AT Inbox: Dealers must adapt for young buyers

Responses to Wayne Jordan’s guest column on attracting Generation X published in the Dec. 23 issue generated a flood of responses. See below on how you can add to the conversation.

Oh my, what’s an Antique Dealer to Do?

Young people don’t collect, and those who used to collect antiques are either sauntering into their sunset years, or are passing away. Stores are closing, and prices are falling. Oh whoa’s me, what’s an antique dealer to do?

But it’s Just Feedback, not an Indictment.

The market is king. It’s always right. If antiques are falling out of favor, then they are falling out of favor. Right? Well maybe.

What seems more true to me as people come to my estate sales and I view auction results for research purposes, is that the antiques market isn’t dying; it’s just changing. Those who understand this, who adapt to the market, to its changing temperaments and fashions will thrive.

But If You Insist the Market is Drying Up

Then that’s exactly what will happen. You will go off somewhere, licking your wounds, saying to anyone who will listen: People just don’t collect antiques anymore.

You will of course share this point of view with your fellow antique dealers who have closed their shops and you can commiserate with them that “It Ain’t Like The old Day’s.” Or you can apply yourself differently …

Here are three things you can do

1. Revamp an existing Web site or create a Web site.
2. Get rid of underperforming inventory.
3. Stage or become part of “Outside the Box” antique events.

Revamp Your Web site

If you do not have a strong local presence on the Internet, then you are missing the boat. People are looking for antiques and collectibles in your city. The question is, are they finding your store when they do.

At the very least make sure you are listed in Google’s local business section for antiques in your city. Also, when they do find you through Google’s local listings, make sure you have a link there that will take them to your Web site. People want to read your Web site, and they will grade your ability to do business with them in part, on how well your Web site is presented.

Get Rid Of Underperforming Inventory

Too many Antique stores are crowded with inventory that has been there for way too long. Antiques stores are not museums, storage lockers, or crypts. To be lively and to generate sales, they have to be dynamic; they have to be like a stage with constantly shifting scenery. If you are not going to get rid of underperforming inventory, at least move it; redecorate your store or booth every few weeks or months.

If shoppers see stagnant, and unchanging displays in antique stores, they start to believe that the antiques these stores contain will be there tomorrow, or even the next day. In other words, because they see the same old inventory each time they visit, they have no imperative to buy.

When shoppers have no buying imperative, they will defer their purchasing decisions. Estate sales companies and auction houses know this, and they have imperatives built into their sales strategies.

Stage Out of the Box Antiques and Collectibles Events

I don’t mean have a big sale. I mean create buzz, and excitement by doing the unexpected.

Here are three Out Of the Box Things to Try

1. Bring antiques into schools.
2. Stage weekly and free appraisal clinics.
3. Run treasure hunts for things with local value.

There are so many ways to revive or sustain your antique business. So never give up. Change with your customers. Listen to and incorporate feedback, and model the successful strategies of your competitors.

Martin Codina, CEO
Fine Estate Sales and Estate Liquidation

Sell the ‘green’ side of furniture

My experience is that few of the young like antiques for their age and history or for family nostalgia.

They do like “going green!” and the sturdy construction of furniture to kitchen tools. The usefullness will sell them if you can get them in the door.

Ikea is my favorite comparison. They spend lots of money on Ikea and the stuff lasts about three to five years. Now that natural wood is in style, they can find antiques that will give weight and character to a room even if there are modern things in it — everything from one piece of furniture to pottery or glass accent pieces.

Diane Sibille
via e-mail

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