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CW OPINION – DECLINE OF THE AUTOJUMBLE

CW OPINION – DECLINE OF THE AUTOJUMBLE

Posted by wp-admin on 17th December 2016

The scene is one familiar to the majority of classic car enthusiasts- a battered trestle table bending under the weight of the contents of someone’s garage. Mysterious mechanical parts in grease paper and odd collections of hubcaps sit next to boxes of filters bearing the logos of long-vanished parts suppliers. On the ground is a stack of carefully-preserved motor show leaflets proclaiming the new Singer Vogue and a toolbox of Whitworth spanners.

This is autojumble, the wonderfully self-descriptive term for those events which for decades have been one of the main sources of everything the classic car owner could need or want, usually provided by fellow enthusiasts who are either having a one-off clear-out of their ‘stock’, or are professional traders. Autojumbles can be the only places to pick up many parts and accessories that are no longer in production and, with a careful eye, it’s possible to get ‘new old’ or second hand parts for bargain prices. While we are all probably familiar with the large regional autojumbles it is a rare classic car show, from local ‘village green’ meeting upwards, that doesn’t include at least a small autojumble section.

Although they’ve been a core part of the classic car scene for decades, the autojumble seems to be on the wane.  Visitor numbers at the big events have been down in recent years and the autojumble sections of smaller shows have undergone a significant change. Not only are the sections usually smaller than they were, say, a decade ago, but the goods for sale have changed. At many shows I’ve been to this summer the traditional ‘jumble’ that I described in the opening paragraph has been very much in the minority, with plenty of non-motoring stalls and good proportion of the remainder selling items such as number plates, oils and car care products. All useful, to be sure, but it’s not autojumble.

There are several reasons for this. The rise of online auction and ‘giveaway’ sites mean that the internet has, in effect, become a permanent autojumble that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week that can be visited without leaving your home. Rising fuel prices have meant that the break-even point for traders has climbed ever higher and for many it is not worth making the journey. This leaves event organisers with empty pitches, which are taken by the more general (and usually always professional) traders.  The poor weather over the past few years hasn’t helped- one stallholder reported losing nine shows in a row last summer, either because the show was cancelled or rain forced traders to spend most of the show with their stock covered up.

The flagship of all autojumbles (and the one that actually coined the term) is the International Autojumble held at Beaulieu since 1967. A study into the economic impact of the event on the local area, published in March this year, also included some useful demographic data taken from visitors. This showed that there may be further problems ahead in the long term. The autojumble participants, both stallholders and visitors, are an ageing population. Over half (51 per cent) of the visitors were aged over 55 while 66 per cent of stallholders were in the same age range. Only nine per cent of visitors were aged under 34.

The market for the Autojumble is clearly loyal- over 60 per cent of visitors had attended more than three times before. The organisers must be encouraged by the 91 per cent of visitors (and 99 per cent of stallholders) who said they intended to visit again; but when coupled to the top-heavy age demographic the proportion of first-time participants (19 per cent of visitors) it seems that autojumbles simply aren’t attracting ‘new blood’.

WHAT’S YOUR VIEW?
Are you an autojumble stallholder or regular visitor? Has the situation changed over the past few years? Let us know and leave a comment below.

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