Antiques and collectables shops have been shutting down around the country.

Internet trading, rising rents and a lack of new-generation dealers have all contributed to a "dramatic crunch" in the number of stores, says New Zealand Antique Dealers Association president Barry Holliday.

From 50-60 members about 15-20 years ago and "people clambering" to join, the association is down to around 10 – and "a few of them are due to hand in their retirement notices in the next few months I imagine".

"The association now is slowing grinding to a halt," Holliday said.

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"It's a terrible thing, really."

Holliday, 73, took over his family business Holliday & Sons at 21. Established in 1848 in England, it was set up in Christchurch in 1949.

He is the fifth generation in the profession and his son Jason the sixth.

But he said a number of other antique dealers had started out later in life as a career change.

With family already having left home, if they ran the store by themselves "they didn't have succession plans in place".

Many leased their premises, so there was no property to sell either.

Rising shop rents had also bitten, Holliday said.

He estimates there were around 70 shops in Christchurch selling second-hand goods a decade ago.

"But they were probably only paying $25-$35 a square metre. Now they won't get a shop under probably $250-$300 a square metre in the central city."

Internet trading had taken a toll on the collectables side of the market, he said.

But the antique business in more specialist or expensive pieces "is still quite strong".

People want peace of mind buying from an established dealer when making such purchases, he said.

"If you're going to spend, say, $5000 - and that isn't an expensive piece of antique furniture - you don't want to find when it arrives by the carrier that one of the legs has been replaced, and the drawers don't run properly 'cause the runners have had it, and you've got no comeback."

Antique dealers were selling over the internet as well as out of their stores.

"Some of them are very successful.

"My business has never done that, but we are working on a site at the moment."

Ted Waters is closing his Howick family store of two decades, The Antique Shop, on August 1.

The Antique Shop owner Ted Waters is sad that his family's shop will close soon due to falling demand partly due to the internet. Photo / Doug Sherring
The Antique Shop owner Ted Waters is sad that his family's shop will close soon due to falling demand partly due to the internet. Photo / Doug Sherring

He said it was no longer feasible to run the business from a shop.

More dealers were selling on the internet to avoid overheads of a physical store, and also to be able to maintain other income through another job, he said.

The Antique Shop had been affected by shoplifting, and hit hard by two major burglaries, Waters said.

In the second, five years ago, thieves took more than $30,000 worth of stock, "and really good stock".

"We never really recovered from that."

Waters had got out of hospital after a rotator cuff operation the day before the burglary ("I still had the drug pump in me," he said) when his smartphone alerted him to the break-in about 3.30am.

He rushed down to the store to find "the place had been just smashed through".

Burglars had made off with items including bronzes and military swords. Vintage cabinetry had been damaged.

The pieces weren't insured.

No one was caught for the theft, and he suspects some items may have been moved offshore.

It's been a real family entity, but I've just got to be pragmatic.

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Waters said it will be sad to see The Antique Shop closed. His parents had started the business and he took it over around 15 years ago.

"It was a great industry to be in [and] it was my first taste of self-employment.

"It's been a real family entity, but I've just got to be pragmatic," he said.

Among his more memorable dealings were a pair of antique duelling pistols.

He was doing a house clearing for an elderly couple who were moving to Australia, when the man brought out the pistols which he had stored in socks in his drawer.

"He said, 'Would [you] get a few hundred for these?'"

Waters instead offered to research the pieces, which the couple had never had valued, and sell them on a 10 per cent commission.

They fetched $65,000.

"It was life-changing for them."

He once bought an antique clock from a trader for $200-300, repaired it and sold it for $8000. The buyer then on-sold it on for $27,000.

"You learn in the trade ... You don't mind leaving a drink.

"You possibly don't leave that big a drink in it for the next guy. But I made a damn good profit."

Waters will sell a lot of his stock before he closes The Antique Shop, and make some display cabinets available for neighbouring stores to use.

As the owner of licensed eatery The Apothecary, next door to The Antique Shop, he will now concentrate on his hospitality business.

Holliday, who said his store was increasingly busy, said people still liked to browse through antiques shops "to get their eye in" and for the social aspect.

He believes owners will have to make stores less cluttered and increasingly watch trends and be able to inform customers, including providing comprehensive histories of items.

"You're not going to buy a car when someone says, I think it's 2008. You want to know - how many miles has it done, has it been repainted?"