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Digital Subscriptions > Antiques Trade Gazette > 2330 > Between a rock and a good place

Between a rock and a good place

Fellows boss Stephen Whittaker on where growth lies despite Brexit and other challenges


“Confident, not complacent,” is how Fellows’ managing director Stephen Whittaker sums up his hopes for 2018. His comment comes as ATG compiled its annual review of regional auction house performance, with the Birmingham firm registering a hammer total of £17m, ensuring it tops the ‘league’ of salerooms that submit figures for the Gazette to report (see front page).

The ‘confidence’ refers to his certainty that Fellows does best by sticking to what it’s good at – jewellery and watches, sold with high levels of customer service. The absence of complacency reflects an honest appraisal of the business challenges facing salerooms, not least an ever-more savvy vendor shopping around for the best place to sell.

Talking to Whittaker is an illuminating experience – he doesn’t dodge tricky questions, such as how much the prospect of Brexit has cost the firm. There’s an impatience too, about industry practices the former army officer feels let the side down.

We meet in a Mayfair hotel close to the firm’s London valuation office and start by looking back at 2017.

What were the success factors in 2017?

Stephen Whittaker: Like any auction house there’s been a fair element of luck. But if someone brings you something really exciting to sell, like the Graff yellow diamond ring [sold by Fellows in December for £1.1m plus buyer’s premium], you hope it’s because you’ve built the reputation of being able to do the job.

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About Antiques Trade Gazette

Published every week since 1971, Antiques Trade Gazette is affectionately known as ‘the Bible of the antiques trade’. A long tradition of authority, integrity and accuracy, makes it the essential read for everyone who loves antiques. With a subscription to Antiques Trade Gazette, you’ll stay ahead of all the developments in the art and antiques market, plus you’ll enjoy • A comprehensive auction calendar – see when and where every sale will be happening • Exclusive interviews with dealers, giving you the inside track on the trade • Breaking news on key industry developments • Secrets, stories and tips from leading specialists and collectors • Top lots advertised by auctioneers • Previews of the best art and antiques fairs and markets • Special supplements focusing on specific collecting areas

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