The Stray Ferret

A chain of antiques markets that claims to be the biggest in the UK has taken over premises in Harrogate’s Montpellier Quarter.

Montpellier Mews Antiques Market was sold when its owner retired, and has been bought by Antiques on High, which already has centres in Oxford, Sidmouth, Taunton and Bowness-on-Windermere.

Vincent Page, who co-owns the business with partner Lesley White, said:

“Harrogate is a beautiful place and suits our trade very well. Our initial goal is to bring some new dealers in from the locality, and indeed many from our other stores have already shown an interest, so I don’t think it will take too long.”

Antiques on High operates an unusual business model, which, said Mr Page, works “tremendously well”. Antiques traders can rent a display cabinet in one of its centres for as little as £50 in Taunton or as much as £160 in Oxford, and as part of the deal they must commit to working in the centre for three days a month.

But they may also rent an additional cabinet in any of the company’s other centres for just £10 a month, plus an extra day’s work in their local shop. The business will transport their stock to whichever centre it is to be sold in.

Mr Page said:

“We offer dealers something they can’t get anywhere else in the UK, if not Europe. Convincing them can be tricky because typically, they are very protective of their stock, so the idea of us taking it around the country to our different antiques centres can seem bizarre. But the model works; we’ve opened five shops in six years – and that’s with two years out for covid.”

Harrogate has long been known in the trade as the “antiques capital of the north”, and the antiques market at 11 Montpellier Street has contributed to that reputation. It is currently home to 27 dealers, but Mr Page, who only picked up the keys to the premises on Tuesday, reckons he could accommodate up to 50 if better use was made of the available space.

Ultimately, he says he’d like to bring more younger people into the antiques trade. He said:

“Traditionally, this business attracts people over the age of 50, and they tend to operate on a one-man, one-shop basis. But there might be loads of people, say, in their 30s who might have been made redundant and have always had an interest in antiques. They could work in the shop for just 10 or 12 days a month and earn a full-time living.

“The antiques business is very unusual. How many sectors do you know where five shops make you the largest high-street retailer in the market?”

Antiques on High has opened five new centres in just six years. Last year in Taunton, Somerset, it opened a 4,000 sq ft shop with an 11,000 sq ft area to host a Monday antiques market, creating what Mr Page claims is Britain’s largest antiques centre.

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