Refurnished Thoughts

Discover Vintage America - JANUARY 2018

'Antique' is not a dirty word

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We've heard it a million times, "Young people don't care about antiques," "My buyers are focused on 20th century modern," "Vintage is where the action is." Yada, yada, yada …

Do an online search on trends in the antique business and it's not a real pretty sight. Pundits are declaring the end to the marketability of many collectibles and whole genres of early 19th and 18th century antiques. Seems a bit broad brush to me.

I realize that the antiques and vintage trade, just like many other businesses are cyclical. Trends come and go. Today's hot items can land in a box of remainders tomorrow. That's business, right?
I don't mean to make light of the current business environment in our trade. It's challenging to say the least. But what market isn't? It's the duty of a successful businessperson to study his/her potential market and provide the goods to satisfy the demand, or better yet, determine where the demand really is.

Columnist Wayne Jordan for Antiques Trader recently took issue with the trend for antique dealers to remove the word "antique" from their businesses in "re-branding" efforts to attract younger buyers.

"If sales are down but you have a well-established business with a steady clientele, you don't need a re-brand. Perhaps what you need is a refresh," Jordan writes. "It's important to stay true to your core business and customer base. Why risk losing customers you already have in order to appeal to younger buyers? There are antique buyers everywhere; you just have to find them and reach out. Changing a business name won't accomplish that."

Jordan suggests several ways to refresh an antique business. Among them: get rid of dead inventory, give your store a new look, improve in-store signage, add a service or take on a different product line, ensure your on-line presence is up to date and your business accessible through it, and improve market penetration by participating in antique malls in your general area.

As Cassius tells Brutus in Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar." "The fault my dear Brutus lies not in the stars, but in ourselves." Simply put, we have to take responsibility on our own and not wait for outside influences to shape our lives.

We can split hairs over the true meaning of the word "antique", but we shouldn't abandon the term just because we think it doesn't resonate with younger customers. Younger customers get older. The idea is to keep them coming back over time. You can accomplish that with a well-run shop with interesting inventory.

"You're an antique dealer," Jordan states. "Stand your ground and refresh your business rather than re-branding. If sales are down, go out there and find yourself some new customers. They are out there."

Leigh Elmore can be contacted at
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