I think most antiques dealers start out as tag, rummage or estate addicts and I have lost track of how many sales have been to over the past 30 years. Now I am a full time antiques dealer with a group shop website http://www.the1800house.com. I was bitten by the antiques bug a long time ago and I think I have enough experience to formulate my own “Top Ten” List of things that make me keep coming back… or not !
A shop where you are greeted and made to feel welcome and then left to browse to your hearts content without hovering is my idea of heaven. Maybe some background music or a scented candle burning,a little table with coffee is nice too. Little touches that speak volumes like a complimentary bowl of hard candies. A shop that displays their wares attractively is enticing, sometimes less is more in this area. Your shop doesn’t have to be crammed so full that my brain goes into overload. I don’t mind a resident cat or dog that seems right at home in the shop as long as they are friendly, something soothing and homey about a cat taking up residence in an old wooden box or bowl!
Part and parcel of ambience, your shop should be, at the very least, clean, heated in winter and tolerable in summer, floors swept/vacuumed. Don’t mistake dust and cobwebs for country atmosphere! The only exception would be if your “shop” is in a barn in which case all rules are suspended because we know that barns are the antiquers best friend! Enough parking, handicapped access is preferable. A customer bathroom for larger establishments is a necessity, especially if buyers have driven long distances.
Turnover of Merchandise
I remember reading an article years ago that broke down dealers into two groups: Those that want to move the merchandise and those that will keep things forever until they get the price they think they deserve.Better to be of the former mindset I think than the latter which borders on OCD at times! The lack of fresh inventory will keep people from making a return visit to your shop. Now of course we don’t expect a complete turnover but some fresh items added each week will keep us happy.You would be surprised at what simply rearranging things will do, too!
A nice clearly marked price tag is simple, cheap and the lack there of makes me wonder if you are making up prices as you go along.
Do your homework and make sure your prices are reasonable. Too high and things will sit gathering dust. Too low and things WILL fly out the door but your bank account will suffer for it.
Actual Antiques A.K.A “Good Stuff”
I hate to state the obvious but an “antique shop” should actually sell antiques. One genuine antique per shop does not an antique shop make! For most shoppers a nice mix of antiques ,vintage and collectibles is perfect. If you can also manage to be one of those “good stuff” shops…you know where everyone always finds some really “good stuff”… then so much the better.
A great group shop will have a nice selection of antiques with perhaps some decorative accessories mixed in. More antiques than accessories. The best group settings will have a good turnaround of items and well done creative displays really make a statement about both dealer and owner. Owners should set standards of what will and will not be acceptable and encourage their dealers to freshen up their booths with seasonal decorations and promotions.
Do Your Homework!
Keep abreast of what is selling and market trends. Who knew 20 years ago that Grandmother’s old white chippy dresser would be a sought after commodity in 2010! Know a reproduction from a true antique.This kind of knowledge doesn’t come overnight but after years of handling, buying and selling, reading and observing. Even the best of us has probably been fooled but knowledge is power, ask questions. The large antiques shows and flea markets such as Brimfield, Rhinebeck or Antiques Week N.H. and Vt. here in New England are the perfect heavenly combination of shoppers paradise and classroom. Subscribe to trade publications such as Antiques & Arts Weekly (a.k.a The Bee) for shows and estate sales.Regionslly published antiques magazines & newspapers are available free of charge at most shops and AuctionZip.com is great for locating auctions near you.
Advertise & Connect
You don’t have to break the bank to get the word out. Place an ad in your hometown paper ,on Craigslist (free). Do as many local antiques shows as you can to generate interest and new customers.Have some business cards printed and distribute them to local shops and dealer friends. Connecting with other dealers is so important and an invaluable way to build relationships with the antique community. Of course being a fair minded, conscientious,creative shop owner will spread more good will than all the ads in the world.
I know all the aphorisms about location and often they are true but it is always the exception that interests me. That little shop tucked away on a back road. The oddly lettered sign for “Antique Barn” stuck on a tree that beckons. Sometimes these are the best places to find hidden treasures. The dedicated antiquer will drive out of the way to visit a shop with great finds or at least the potential for same. Potential for finding that perfect antique will keep me coming back! The last word of advice for any shop owner… Lighten Up! Do you know how lucky we are to be doing what we love to do? Don’t be afraid to share information with your customers about your favorite shops, flea markets, sales and haunts. There is enough great stuff to go around and I don’t forsee a shortage of antiques any time soon.
Written by: Karen Woodward ~ The 1800 House