Never let it be said that Antique Trader readers aren’t a diverse lot, as these pages have shown in the past few months, and as this week’s letters show again.
Here’s what we asked our readers last week:
Since January 2001, the price of a barrel of oil has risen from $25 to almost $100. It may seem like a strange dream, but when the price of a gallon of gasoline hit a $1.20 average in the U.S. almost seven years ago, there were cries of outrage and horror at the expense. Now, $1.20 gas would be heartily welcomed. In fact, it would seem like a return to the halcyon days of hedonistic road trips with no thought to expense. Now, though, instead of $30 to fill up that van, it can be as much as $90, and that’s no mean increase … My own little Honda takes more than $30 just to get 10 gallons now.
Dealers and consumers alike feel this pinch. For dealers, it’s part of the cost of buying, of going to shows and auctions, of transporting those antiques and of exactly how much to charge. For consumers, the same factors come into play. You have to drive to that shop, show or auction to buy, and you have to think about transporting your antiques back home. The symbiotic nature of the buyer/seller relationship is intricately interwoven with the rise and fall of petrol prices.
Numerous things have created the more than $2-per-gallon rise in that time – none of which are appropriate to discuss in the context of Antique Trader – but I would like to know this week if the rising price of gas – averaging $3.20 around the nation as I write this – is going to have an effect on how, and if, you buy antiques, especially as the holiday season approaches.
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Gas prices certainly will (have an affect). I have a diesel truck and will not be making any extended trips for buying or shows.
I read your article and agree with most of your points. The effect of the rise in the price of gas does seem to deter a lot of shoppers to our small town. We have seen a decrease in overall foot traffic in our store and a decrease in sales. Maybe it’s due to cost of gas, but we’re not 100 percent sure.
However, about two years ago, we decided to get off the grind of antique trade shows up and down the East Coast and focus on Internet sales. We are now seeing a huge shift to sales online. So much so, that while we wish our in-store sales were what they once were, the sales on the Internet have more than made up the difference and made worrying about the number of folks buying in our store mostly irrelevant.
We think part of this is simply due to our having more experience in marketing high-end furniture on the Internet, but we think the actual majority of the increase is due to the greater acceptance of buying pieces on the Web overall and the fact that buyers can see hundreds of pieces of furniture quickly, without burning the gas and time to shop individual stores all over the country. They are able to comparison-shop to find that perfect piece among the many offerings and get a price that they feel is right for them. Unlike a lot of dealers we’ve heard when we used to do trade shows, we simply are not seeing the bargain-basement prices in the types of furniture that we carry, which many had led us believe would happen once we went online.
We also are hearing from our new Internet customers that many of them are first-time furniture buyers on the Internet, with ages ranging from 30-75. We are happy to say that the antique and vintage-furniture industry is alive and well on the Internet, if you’re willing to do the legwork to make it happen. We can strongly recommend to other dealers that the Internet is the way to go if you have the right merchandise and can sell at the right prices and do the work required to get (merchandise) on the Internet efficiently.
The higher gas prices have already affected my antique shopping habits. Rather than spending an outrageous amount of money on gas to drive from shop to shop searching for a special treasure, I have turned to the Internet.
I continue to use eBay for fantastic finds, and through Google have discovered many quality antique dealers with Web sites. I have a wider array of merchandise to choose from, making it easier to find just what I am looking for, especially hard-to-find items. It also seems to be more price-competitive than bricks-and-mortar stores.
The cost of gas will absolutely effect our purchasing. The extras, such as antiques, will be the last thing purchased. More consideration will be given to needs, etc.
I did recently purchase an antique gaming table for myself. I was able to get it at a reasonable price and needed to replace a broken card table. I will use the gaming table in lieu of one card table when I host my two bunco groups.
You forgot to toss in $3-plus a gallon heating oil for those of us in New England and other cold spots in the country.
Unless you are addicted to antiques or are a collector with a substantial amount of discretionary income, this situation has got to slow you down on a variety of unneeded – but desired – purchases.
I think local antique shows will fair better than the regional ones as local people will visit them for the casual purchase but won’t travel far if they are not committed antiquers. So, this will be a further shaking out of the crowd. Looks like we are headed back to the time before the 1920s when only the wealthy collected antiquities of any sort.
Charles Wibel Antiques
I have been a dealer for 50 years. I sell on eBay and do an auction a week and a few shows a year. The cost to go and find items has risen to 30 percent of the cost of each item. The shipping cost – USPS, Fed-Ex and UPS – has gone up 50 percent this year alone and will continue to rise in tandem with gas cost.
It is very difficult to get 40 percent profit net after all this and the profit will continue to shrink as gas cost rises. The only profitable venues are local shows and attendance is down. Again, gas cost and lack of discretionary income.
Our store is closing. We are running up to 50 percent off and people want to know when we are going to start making deals?
Is the business dead or only a victim of the retail slump? I think the large malls will survive but moms and pops, like us, will be out.
Owner, Nostalgia Nook Antiques
San Dimas, Calif.
World Market Center #124
495 S. Grand Central Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89106
Hi Mr. Fleisher,
I hope this finds you well.
I read with interest your article regarding the hidden cost of dealing in antiques. We made our semi-annual trek to the Hillsborough Antique Show in San Mateo, Calif., and we all thought the prices were a lot higher for some items than in the past. That would explain it, then. Of course that didn’t stop the ladies from buying some very nice jewelry and me from buying some pieces for my mother’s silver set. My mom passed away last year and I thought a nice tribute would be to add to her good silver. I know she would approve.