'Adventure' of antique business keeps every day fresh for Dingwall businessman as Objet d’art marks a major milestone after unforgettable year overshadowed by coronavirus crisis
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Amid another challenging year for business one well established Dingwall trader is celebrating a decade in business and is looking forward to 2022 with some qualified optimism.
The proprietor of Objet d’art Bill Powrie says part of that optimism comes from the everyday interest of running an antiques shop with more than 7000 items in stock which he described as “adventure.”
The fun comes from never knowing what people will offer to sell him and recognising that for many an antiques shop offers a welcome touch of nostalgia that leaves many people with the feeling that it is “like a comfort blanket.”
“Coming into an antique shop is something of an adventure in a way,” he said. “This is a two-way business – I need to buy to be able to sell. So it's not like a more traditional shop where they would buy from a wholesaler or whatever.
“I require the general public coming to me to sell me stuff in order for me to provide the stock in the shop that I can sell on. So every day is different. One day you might get somebody coming selling or looking for you to buy old furniture or clocks and then the next person maybe wanting to sell you some taxidermy or some jewellery or literally anything.
“There are over seven thousand items in this shop and they range in price and in subject matter really going from, I don't know, hundreds of years old up until the 1970s. I guess that's the adventure.
“And that's the appeal, the enduring appeal of antique shops, because you go in there and not only do not know what you're going to see, you will end up buying something that when you woke up in that morning you had no thought that you would be looking to buy that item.
“And there's also that trip down memory lane where you'll see things that your granny had in her house or your parents had when you were younger. And so there's a little bit of a comfort blanket in that sense to coming into a shop like this.”
Asked what was the most interesting purchase or sale of the year, Mr Powrie said: Probably, because I tend to specialise in it, and am interested in it – a Victorian polar bear, which I managed to purchase and we managed to renovate it.
“I became too attached to it to sell it so it sits at the bottom of my staircase in my house. So that was easily the most interesting thing.
“You know, absolutely everything sells. And one of the biggest difficulties in a business like this is you've got to try to prevent yourself from just buying the stuff that you like, because you just end up with a shop full of you.
“So people come in all sizes and all interests and what I may consider difficult to move on will probably last in the shop for an hour or so before somebody comes in and buys it so absolutely every item is appealing to somebody and you can't be judgemental about anything.
“And, you know, each day is a treasure trove of people coming in with various bits and pieces to sell you and you've just got to take a balanced view on what you think will sell and if it's in good condition we will generally give it a go.”
But despite some optimistic signs in the Autumn many sectors were plunged back into restrictions in December due to the Omicron variant but Mr Powrie – who once worked in finance – believes the economy will recover.
“It's been a challenging year most certainly, we've had some very welcome governmental support during the lockdown period over last winter. And I think, like most shops, our respective landlords were quite understanding in terms of the normal obligations.
“That said, when we returned, when we reopened our doors in April, business was very good. So the last six-seven months have been probably some of the best in the 10 years since I've been going. But December has not been as busy as I would have hoped with footfall probably 60 per cent of what I would have been expecting.”
But despite that he remains positive that things will pick up in 2022, saying: “I would. I would like to think that I'm now in my 10th year of trading on what was really just a retirement venture for me. And, you know, I would like to think that we will continue the year-on-year growth.
“An awful lot depends on the general economic conditions. I think the economy has performed or held-up remarkably well, given everything that's happened and like anything it's down to consumer confidence. I think we can and will overcome the Covid issues.
“It's just the underlying confidence for the general public to go out and spend money on the High streets.”
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