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  People Behind the Portals 

For the first in our series of looking at who is behind the portal websites, used by so many antiques dealers both here and in the USA, we are talking to Will Thomas of LoveAntiques.com:

ANF: How did you get involved in the antiques industry?

I always had an interest in antiques from a young age my parents would take me to antique fairs and I was always collecting football memorabilia, with match day programmes dating as far back as 1900. My passion for the industry turned into a job in 2009 when IACF Ltd purchased the DMG Group's antique fairs. Once weíd established a successful antique fairs company, I saw a gap in the market for a more consumer focused website offering an online marketplace for antique dealers to sell their stock alongside the antique fairs - fairs only run a couple of times a month, the internet is always running. And thatís how I got into the antiques industry, and later, LoveAntiques.com.

ANF: What is it about the antiques business that keeps your enthusiasm fuelled?

: The antiques business is unique and different every single day. You never know what is going to happen at an antiques fair, what hidden gem is going to be uploaded or who youíre going to meet (Iíve had the pleasure of meeting people from Sir Trevor McDonald to Nicholas Cage in this industry). My enthusiasm has never waned because it has never had a chance too, every week there is something that keeps me loving the antiques trade more and more. For example, a week before Christmas we had a dealer list a circle of Holbein painting on LoveAntiques.com for a £100k. Part of our service is to manually verify all the items uploaded to LoveAntiques.com and one of the team saw it and thought it could be worth significantly more, and so we set the dealer up with one of our valuation experts. It turns out it could be worth as much as £500K and weíre currently waiting to get the results back. Seeing a story, and the history of a painting like that unfold is just brilliant.

ANF: What was your motivation for starting LoveAntiques.com?

: At IACF Ltd we listen to our dealerís feedback; we want to know what the dealer wants and how we can help. We had a lot of feedback from antique dealers who had little to no knowledge of the online world and wanted to get an online presence. After assessing the competition and hearing about our antique dealers frustrations with the internet, we wanted to help give all our antique dealers an online presence.

The domination of todayís high street retailers means that the antiques trade has been left standing still while other industries improve their sales and marketing methods. As the antiques industry is a collection of independent dealers it has not been able to easily mobilise to compete in this market. LoveAntiques.com is a long term project and I can 100% promise you that we entered the online market because we feel there is nobody fulfilling the needs of all the dealers and consumers.

ANF: Do you work with a big team and do you find it easy to delegate?

: Yes, we have a proactive and enthusiastic big team at LoveAntiques.com. I believe in giving each employee their own space to complete their tasks and to make the most of their roles. I delegate and oversee a lot of the work that goes on, but want my staff to be able to go away and come up with their own ideas and ways of doing things.

ANF: Now that selling online is an essential tool of the antiques industry, what tips would you give antique dealers who want to increase their online footprint?

: Price! Don't see online sales as a bonus sale. Price items the same as you do in your shop or at fairs. Pictures and descriptions are very important to offering buyers an in-depth and quality listing for an item. Images don't all have to be whited out backgrounds but pay attention to the backdrop, and the description should tell the story of the item, much like a dealer would at a fair when a buyer asks.

ANF: What is your response to the founding of Antiques Young Guns? Have you been surprised at the instant success of this new movement and what impact do you think this initiative has had on the way the public perceive the trade?

The founding of Antiques Young Guns is great for the industry, itís brilliant to have a recognised association which is paving the way for young people to get into the antiques industry, as well as offering young antique dealers recognition for their hard graft (one of the main reasons we sponsor the awards). When starting out, this industry can be a difficult trade to build contacts in, so having industry support from associations like the Antique Young Guns is priceless.

ANF:Are you able to detect new trends emerging from the sales activity on LoveAntiques?

Definitely, we want to keep our eye on the latest trends across any related industries, not just the antiques trade, so we try to keep tabs on customer searches on the site, feedback and what the online public is looking for across search engines. We also have a team of experts and interior designers who blog on our site regularly and keep up with the trends in their respective areas. For example, our regular blogger and interior design expert of 25 years, John Isaacs recently pointed out news about a change that is on the way in interior design industry, which will pave the way for making antique period pieces even more desirable and the choice less. He believes the trend of minimalism and cold is on the way out and the hard modernity is gradually being softened by a re-emergence of Victorian colour and opulence to bring warmth to the home.

ANF: Do you think competition between portal websites is a healthy thing and how does LoveAntiques differ from other portals?

Competition in every industry is healthy as it fuels innovation and allows customers to get the best value for money. In my opinion competition can only be healthy, as all the antique portal websites should be pushing each other and generating as many new customers from the mass consumer market as possible into the antiques trade and we should be working together to show that Antiques are Green, good value and often more affordable than general people think. The more consumers we can encourage into the market the better for all the antique marketplaces online.

LoveAntiques.com differs from other portals as we are casting our net away from just trade publications and advertising in home and interior design publications/websites by putting antiques alongside other retailers for the first time. LoveAntiques.com also get many of our ideas and innovations direct from the antiques dealers. We regularly speak to our dealers and often get inspiring insights from them, so we can amend our site to match their needs.

ANF: If you werenít in this trade which career would you have chosen?

: Property development is my other love.

ANF: If money were no object, which item currently listed on LoveAntiques would you love to own?

A fantastic carved wood Black Forest Bear, c1880, with a tray top perfect for keeping all my business cards in my power office! Priced at £3750 from LT Antiques.



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