AN ONLINE portal where antiques dealers sell their wares saw sales rise almost 300 per cent in lockdown.

2Covet was set up by a New Forest businessman and a former co-owner of AFC Bournemouth.

Sales through the portal rose by 283 per cent between March and June and the growth has continued, with antiques dealers unable to trade from their normal shops and fairs or visit auctions.

Collectors, interior designer and regular customers were also forced online and flocked to the site, the business says.

Older people who learned to buy from internet sites during the first lockdown have come to trust the method for other higher-end purchases, its founders say.

Dealers pay a monthly fee to feature their antiques or contemporary items on 2Covet and buyers use it as they would Amazon or other shopping sites.

Charles Wallrock, from Lymington, and Steve Sly, from Bournemouth, joined forces to create the platform.

Mr Wallrock, who specialises in maritime and nautical antiques, said: “We felt there was room for a new marketplace for dealers.

“We wanted to connect them with buyers and the platform simply does that, without commission or other extra costs.

“Dealers have to be of a high standard and the majority are trade affiliated so visitors to the site know there is quality control.

“Many of those in our world and sector have been reluctant to use the internet – but that has all changed.

“Importantly, the dealers and clients are connected and that allows them to build relationships which is so important in the industry.”

Steve Sly, a former deputy chairman and co-owner of AFC Bournemouth, as well as a leading expert in Japanese art, said: “We were experiencing rapid growth before the first lockdown, but that really accelerated things.

“The existing trend speeded up when people couldn’t buy and sell through shops and fairs.

“We had 283 per cent growth during the first lockdown and now believe the ball is well and truly rolling, and already we have seen another uptick during the latest lockdown.

“As well as antiques we are seeing more jewellery dealers coming on board and others with specialist and exquisite products.

“A further unexpected trend is to have international dealers contact us, keen to tap into the market we have created.

“Those who previously wouldn’t have trusted using the internet for these sorts of purchases are now rapidly becoming online shoppers and it is changing the industry.”

The UK arts and antiques market is worth around £10billion – second only to China in terms of sales.