The antiques industry is asking the Government to halt the decline of its recession-hit business as a steady closure of shops leaves depressing gaps in the high streets of some of the Britain’s most attractive market towns. In London, traditional centre Camden Passage has been lost to a retail developer and Antiquarius on the King’s Road is to become a retail outlet. Dealers are closing, due to rent and business-rate increases, at a faster rate than in previous recessions, according to campaigners Iain Brunt and Henry Sandon. Mr Brunt, who has given up his Pimlico Road business to restore houses, and Henry Sandon, an Antiques Roadshow regular, say the British antiques trade, which generated £4 billion in 2007, saw its revenue fall to £2.75 billion in 2008. They’ve launched a petition calling for Government support for an industry that, in 2007, accounted for 10% of the global market share.

‘Although other sectors are receiving help from the Government, the antiques industry which is partly reliant on the housing market doesn’t. And the much-publicised success stories from auction houses do not tell the whole story,’ says Mr Brunt. ‘The antiques industry creates jobs in tourism, shipping, transport, insurance and conservation. Antique shops provide an important draw to country towns, helping other local businesses. And on an ecological level, it encourages the reuse of old and beautiful things, thus reducing landfill and consumption of new goods. It’s time people realised that antiques are the new Green.’ Mr Brunt suggests that with sterling at such a low rate, now is the time to reach out to overseas buyers with marketing support from the Government.

The petition has about 160 signatures so far, and urgently needs more if it’s to make any impact. Many signatories tell tales of closure or a struggle to pay increased rent. Margaret Cowley of Garret and Hurst Sculpture writes: ‘We’ve been ignored as a profession for far too long and taken for granted without any recognition of our input to the economy. We need help to survive.’ John Sirrs of Mount Pleasant Antiques Centre says that it’s finding it difficult to let all its spaces. Nesteggone’s Bob Moores, specialising in English pottery, suggests: ‘The recession provides our trade with a unique opportunity to promote antiques as an alternative investment, and I believe we are already seeing signs of this becoming reality. However, we do need support from the Government.’

Mark Dodgson, secretary general of the BADA, says the industry must be realistic about what kind of help they can expect from the Government. ‘We need to take a pragmatic approach. For instance, dealers don’t want to lose money on a sale, but a number will undoubtedly be forced to do so, just to keep their cashflow moving. We’ve spotted an unfair VAT provision that penalises dealers who sell at a loss, so we’ve raised this with the Government.’ ‘Britain is still one of the great antiques centres in the world, and it’s important that it’s kept that way before it disappears,’ says Mr Sandon.

To sign the petition, visit www.antiques.co.uk