Occupy Wall Street for Christmas – How antiques dealers can boost the shop local movement

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Behind the Gavel by Wayne Jordan

No matter what you think of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it holds the seed of a successful holiday sales season for antique dealers.

The Wall Street protestors have expressed frustration with taxpayer bailouts of “too big to fail” corporations who take public tax money and then raise banking fees, restrict access to loans, and then give their CEO’s big bonuses. Versions of Occupy Wall Street have spread across the United States plus 951 European cities and 82 countries around the world. The public is endorsing the message: institutions and individuals are moving their money to hometown banks. Hometown banks have seen out-of-the-ordinary surges in deposits in the past several months.

Not only are individual citizens fed up with the “too big to fail” mentality of the banking conglomerates, state governments are as well. Lawmakers in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Minnesota have all voted to move state funds into local banks and credit unions. Labor unions, small businesses and municipalities are also moving funds to local institutions.

The anti-big-bank, anti-big-corporation mindset is throwing fuel on the fire of the “buy local” movement. Bloggers are writing about “buy local”, as are major newspapers and media outlets. Michael Shuman, author of The Small-Mart Revolution says: “In the current economic downturn, Americans are beginning to understand that their future prosperity lies in the community businesses down the street that employ their neighbors, pay the taxes, and promote local relationships and trust.”

Read more: Small antique shops must adopt more strategies

Antique Trader 2012Economic-localism is a growing grass-roots movement. Since the recession began four years ago, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies has grown to more than 60 small business networks in the US, representing more than 20,000 entrepreneurs.

What does this mean for antique dealers? Consumers are getting the “buy local” message. They are more inclined now to buy local than they were three or four years ago.

They will still shop at big-box stores this holiday season, but if you give them sufficient reason to shop at your store they will do so, and get the added benefit of feeling like they have contributed to the local economy.

Remember, you offer one-of-a-kind, unique gifts that can’t be purchased at a big-box store. Capitalize on that. Now is a good time to get new customers and boost your mailing list. A new customer over the holidays may become a regular customer for the rest of the year.

Getting new holiday customers requires a two-pronged strategy:
1.    Get them to your store.
2.    Help them enjoy the experience once they’re there.

You’re already familiar with the standard ways of promoting your business over the holidays, so I won’t review them again. Instead, let’s investigate a new tactic for getting customers into your store and starting the season off with a “bang”.

Read more: Affordable tips for promoting your antiques business

Last year, American Express started a “Small Business Saturday” promotion, in which consumers were offered incentives for shopping at local small businesses on the day after Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). According to American Express, participating small businesses saw a 28 percent rise in sales on that Saturday compared to the same day in 2009.

This year, Amex is being joined by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others to offer a small business toolkit that enables merchants to tie into the national Small Business Saturday campaign. The toolkit includes:

  • $100 in free Facebook ads for the first 10,000 business owners who sign up.  Facebook ads will enable you to laser-target collectors in your local community.
  • The video creation tool My Business Story, which enables business owners to create professional-quality videos for posting to YouTube and other social networks.
  • $100 credit for LinkedIn ads and an additional $100 in Facebook ad credits for up to 6,500 businesses from YourBuzz, a business review site.
  • Downloadable, customizable point-of-purchase displays to let consumers know that a merchant is participating in the promotion.
  • Customizable e-mail templates for Christmas email campaigns.

You can find the toolkit here. When holiday shoppers arrive, give them an experience that they can’t get in a big-box store. Offer a festive, down-home, comfortable atmosphere that is conducive to lingering and browsing. Make it a sensory experience: use sight, sound, smell and/or taste.

  • When a customer walks into your store, let them smell potpourri or cinnamon and cloves (avoid the smell of pine; it smells like household cleaner). “Christmassy” smells will trigger memories of home and family and put shoppers in a nostalgic mood. Every real estate agent knows that the smell of cookies baking increases the chance of a showing turning into a sale. Why not use the same tactic in your store?
  • Offer tasty snacks; cookies, mulled cider, candy or breads will be appreciated by hungry shoppers. Remember, a hungry shopper doesn’t shop very long. The “treats” don’t have to be offered every hour you are open; perhaps just on your primary selling days or during a holiday open house.
  • Try live music. A guitar player or vocal duet singing holiday carols will be a welcome change to big box canned music.
  • Make a colorful visual display of “Christmas past.” This sort of display is ideally suited for antiques & collectibles dealers, and will add to the nostalgic mood.

Here are a few other ideas that dealers have employed to increase their holiday sales:

  • Offer value added packages to increase the average dollar sale. Display items that “go together” and offer a package price on the group.
  • Advertise your hours well. If your store is in a business district that shuts down at 6 p.m., consider opening early instead of staying late. Customers will enjoy a before-work shopping experience (be sure to provide coffee and pastries).
  • With special items, give away a nicely typed and formatted story about the item. Such a certificate can turn any item into a conversation piece and be remembered for years.

Regardless of the state of the economy, shoppers will spend money this year. But, they will be more careful about what they spend. Of primary concern to shoppers is the impact of the gifts that they buy, rather than price or quantity.

Wayne Jordan is a Virginia licensed auctioneer, certified personal property appraiser, and accredited business broker. He specializes in the valuation and liquidation of estate and business assets. His column Behind the Gavel appears monthly in Antique Trader. Learn more at www.waynejordanauctions.com, 276-730-5197 or auctioneer.wayne@yahoo.com.

More from Wayne Jordan


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