My first introduction to Car Boot Sales was in the early 1980s at Somerset where I was the General Manager of Pontins in Brean Sands. Next door neighbours Brean Leisure Centre commenced the first ever Car Boot Sales in Somerset in 1982 and I decided to study this latest craze that is still as popular now as then.
The ‘stunning’ and I do mean ‘stunning’ bargains that were available in those days were breathtaking I remember seeing Clarice Cliff, Carlton Ware, Wade items sold for silly prices because sellers did not have any idea as to the value of some of their sales, you could buy a used Sinclair c5 for as little as 40 quid and the second hand gold and silver jewellery was changing hands several times before the Car Boot Sale had finished affording massive profits to the lucky original buyers. Sellers in those days were not street wise like today’s and were oblivious of the value of their cast offs and unwanted household items but were happy to go home with a few quid and an empty car after paying the bargain £2.50 rent for their stalls.
Lou and I moved to Cornwall to take over the franchise of Carwardines Coffee House in Cathedral Lane, Truro our lady accountant Carole was also the treasurer of the Falmouth Rugby Club asked on their behalf if I would be interested in running the Car Boot Sales at Falmouth Rugby Club, that was in 1989 when CARBOOTSCORNWALL was formed. We took over a shop in Swanpool Street Falmouth called Dig & Delve selling second-hand stocks of all varieties where for several very happy years we sold some absolute bargains and a load of crap! The bargains that went out that shop were stunning at times and the everyday dramas were incredible.*
By 1991 CARBOOTSCORNWALL was well established at the Falmouth Rugby Club, in those days we were allowed to use the full extent of the grounds including the ‘hallowed turf’ for our Friday famous Car Boot Sales. Customers will remember there used to be running tracks around the pitch where local schools held their annual sports day supported by all the mums & dads and their families for these and other memorable COMMUNITY events.
My intention of changing the way of Car Boot Sales was to try to create a different atmosphere from the ‘cut and thrust and occasional punch-ups’ of bygone days where the rivalry between dealers and buyers for that elusive bargain would change to a fairer system. Car Boot Sales in the 80s and 90s would advertise the times of start at say 9.00am and the sale actually started at 5.00am! Buyers (torches at the ready) would descend on arriving sellers cars stripping the vehicle and its occupants of bargains only for the seller to realize ‘We could have taken more money’ We observed the distress of ‘virgin booters’ who arrived to sell and be totally overcome by the situation of so many people pulling their property apart and making derisory offers on items before passing them to all and sundry leaving the hapless traders out of control as the crowd moved on to the next victims. The crowds in those days were nicknamed ‘vultures’ which title I objected to, but the buyers are caught ‘in a frenzy’ to buy a bargain against all the others and in circumstances like that we are all inclined to forget good manners! The deal is, sellers are selling because they need the cash and you are buying because you want the bargain, manners on both sides maketh the bargain, manners maketh the man!
I introduced a new system whereby if I said a Car Boot Sale would start at 1.00pm that would be the start time and sellers would be allowed to queue and be shown to their selling space half an hour before the start to set-up their stalls with a ‘NO SELLING-NO BUYING’ policy until the horn blows at 1.00pm The buyers arrive to queue for the start of the sale at the blasting of the ‘horn’ the SALE starts and with the rushing of high temperatures, blood pressures and total concentration for that elusive BARGAIN the crowd descends on the set-up stalls. My main concern was to ensure everyone had a chance to get those bargains on offer and that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES would anyone be allowed to go into the car boot belonging to any sellers. Great fun but fair to all concerned!
Some dealers were furious at the change and offered as much as £20.00 to ‘go in early’ and buy exclusively before the queuing public but I insisted that there should be an equal chance for all customers to get ‘the bargains’ and the ‘entire public’ should enter the sale at the same time, modelled on the multiple stores January Sales and ‘first come-first served’ system had arrived at our Car Boot Sales!
It is a fair system the majority of dealers accept our rules and seem to get bargains like the rest of the crowds but punch-ups and arguments are rare and the Car Boot Community lives happier than in the old days. The system works because it is fair to all concerned and the bargains are shared amongst the buyers. Up country dealers don’t approve but I don’t run the boot sales for up country dealers alone. Dealers ‘that is about all of us’ are very good spenders and a lifeline to Car Boot Sales these days of such hardships due to recession blues we all need the dealers to spend...spend...spend! I decided that all selling vehicles would be parked side-on giving them much more space than other locations and it makes setting up your stalls so much easier. It is a fantastic sight at the start of our Car Boot Sales when the ‘horn goes’ off to see your buyers run and disperse down the selling lanes accompanied by all the other buyers men, women and the kids searching for those elusive bargains.
We are proud of CAR BOOTS CORNWALL and thank you all for your support over the years together we have established a happy and safe environment for you to recycle, buy something, sell something but do it all in the confidence of our PUBLIC LIABILITY insurance covering you at any of our events.
What next for Car Boot Sales which will be with us forever? It is time for Cornwall Council to realize the good that is done for the entire COMMUNITY at our events because we and other Car Boot operators do more to get the actual COMMUNITY together than any Council, how about finding us an indoor location to operate the sales whenever we get RAINED OFF! Or how about Cornwall Council building a real HALL for CORNWALL instead of the very nice ‘local theatre’ given to the people of Cornwall in place of the most successful flea markets and Markets and community events held on the same site for many previous years! Car Boot Sales are a most important part of the local communities throughout the country and are attended by millions of people; where else you can meet your family and friends with FREE parking and a bargain price of 50 pence admission in a great atmosphere out in the fresh open air with the kids? Where else can you mix with thousands of people and have great experiences with buying or selling your own property contributing to the recycling and the local environment and earning some money for you and your families into the bargain?
TRADING STANDARDS continually monitor the Car Boot Sales & Markets in the South West we accept and need their presence which helps us in our work; we were flattered recently when it was recommended by them that ALL CAR BOOT SALES & MARKETS should operate nationally in the same way as CAR BOOTS CORNWALL
High praise indeed!
Geoff & Louise Camden Wiles
*More to follow!