Business Eye: We should teach kids how to run a car boot

The meteoric rise of Poundshops, Aldi and Lidl has brought to the fore a phenomenon at the heart of British culture for centuries – the love of a bargain.

By Alex Pratt, chairman of Bucks Business First
Sunday, 7th September 2014, 6:30 am
Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt

It is no mistake that last year Poundland alone sold nearly a billion items and employed more than 10,000 people.

Nowhere is this cultural force of thrift on more potent display than at the plethora of car boot sales that spring up in our midst during the summer months, one of which we attended last Sunday.

In July an ambulance worker from Northumberland haggled down the price from £6 to £3 for what turned out to be an ancient 4,500-year old Egyptian tool valued at £4,000 by the Natural History Museum.

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Last month, a car boot bargain hunter in Wales found a brooch for 50p that is expected to fetch more than 1,000 times this amount when auctioned in Mayfair on September 25.

It turned out to be a rare 9 carat gold memento celebrating the greatest game in the history of Welsh Rugby – the 1905 win against the All Blacks.

In my limited experience, there are two types selling at a boot sale. The professionals use the crowd to run a niche market stall usually plying vinyl records, hardware or jewellery.

When you arrive they descend upon you like locusts looking to devour any crop of valuable items for resale later on their own stands.

The amateurs like us spend several hours in the garage picking, polishing, and pricing their junk, buy a new pasting table, dedicate a 
further three or four hours sitting around in a damp field, make about £70 and then blow it all on lunch.

Any self-respecting Martian observing such behaviour would wonder at our sanity, and yet it can be an altogether pleasant and instructive family day out.

The car entry fee had risen to £10 from £4 last time, so a bit like a casino it is the house that makes all the easy money.

It’s a fun way to teach that the value of an item is what someone is prepared to pay you for it and not what you think it to be, it allows you to passionately practice your negotiation and haggling skills on low risk items worth just 20p, and it recycles 
items which would otherwise have taken a trip to the refuse tip.

Running a car boot stall should be on the national curriculum.