Saturday, 25 September 2021

Antiques shop lets traders maintain their independence

A “HUB” for antique traders has opened in Henley.

A “HUB” for antique traders has opened in Henley.

Henley Antiques in Friday Street provides space for nine traders who can’t afford to open their own shops.

It is run by Simon Knight, who also owns Knights Oriental Rugs opposite.

He said: “It’s very important that independent sellers survive because they are a big part of the town’s character and we’re representing that concept.

“It’s essential that local people are able to operate their own businesses in the town where they live and that local people support them.”

Mr Knight, who lives on the border of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, decided to set up his rug business in Henley 11 years ago because he believed it was the “best town in England” with an international reputation.

He was originally based in the antiques shop but moved across the road three years ago. Rather than close the shop, he decided to keep it and four months ago he offered the space to local dealers.

Mr Knight said: “I didn’t want to see Henley lose another independent company. Looking at the town as a whole, I noticed that a lot more major national chains and charity shops were occupying the high street.

“We were losing smaller independent businesses, which historically are what Henley is renowned for and give it diversity and attraction.

“The rents and rates are so high so I decided to make this space available to people who couldn’t afford to open their own shops.

“They are all people who had established businesses operating from their homes but wanted a town centre presence. They are able to rent a small space from anything between £75 and a few hundred pounds a month.”

Within two weeks of opening the shop as a partnership between small businesses, all the vacant spaces were taken thanks to word of mouth.

Mr Knight said he has had to turn down many more applicants because he wants to keep the centre small and maintain high standards.

The traders sell antiques dating back as far as the 17th century, including furniture, jewellery, militaria, pottery, chandeliers, mirrors, fabrics and clocks.

Mr Knight, who is married with two children, runs the shop so the traders don’t have to maintain a full-time presence.

He said: “A lot of the people who are here aren’t necessarily looking to run a full-time business. There are some mums who do a few hours during the day, which is another reason why they aren’t able to have a shop of their own.

“By being here, with me staffing the shop, it gives them the chance to generate an income. Word of mouth has been wonderful and people are coming in because they’ve been recommended. The people who have a space here have been amazed by how successful they’ve been.”

Justine Hutchinson, of the Green Bough Company, sells restored furniture and home accessories and said most of her stock was sold online but the shop offered something extra.

“There’s no substitute for having a high street presence,” she said. “Simon sold, on my behalf, a 1700s oak coffer and people want to see that sort of thing before they buy it.

“Online is great but sometimes for the really special pieces it’s fantastic to have something they can come and look at so they know what they are getting.”

Maggie Atkinson, of Light and Shade Spectacular, sells chandeliers and large mirrors.

She said there was a family atmosphere among the traders and they would often help to sell each other’s stock or carry heavy items in and out of the shop.

Ms Atkinson, of Queen Street, said: “It’s a fabulous opportunity that I couldn’t have handpicked if I had tried.”

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