A buying trip to Portugal Sept '23

A buying trip to Portugal Sept '23

I am always trying to think of new, interesting, sources of stock for the shop to keep our ranges as dynamic and varied as possible (and for an excuse to travel somewhere new if I am being totally honest!). I have quite young children and the shop is run by a small team so it is hard for me to be away for long and most places I think of would be far too difficult to drop in to quickly, find a contact and buy stock to ship back all within a few days. Many have also just been done to death already by other retailers over the years and as I already bring furniture back from France/ Belgium, Hungary and India it is becoming difficult to think of new avenues to go down. At the top of my list for quite some time though has been Portugal. It is well positioned for shipping back to the UK and is where many smaller firms are already having clothes etc manufactured so as a country it is obviously well set up for exporting. Working to this theory I finally decided to give it a shot in September 2023.

Luckily you can fly from Exeter airport which is less than 10 minutes drive from my house so it was a nice easy journey and flight which passed quickly as we chatted away on the plane. We landed in Faro airport to wonderful weather and within an hour we had picked up our hire car and were heading north to our first stop - a beautiful countryside hotel about an hour away from Lisbon where I had found enough antique shops and larger reclamation type places to (hopefully) make a buying trip worthwhile. 

A white painted hotel south of Lisbon Portugal

We had a lovely meal and enjoyed the evening surrounded by countryside and even managed a short blast on a couple of mountain bikes that the hotel had available before getting an early night ready for the following days adventure!

Day 2 started with a very indulgent breakfast which most definitely included at least one or two Pastel de Nata! We checked out and although sad to leave our wonderfully peaceful hotel we were excited to see what lay ahead. 

After an hour or so we reached our first stop - a very large antiques and reclamation centre north of Lisbon. From the outside it looked very promising with lots of huge pots, statuary and iron work laid out around the grounds. Inside was packed with very cool old furniture and there were many pieces that I would have bought.....BUT...the prices were extremely high compared to the UK and especially compared to our prices which I fight to keep as low/ reasonable as possible. A cupboard which I would sell for sub £500 was over £1000 and pretty much everything was at least double if not more than I would sell it for....we felt very disheartened by this but hoped that is was just down to the shop being quite up market and the next place, which looked more like a classic french brocante, would be more within our price range.

Large pots outside antiques shop in portgual


  The next place definitely looked more positive as it was a real mix of furniture and rustic/reclaimed stuff which varied in quality and was perfect for a bit of rummaging. I got quite excited and thought I would probably be able to fill a container with stuff from that one shop but once again when we asked prices they were at least double what we would charge in the UK. It was a really shame as simple pine dressers that sell here for £400 were £1200, work benches that would fetch max £450 here were about £1000. We really were shocked to say the least. 

To say that we were gutted was an understatement, we were running late for lunch and our hunger only added to the mood as we drove away in search of sustenance. 

A Portuguese reclamation yard

So, Hungry and disheartened, we headed in to central Lisbon for lunch and to check in to our city centre hotel for the night. Lisbon is a beautiful city and after a bit of a struggle finding a parking space to leave the car for 24hrs we made our way across town stopping to take in the awesome architecture and then allowed ourselves a cold beer and some time to regroup and review the trip so far.

We spent the afternoon visiting pretty much every antique shop we could find to get a better idea of what was available and what was fetching the really high prices. It is always good to browse retail shops to see what is selling locally and to see if there is a niche market that is being overlooked and could be a good line to source as it isn't in demand locally (and therefore will be cheap enough for us to buy/afford/ship).

There were some beautiful shops with some great stock and lots of interesting pieces to see. I love a bit of religious statuary/architectural antiques and there were some great old stone carvings etc as well as an abundance of beautiful old tiles obviously.

That evening we did some sightseeing and generally roamed the streets taking it all in before having an amazing meal in a tapas style restaurant which served something like 20 different small dishes as part of a set menu - a great way to try a really good variety of local food!

After one last beer back at the hotel (non alcoholic I must add!) we got an early night ready for another day of hunting the following day.

We started with another fabulous breakfast then headed off to a flea market for a rummage. It was another lovely morning and what better way is there to spend a morning than wandering around a chaos of stalls selling everything from car boot style junk to old church statues and more lovely reclaimed tiles. I saw some very cool mid century lamps that I would have happily bought back to sell but sadly there wasn't enough to warrant organising shipping and as we were flying we couldn't fit any in our hand luggage either (plus of course there is the endless joy of Brexit making import/export extremely complicated!)

After that we picked up our hire car and had one last big shop to try out before we ran out of pre planned places to visit. This one was a very cool warehouse on the outskirts of Lisbon packed full of reclaimed local furniture plus Indian and Danish pieces on multiple floors. It was a very cool place to roam around for an hour or so but yet again prices were far higher than here so sadly there wasn't anything that I could buy.

We decided to hit the road and just see what we could find on the road south back towards Faro where we had a hotel for the night before flying out early the following day. It was a lovely drive with lots of time to chat and review the situation as well as take in the beautiful country - we even managed to stop for a quick coffee and pastry before hitting the coast for the evening.

I had also been on the look out for large pots as I love the massive grain pots that I source from India and would have liked to find a European source to add to the range so we dropped in to a large garden centre to see what was available and to see if we could pick up any names/manufacturers that we could visit or contact once back home. Amusingly we found a couple of places selling huge amounts of pots by the roadside, some very cool aged pots big enough for large olive trees etc which would be perfect for here - some still had their labels on and they were all made in Vietnam! (well that's a trip for another time I suppose!).

Our last stop off was at a second hand furniture shop in a warehouse on the outskirts of town. It mostly sold modern used furniture to ex-pats but we thought it worth dropping in for a look and possibly a quick chat to see if we could get any more information on the reclamation situation in Portugal. As expected there wasn't really anything there for us but the owner was an English lady who gave us a bit more of low down on the situation and why prices of reclaimed/ antique furniture were quite so high compared to everything else in Portugal and also the rest of Europe. Basically it seems that it is still a very young/small market in Portugal so the few pieces available are very much in demand and when people sell their heirlooms they expect to get a lot of money for them. This was understandable and we spent some time pondering whether I should open a shop over there as I would get a lot more for my stock in Portugal than here! It was a nice daydream anyway!

That evening we checked in to a lovely hotel set in an old mansion house with lots of interesting furniture (mostly sourced from Morocco) and a pool which we had a quick dip in before dinner! Dinner that night was at a little local bistro which served wonderful fish stews and had a whole fridge full of desserts which made me particularly happy.

hotel near faro

After a final deep sleep and one more excellent breakfast we headed to the airport to fly home. I must say that I was gutted that we hadn't stumbled upon a great source for furniture (or any other cool stock lines for that matter) as I absolutely loved Portugal, the people, the food, the architecture and the fact that I could fly out from Exeter airport as well - it would have been a joy to be able to pop back regularly with the excuse of buying stock but there we go, it doesn't always work out with these things and it was a great adventure anyway plus we did come back with a few new ideas which I'm sure will bear fruit eventually!

Next trip ideas....Denmark & Vietnam!    


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