The Effects Of Brexit On The Antiques Trade - How Has It Impacted You?

Discussion News


Welcome once again to another instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.

This week, I'm going to talk about a subject that I've wanted to talk about for a long time, but have felt too nervous to because of the divisive nature of the subject.  Yes, that's right, I'm talking about 'Brexit'.

I should stress that this post is NOT about whether it was right or wrong for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.  Quite simply, this post is about the effect that Brexit has had on your antiques business, whether that's positive or negative.  I will be sharing my own personal experiences with you and I hope to encourage you all to share yours too.

So, as always, get that kettle on and buckle yourselves in because this could be quite the ride!



On 23rd June 2016, a proportion of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and on 31 December 2020, at 23:00, Brexit came into effect.  We're now over seven months in and I don't know about you, but I've experienced a few difficulties.



The first thing that caused me a great deal of stress was working out the new shipping and duty processes.  I saw a lot of "get your business in order, ready for Brexit", but not much direction on exactly what it was that I needed do.  Despite speaking to and contacting a lot of people and professional bodies, nobody seemed to be able to tell me what I was supposed to be doing.  So, as the deadline fast approached, I was flying blind.  To be quite frank with you, I was filling my underpants with worry, thinking that I was going to be on the receiving end of a hefty fine!  To this day, I'm still a bit confused...



The second thing I noticed was how my sales to EU countries have quite literally dropped off a cliff.  I can't remember the last time I had a customer from an EU country, which had been a main source of income for me prior to this.  Although, on the flip side, I have seen an increase in sales to the United States and Australia.


I realise, however, that my issues are a drop in the ocean compared to some dealers out there.  I've seen the issues that many dealers I follow on Instagram have experienced and continue to experience.  Particularly those who rely on regular trips back and forth to mainland Europe to buy and sell.  The delays, the paperwork and the additional costs now involved are having a direct impact on those small businesses.



In fact, I read an article just yesterday in the Financial Times titled "'I'm getting out': Britain's antiques dealers hit by Brexit".  This article is filled with first hand statements from the kind of dealers I've referred to above.  Statements like “Brexit has just finished it for me, I’m getting out of the business” and “For a lot of the smaller boys the ‘white van’ trade with Europe is dead”.



This is one of the reasons I've wanted to write this post.  I've experienced my own stresses and loss of trade.  And whilst I have made gains in business from other parts of the world, the worry is, will this be enough long term...?  Will I, like many other antique dealers, be left with no choice but to reconsider my career...?  I really hope not!  I hope that by sharing our experiences and supporting each other, we can all find light at the end of the tunnel.

I suppose, the thing I hang on to is that it's still early days.  Processes can't get any worse, they can only improve, surely.  We must also factor in the additional issues that Covid has brought with it.  It has been a tough time on both fronts and I guess, whether we like it or not, it will be a case of adapting our businesses to meet these changes.



One thing I'm certain of is that we are at the very beginning of an antiques boom.  With more and more people turning to used over new, we are already seeing an increase in demand for antiques.  More and more antiques shops are popping up all over the country, proving the demand is there and supporting this theory.  I guess, the only question left unanswered is, where will dealers be sourcing their new stock, particularly those who've relied so heavily on mainland Europe? 

It's over to you now.  Please let me know your experiences below, positive or negative, and let me know what changes you're implementing.  And, please remember, this is NOT a post to stir up divisions, it is a post to encourage conversation within the antiques community in the hope that it might be a source of help for some who are struggling at the moment.



Remember, if you enjoy my posts, please show your support by subscribing to my 'Source Social' membership, which you can do via the 'Home' page.  It's free and gives you a weekly blog post and a fortnightly YouTube video delivered directly to your inbox, as well as exclusive discounts and first dibs on new items before they are added to our website.

And, speaking of my YouTube channel, if you're into antiques and haven't seen any of my videos yet, you can find them HERE.  Head on over and subscribe to that too for your dose of finds, fairs, stories and reviews.

So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




Owner Source Vintage

Shop from Source Vintage here

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  • Howard Emmerson on

    Nice piece Steve.
    On a personal level, I figure I’ve been quite lucky.
    My sales, well 99%, have pretty much always been UK based.
    I know that many dealers, as you state, rely on regular trips to Europe and vice versa.
    However…. and I’m not trying to be controversial, so bear with me.
    The Antiques Trade has an ever evolving D.N.A.
    If you look at the trends in the last 15 years, we’ve seen fashions come and go, a Georgian Mahogany 2 and 4 set of drawers would have been £600-£800, but can now be picked up sub £200.
    I think what I’m trying to get across is that considering the current difficulties, maybe us dealers need to evolve too?
    I know in the past when I’ve hoarded a particular ‘fad’ in the trade and made a killing I’ve always been aware of not overdoing it.
    At the end of the day ‘fashions come and go, style lasts forever’
    This of course is my personal opinion and I would never intentionally try to offend anyone, but is this a new beginning for the UK’s Antique Dealers?
    We have a plethora of antique dealers, antique shops, antique centres, antique and vintage fairs and then consider the social media options for buying?
    I’m a sort of ‘half glass full guy’, I know everyone isn’t, but to quote (unquote) Charles Darwin:
    “According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself”
    We have an opportunity to boost the UK’s Antique trade, whilst boosting the UK economy.
    Based on my recent fairs, the public are hungry for Antiques, let’s give them the best the UK can offer!
    Howard Emmerson
    Class Antiques

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