Old jars and containers can be repurposed for other uses, which is what “Going Green” is all about.
As an antique dealer and collector, as well as a business owner, I am always looking for new ways to reinvent my business, my brand and my product line. Right now, I see the need to make my inventory attractive to the Twentysomething consumer. Many baby boomers are downsizing and, while they are still spending money on antiques and collectibles, we need to cultivate a younger generation of shoppers.
So, how do you go about making your antique store front or website attractive to the young consumer? First, you must have an online presence. Young people have grown-up with computers and the Internet and now, with smart phone technology, iPads, etc., they are accessing the Internet from places other than they home computer and they are using it to shop!
Author’s Note: You must have a web presence, even if it is nothing more than two pages. The first page outlines your products, philosophy and why people need to shop at your location. Page two, at the bare minimum, should have your contact information, address and shop hours. Photos of your inventory really make your website appealing.
Education is Key
It is up to you as the professional to educate the consumer on the items you are selling. You must know your inventory and something interesting about it and pass this information on to the consumer. If you have an online shop this, is very easy to do by writing a detailed description including the history of the manufacturer of the piece and the period in which the item was created. In your storefront, you can do the very same thing by writing the information on the price tags. I love the large manila shipping tags for this and, if you are so inclined, you can even dress the tag up. Some dealers are of the mindset that they are not going to give anything away for free and this includes their knowledge. That is a damaging attitude.
If you have a storefront, offer free appraisal clinics every couple of months. You can offer educational classes on glassware, the difference in the types of china and porcelain, and my personal favorite is furniture education. This can be as simple as bringing in a contemporary fiberboard bookcase (the ones you can purchase for $15 at any Big Box store) and compare it to a piece of real vintage or antique wood furniture.
This counter top guest towel holder makes a great bulletin-board-like note holder for a desk.
Young people want to get the best value for their money and pointing out to them that they can furnish their first home or apartment with toxic, flimsy fiberboard furniture or, for the same amount of money or less, they can purchase heavy duty furniture made from real wood that has already stood the test of time. You want to emphasis that by purchasing vintage or antique pieces they will have unique items that will really let their personal style shine.
You can do the above, even if you have an Internet only shop. You can set up a webinar using a free service, such as Anymeeting. If you have never participated in a webinar, they are fabulous. You can create a PowerPoint presentation or just use your webcam and make your presentation. Participants can ask questions and can interact with each other and the presenter.
Most community centers are always looking for people to conduct classes on a variety of topics. Most will allow you to charge a fee, but I recommend offering your class free of charge, at least until word gets out about how amazing your classes are. Then, a small fee is appropriate; especially if you offer any type of informational material, other than your business card.
Author’s Note: If you sell vintage clothing and jewelry, a fashion show is a great way to show your inventory and bring potential new customers to you. Wedding season is just around the corner, use it. “Something old, something new…” You get the idea.
An Underwood manual typewriter. Can you believe that today’s youth have most likely never seen one of these in action or have never heard a telephone dial tone?
My daughters and grandchild have grown-up in the antiques and collectibles industry. They have been dragged to thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales and auctions. My youngest daughter still has not cultivated her love of all things vintage and, believe it or not, she doesn’t have any collections in the works. But both of my girls appreciate the value and quality of vintage or antique furniture over the new stuff.
Emphasize Going Green
You want to emphasis that buying antiques, collectibles and vintage items is the ultimate in recycling. In your advertising, use “Go Green” freely, as this has great appeal to the young adult consumer. On your price tags or item description, offer an alternate use for items such as, a counter top guest towel holder makes a great bulletin-board-like note holder for a desk. Old canning jars can hold anything from dried beans in the kitchen to sewing buttons. A toast rack can be the keeper of napkins or bills and letters. Vintage suitcases can be stacked and turned into a side table. I am actually working on “upcycling” an old suitcase into a small seat.
Reach out to the local Girls Scout and Cub and Boy Scout units by offering an educational time travel program.. Many kids have never seen a manual typewriter or have heard a dial telephone and they are truly fascinated by them. Show the kids how moms used to have to do laundry by having a laundry plunger, washboard and heavy Sad Iron. Introduce them to marbles, the beauty of stamps and postcards, as well as other small inexpensive items. Get them excited about collecting, I always bring some little item as a starter for their new collection. You can purchase bulk coins, reproduce some old postcards or buy marbles in bulk. Educate the children and cultivate future customers. Each of these organization have collecting badges or requirements to be earned, so learning about inexpensive collectibles is an easy way to get them interested. Who knows, they might just go home and tell their parent(s) about the wonderful presentation they saw and show them the flyer you handed out.
A Cub Scout belt loop for collecting.
Some of the Girl Scout badges for collecting.
The Boy Scouts merit badge for Collections.
A certain Big Box store reminds the consumer constantly that they can make your life better if you shop in their facility. You need to find a way to convince the younger generation that your business can vastly improve their lives and well-being and will also provide a product that will last for many generations.
Be creative, think outside the big box and cultivate a younger customer base.
Michelle Staley, who insists that collectors are the happiest people, is an antique collector and dealer. Her shop, My Granny’s Attic Antiques, Collectibles and Memorabilia, is in Lenexa, Kansas.
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