble flooring, Champagne riddle racks, theatre lighting, leather armchairs and large French country tables and armoires.
How, and where, do you source your stock?
We buy around 75% of our stock from France, where we have a few fellow dealers who collect for us, and we scour the antique and flea markets here in the UK too.
What kind of clients do you have?
We have quite a mixture of clients, including trade buyers from Japan who we regularly fill shipping containers for, interior designers who need sourcing help, collectors who are looking for something specific and public buyers looking for home furnishings. Despite online trading being so popular nowadays, you can’t beat trading at fairs – it’s the face-to-face interaction which has a high value.
What are your client's expectations?
We have an ethos at Jeffrey and Day that we do not buy anything we cannot envisage owning ourselves, therefore quality and condition are key; our clients have come to expect, and appreciate, this. Clients like that we look for unique pieces which will stand out in homes or add an intrinsic value to the space they end up in.
What’s the weirdest, or most wonderful, object or item that you have ever bought or sold?
We seem to come across quite a few weird and wonderful things, ranging from a taxidermy deer's leg that had been turned into a desk lamp. We currently have a beautiful framed 3D religious scene that has a wind-up music box hidden in the back that plays ‘Silent Night’, it’s the only one we’ve ever seen and it has a very festive feel to it.
Have you ever found something that you love so much that you can’t sell it?
Unfortunately, this is a hazard of the job. You see beautiful things all the time and I would imagine every dealer experiences wishing they hadn’t sold a piece that really stood out to them. We tend to keep the odd piece for our respective houses and then sell them on when we find find something even better to swap it with. A couple of years ago we found a beautiful turn of the century, oil on board painting of the Corsican coast with the waves bashing against a rocky out crop, the colours and texture are so emotive that I couldn’t part with it and I don’t see myself ever letting it go to another home.
What do you think makes a successful trader?
I feel that engaging with the client and giving them an individual, personal experience is really important. Listening to what they want and being open and honest with them makes them feel relaxed when they buy something; this, in turn, creates an openness in them too. Having great stock and good prices which sets you apart from other traders is key too.
Do you have any advice to give to traders who are new to the industry?
Be yourself and go with your gut and, if you think an item is good quality or a good price, generally other people will as well. There is a wealth of information out there on every subject you might choose to specialise in and the great thing about this trade is everyone enjoys a chat and will always be willing to help you out.
What buying trends are you seeing at the moment?
We are seeing items trending around the idea of historical explorers, naturalists and the grand tours of Europe and a demand for vintage globes, deep, richly coloured soft furnishings with botany prints, painted portraits and curious landscapes.
You'll find Jeffrey & Day exhibiting at our forthcoming, and last of the year, Lincolnshire Antiques & Home Show this coming Monday 4th & Tuesday 5th December.
The show runs 8am - 5pm both days.
Tickets available on the door: Monday £20.00 per person (valid Monday & Tuesday), Tueadsy £5.00 per person.
Accompanied under 16s are admitted free.
Dogs on leads welcome.