Changing with your antiques customers

Responses to Wayne Jordan’s guest column published in last week’s issue
are coming in fast and furious. It seems Mr. Jordan, a Virginia
appraiser and auctioneer, struck a nerve in both veteran and novice
dealers alike with his comments on how the antiques
trade can reach out to members of Generation X. Generation X is
typically defined as those age 30 to 50 who are just now coming into
their prime collecting years.

One reader said if the antiques
trade wants to survive in its present form, it must better support the
efforts of young professionals. He’s onto something here.

It’s safe to say that most collectors or dealers were influenced by an
educated or passionate relative or friend at one time. Sometimes this
figure came late in life: a dealer who shares a customer’s passion for
an obscure antique. Other times it happens early: a relative who takes
a youngster under their wing to show them that collecting is fun.

However, there are too few efforts to mentor young dealers or otherwise
show them the ropes. Dealers are an independent and hardworking group
and a business plan that works for one dealer likely won’t work for
another. Consider that there are thousands of dealers nationwide and
only a few groups exist to pull them together toward a common goal –
and membership in these groups is relatively small and tight knit.

So “young” dealers have it rough: they experience high competition for
quality goods, are automatically considered “outsiders” and the
ever-shrinking markets make a successful career in antiques seem unlikely.

However, antiques shows are leading the way to appeal to younger buyers.

The Baltimore Summer Antiques
Show annually holds compelling lecture series that are free to the
general public. Topics are fresh and intellectually stimulating.

The DC Big Flea is offering free admission for any customer under the
age of 30 on Jan. 10 on what’s being called “Young Consumer Sunday.”

“We are seeing so many more young people in their twenties shopping our
shows,” says Joan Sides, who founded the Big Fleas in D.C.,
Fredericksburg and now Baltimore. “Too, they are tired of the
mass-produced, Ikea, cookie cutter look that was so popular in the late
’90s. And, they are finding that these pieces, that were so affordable
and necessary in decorating their first home or studio apartment, just
can’t take the wear and tear of daily living.”

It appears Sides is taking advice from Martin Codina, owner of Fine
Estate Sales and Estate Liquidation of San Rafael, Calif. Codina’s
letter to the editor printed on page 5 sums it up: Never give up.
Change with your customers.

Eric Bradley