The AT Inbox: How was your business this summer?

Downward shift in buying

Hi Robyn:

I am glad to see this subject addressed. We are located in a tourist area surrounding a large lake and the store is of very good quality, not a flea market. June and July saw some drop in sales but nothing we got panicked about.

However, August has been devastating. We still get just as many cars per day coming to the store as last year, but instead of 80 percent of the people purchasing something, the ratio has dropped to between 20-30 percent. Those who are purchasing are buying $20 and under merchandise for the most part, only an occasional piece for $100 plus sells. So far for August, sales are down about 35 percent overall.

Our best months of the year are usually September and October, so we are hoping for the best. And yes, stores are dropping like flies around this area, we have lost five within the last two years.

Vida McEndollar

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Auction biz better than ever


You asked “How would I characterize my business this summer?”

We are an auction company and we are swamped. Business is better than it’s ever been. I think people are looking for ways to make extra money in a tight economy, and one of the first sources they look at is “What can I sell?”

We are seeing a record number of people contact us to sell items that they have been paying to store for months or, in many cases, for years. They want to quit paying the monthly rental storage fee, and they are now taking a long hard look at what, if anything, they really need to keep in those storage units.

The challenge has been to keep a good source of buyers to buy all of the items that people are selling. We are doing 85 percent of our auctions this year as online only auctions. It gets the items out to a broader bidder base, as well as saving local people the gas and the time to drive out to attend a live auction. They can bid from home in their pajamas, and have their items shipped, or only drive out to pick the items up. People’s lives are so busy, their children are involved in so many activities and sports and there is fierce competition not only for their expendable income, but for their time.

Magazines like Antique Trader have been a wonderful source to get the auctions out to a broad bidder base.

Lisa Gay, CAI
LL Auctions

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Best items attract the buyers

The very best things sell instantly, often for dazzling prices. The rest of it is going to be slow to move. I’m not buying it if it doesn’t grab me by the lapels and shake me.

Karen Anderson

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Trend seems to be more sales of smaller items

My early summer traffic was slow, picking up after the 4th of July. I am in a tourist area, so I always get a lot of traffic from that population. Sales have tended to be smaller items, but more of them instead of a larger ticket item.

My shop is self-owned and operated so that helps the overhead burden.

I expect a fairly normal September and October as the gas prices have decreased some.
Looking forward to a better 2009.

Treasures of Yesteryear
Canon City, CO

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Buyers place priority on ‘necessities’ first

This is my 20th year, along with many of my dealer friends… Inexpensive items old and new are selling ($1 to $10). Good items and wonderful items are sitting. Money is going for necessities first, and “cute” and “it fits in my house even though it’s new” is a distant second.

Am looking to good auctions to sell my better items….and those price ranges are from $75 to $400… not in the thousands.

Folks who have money and enjoy collecting will always do so.  I just need to find them.

Becca Nakaya
Queen Anne’s Lace
Temecula, Calif.

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Favorite find a sterling service for eight


I’m 89 years old. I’m writing this in answer to your request for my favorite find.

Many years ago, I entered a Good Will store in Lawrence, Mass., and since I have always loved sterling, I headed for the cutlery bin. The first piece I picked up was a sterling silver fork. For the next two hours I went through and ended up with a sterling service for eight. Three sets of spoons, three forks and knives for each setting plus four serving pieces, all in prime condition. I paid $10 for all!

A few years later, I sold the complete set for $500.

I later regretted selling it as the word Boston was etched on the back of each piece and it was probably a set I should have kept.

Marie Malloy
Lynn, Mass.

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EBay problem solved through ‘snail mail’

Just finished a bad time at eBay, item not as listed, returned it with Delivery Confirmation # and dealer said he never got it, had a different story every time he wrote me. Saved all the e-mails. As most people know, going through e-mail eBay channels gets nothing but canned answers which say in essence “solve it yourself”.

So I sent a snail mail letter to the president of eBay.  Got answer from an assistant, who said he didn’t get all the copies of e-mails I’d enclosed. So I forwarded them all.

My answer is this is why everyone hates eBay cause you don’t care about cheating dealers. He said he’d contact the dealer. Then said eBay was sending a $50 check to cover the item and costs (which was more than I was out of pocket). Said it would come in 7-10 business days. Three weeks later I asked where the check was, check was cut that day, so I did get some satisfaction from eBay owners.  My advice is forget e-mail and spring for a stamp.

Polly Hackett-Morey