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Behind the Rickety Table…or Tips for Surviving Antiques Fairs…Part 2

Have to be paid somehow
Have to be paid somehow

Yesterday’s post (which it is recommended to read first) took a sideways look at some of the errors made from behind the counter and I’m sure regular visitors to antique fairs will recognise some of the despicable behaviour mentioned. Today though we turn the tables (sic). Regular sellers will spend many frustrated moments lamenting these traits – but maybe the aforementioned “regular visitors” are not so aware what a looooong day said traits can make.

BUYERS.

Most traders are there to make a living, even the hobbyists always have the advantage of a bit of beer money. For us and many like us however, it is how we pay the bills, eat, put fuel in the car and occasionally have pest control remove the rodents from our beards.

Its a livelihood like any other shop except we are not bound by bricks and mortar – and the average customer (no, not you madam, you’re perfect) would, and this is a constant, treat us very differently if we were. BUT, because we are often found loitering behind rickety tables in leisure centres, we are often only given the same respect as our stubble-shrews.

Taken around 6.00 a.m.
Taken around 6.00 a.m.

On fair days traders get up at 5 a.m. load cars and vans, drive hundreds of miles, unload cars and vans, display our beautiful wares, spend 8 or 9 hours on our feet talking till our throats feel like sandpaper, eat lunch on the move, pack up our beautiful (unsold) wares, load cars and vans, drive hundreds of miles, unload cars and vans, and finally flop like dehydrated flat-fish into bed. Oh and then…get up the next day and do it again.

What we encounter along the way can feel genuinely insulting – no-one would tell a plumber how to plumb but they feel perfectly comfortable telling antique traders how to antique.

Traders are knowledgeable and have spent years buying and researching to get the right stock for their field. They  get up in the middle of the night to traipse round draughty fields to find stock and sit up till the small hours, cleaning and researching. Traders know their stock, their bits of history and (for the most part) their prices.

Though you may think a trader is expensive, please, please, please NEVER ask for “The absolute death” – We’re not all “off the telly” and can’t usually afford to discount more than 10% (see paragraph 2).  And no, you can’t find it cheaper on ebay! Good quality antiques sell for good quality prices – even online. I suggest watching a few of these items and seeing where the price ends up before asserting the cheaper online catchphrase…we have missed out on some great items for last minute price wars.

Talking of catchphrases: We know its like Aladdin’s cave, a trip down memory lane, that you are just browsing, that you want to know what yours is worth, that its old fashioned, that no-one wears brooches any more or that your gran used to have one and that if you’d known it was worth that you wouldn’t have thrown yours away. We believe you when you say that you wouldn’t know where to put it or that you have so much you could set up a stall yourself, that you have one just like it (except yours is blue, bigger, and is a completely different shape with handles…oh and its made of glass not ceramic).

The same is true of 90% of customers – and not one of that 90% is afraid to tell us. All day, every day. Antique dealers have 2 loops: an eye loupe to examine their goods and a feedback loop of repeated platitudes.

Platitudes often offered to make conversation (or avoid releasing the wallet-bats) but egg stains and beard dwelling

Someone opened their wallet
Someone opened their wallet

rodents excepted, we don’t bite. By talking to us like people, you may find some hidden gem or new interest BUT remember… after twenty minutes of talking to a customer, for them to walk away is disheartening to say the least. We can’t make you spend your hard earned cash but we are not there for a “nice day out” or for the good of our health.

I hope I have kept to the lighthearted side of this subject but at times it has been hard so apologies if it has sounded a bit ranty. It all boils down to a few salient points: It IS a real job for most  traders, we work hard to price fairly, and we’ve heard it all before. But if you don’t believe me, ask the next time you go to a fair.

Talking of boiling down, I’m off to boil some eggs to get my jumper the right shade of “oueff-de-nil”. Find out where we are selling in 2016 on our Fairs and Markets page or follow us for up to the minute treats

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Fair Trade…or Tips for Surviving Antiques Fairs…Part 1

IMG_20160214_102218913Its a rough and tumble, rag-tag bag of miscellany and confusion this world of antiques and whether at the lower end of the market or the fine arts end there are many pitfalls and mistakes made from both sides of the counter. So I thought a few tips might be in order. I do want to make it clear that I have been guilty of many of these mistakes myself, so I hope I am speaking from experience.

This is part one and aimed at sellers. Part two for buyers will come tomorrow. So for now, pull up a chair, pour yourself a cuppa and if you’re sitting comfortably…I’ll begin.

SELLERS:

Whether you are a hobbyist or a full time seller, you are still “in retail” therefore standards and customer service shouldn’t be too far removed from the high street. A smart, fresh smelling you is much more appealing than a you with beer gut hanging out of holey trews, rodents in your beard and this morning’s egg stains on your jumper. (I do have a couple of people in mind here)

Fresh from an antique dealer's beard
Fresh from an antique dealer’s beard

A gentle approach and smile works better than a scowl – and yes, customers can be frustrating (buyers please read on) but they are more likely to be persuaded by a friendly face: you can’t force anyone to let the bats out of their wallets but you can suggest how they might!

