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Is the Antique Business, Dying, Dead, Wounded Or Just Hybernating?
If you’re a small business owner in an antiques store, you’ve probably heard the “deadly claims,” been inundated with discouragement from the “gloom and doom” crowd, and often look out the window to see if a “funeral procession” is passing by. .I’m here to tell you that while antiques, like all discretionary retail businesses, are being challenged…they are not dead and they won’t be anytime soon!
Almost every day I hear constant comments from some customers and lots of disgusted sellers saying that the antique industry is dead, dying or disappearing. There is a rationale:
1. The existing customer does not buy.
2. The existing customer bought everything he intended.
3. The younger customer is not interested.
4. Everyone who can shop is shopping online.
I would like to pass on to you the “hard and dedicated” antiquarians who have a certain intuitive insight in the shops and a conflicting opinion about the “state of affairs in the antique business”.
For years, the antiques industry (like many industries in America) became overpopulated with part-time, marginally dedicated participants who saw it as an opportunity to turn a “garage sale passion” into “off or on the books” profits with little day-to-day cost. efforts through the proliferation of antique malls everywhere! These dealers would “post” the bond, load up the SUV, put together a few tables and cloths, and open Antique Mall Space. The sheer size of this group has expanded the vast number of antique malls that have popped up on many high streets and shopping centers across the United States.
The flaw with this concept was that the space was expensive, fairly high percentages on top, and a marginally dedicated staff that didn’t have the same “vested interest” that a mall space owner would have. Mall dealers were not “retail veterans” and in many cases found at the end of the month that instead of the “slush funds” they thought they had created, the bill was for a short drop between rent and sales. waiting for them on the first of the month instead of the expected inspection. The new “hard reality” sank into the tenants of the shopping center premises, and soon they said it was not a good idea and “saved” in record numbers. The “foreclosure process” of commercial space tenants has created huge voids in antique malls and has led to a new reality for antique mall owners “upside down for rent due to vacancies.” This led to Antique Malls closing their doors and hanging “for rent” signs on the front of the buildings.
What is the post mortem of this process? “Bigger opportunities” for surviving antique retail stores by getting a bigger slice of the (economically driven) smaller pie. Now is the time not to lament the advent of online antique sales, but to take advantage of it. The Internet gives sellers a chance to reach millions of new customers and “start to cut” their share of a smaller pie. Reducing the number of malls makes your brick-and-mortar store more attractive to customers who enjoy a new adventure in antique shopping (if greeted with enthusiasm) and affordable, unique items to tempt them.
Will the antique shop and trade survive and come back to life? I think yes. The customer of antiques is primarily a “collector” not unlike a museum. They collect things that interest them, have intrinsic value for them and that they think they will appreciate over time. The number and longevity of museums around the world shows that there is still an interest on the part of many individuals in viewing and owning things of historical significance. A collector’s “passion object” private collection is their private museum to enjoy alone and share with friends…and maybe eventually sell for a profit!
The traits that will determine the “winners and losers” in this antiques “shakeout” are:
1. Persistence coupled with strict expenditure control.
2. Exciting and unique merchandise flowed regularly to ensure novelty for your repeat customers.
3. Good value. The days of “obscene profit” are over. There may occasionally be a $10 profit on a $1 investment, but a more modest selling price to cost ratio of $3 to $1 is likely to provide better value and motivate a dwindling “customer pool” to buy.
4. Good attitude. The last thing anyone needs (or wants to hear) when visiting a store or business for a quality purchase is “gloom and doom.” Motivation and enthusiasm are contagious…as is winning and growth. If you want more positive customers…be a more positive shop owner!
5. Look for new ways to reach new customers. Pack up your car or truck and head to a high, low, or mid-priced flea market, antique show, or swap meet with a pile of business cards and great merchandise. Give people who stop by a “preview” of your taste and selection and invite them to stop by to browse the larger selection in your store. If you want to encourage urgency, give them a discount coupon to use on their next visit.
6. Finally, keep fresh. If a new flow of goods is not possible with current cash flow challenges… Reorganize your inventory so that the same items are presented in new locations, with new neighborhoods and new ways of visualizing their use. You will find that an old item becomes a new sale by simply moving it to a new location.
In short, when the going gets tough… The dedicated antique shop owner should look at the situation as an opportunity to increase market share… Don’t throw in the towel!
The world is littered with businesses that would be successful with a little more persistence and patience! Quitting is easy… Winning is commitment!
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