Presentation and knowledge is key. Junk hunters may not be put off by trays of rusty stuff tipped onto a table but most customers will be. Where appropriate, cleaning stock also helps – no-one wants to go home after a fair to have to soak their hands in bleach; cleaning also helps identify damage and/or provenance.

If you don’t know your stock how do you expect to sell it?

The words “erm, don’t know really” are a massive turn off. Clear pricing and general information will help to draw a customer in. You don’t have to wow them with your knowledge of what colour undercrackers Josiah Wedgwood was wearing when he threw that pot but a general date, range and background will always help (especially if, as we frequently do) you find yourself having to justify your pricing.

Pricing is another game to be sure. Sadly, there is an expected level of discount but know what your policy is and stick to it. If someone wants something enough, they’ll pay without you having to sacrifice your profits for a quick sale. If not, they are probably in the wrong place. Oh and don’t tell a potential customer what you paid for an item. Therein lies madness and unsustainable discounts. Sellers who under (or over) price are damaging to the rest of us.

I could be yours
I could be yours

Get to know your customers, someone who feels they are appreciated will come back and buy again. Talk about other things – the weather, cats, TV. Whatever! but build relationships with them and soon you will have a relationship with their portraits of the Queen (or President Lincoln etc etc)

Of course nothing is guaranteed but we can all help ourselves a little. We all have bad days when it seems no matter what we do, we can’t sell but we always have to keep striving.

 

To find out where we will be selling this year (after I have rehomed the shrews in my beard) check out our fairs and markets page or follow us on:

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ch-ch-chaaaanges!

Mallorca (though this may not be May)
Mallorca (though this may not be May)

Well hello folks and here’s wishing you a great start to the week ahead. We’re back…yes! We’ve dipped our toes into the ocean of high end anti-queues and the waters were warm and balmy – despite howling winds and drizzling rain. Think Mallorca in May, think mulled wine, think soup on a cold winter’s day. What a pleasure to be in lush surroundings, with knowledgeable buyers (mostly), beautiful and genuine antiques (also mostly) and the Pay-Pal card reader almost melting (On Saturday mostly).

I have to admit that both I and business partner were a tad apprehensive about our stock and our chances but this soon faded to be replaced with a glow of contentment. It was not an easy ride by any stretch of the imagination: we worked bloomin’ hard in the weeks leading up to this fair, pulling in some fourteen hour days and there was a great deal of stress and anxiety on both our parts but we feel we have proved a point or two.

Not everything needs to, or should be sold at car-boot prices. There is still a thriving market for quality, beautiful artifacts. Our stock stands better against fine art than pyrex and plastic (largely what we are up against online). Our usual fairs really have become little more than flea markets full of junk. Not that there isn’t a place for that but against that backdrop (and the same applies online) it gets harder to sell good quality pieces without being beaten down financially and emotionally. (see Video Killed the Antiques Dealer  for possible reasons why)

Also coming soon
Also coming soon

So after today, which largely involves a lot of faffing with spreadsheets, re activating our Etsy store and finding a place for our paintings etc we will be taking a day off for a leisurely pub lunch and, armed with a laptop, a year planner and rising self confidence, a peruse through our options. Watch this space for news but there will be some big things coming including an online sale in December and another relaunch for Touchstone Vintage in the new year.

Oh and its my birthday on Saturday so I shall be expecting lots of presents! Please send them C/O Touchstone Vintage. Thank you.

Keep up to date by giving us a thumbs up (or a heart) in cyberspace: Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

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Doing some busy-work

Not quite this bad...Yet!
Not quite this bad…Yet!

It’s all got a bit out of hand!

So much to do, so little time to do it and the house is piling up with an eclectic mix of goodies which we hope some people will pay some money for. And that, in a nutshell, is the crux of this weird and wonderful life of antiquity. Everything one undertakes is based purely on hope.

With less than three full weeks before we jump into the fine arts end of the market with little to support us but a PayPal card reader and some hastily printed business cards, we are a little flustered but we do think we are well on our way to some small victories. Research indicates that one or two of the pieces we have bought have some SERIOUS fine art collectability – notably a 19th century bronze cherub with cornucopia style single stem vase by Rousseau (a Belgian Sculptor) and a fine art monochrome study by Herbert Sidney who, despite his unassuming name, seems to fetch quite a packet at art auctions.

My French polishing arm is well and truly lubricated too and business partner is threading beads like they are going out of fashion – which, given the number of necklaces we have, we sincerely hope is not the case. In the meantime of course we still have what we call our “BOG fairs” (bloody ‘orrible garbage) and an Etsy store to run; something is on the way to giving. With less and less time to spend online, our Etsy shop will gradually be diminishing in size over the next week as we take items off for Avisford Park. As a by product we have been running a “last chance to buy” promotional thread on Twitter

This campaign has to all intents and purposes been very successful and we have sold some of our Avisford Park stock; can anyone else see the flaw in this otherwise perfect plan?

So, as we prepare for another day doing busy-work and delving into artifacts from a time when jazz ruled the airwaves and before they decided to put cancer in cigarettes (and that might give some idea of the level of cleaning some items need), a time of elegance and hand crafted design – pre plastic and pre formica – here are a few pieces which will be coming offline very soon. Come and join us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest  for more as it happens