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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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Antiques takeaway

Looks posh - is...a four star venue for five star antiques. GULP
Looks posh – is…a four star venue for five star antiques. GULP

The more perceptive of you, or at least those who read “So many pies...” will recall that I talked about putting things back once they had been away; I also mentioned that we have a lot of pies in which to dip our grubby, dust stained fingers. Well the pies just got a whole lot bigger.

Business partner and I received an email inviting us to take part in what can only be classed as a posh antiques fair – Galloway Fairs at Avisford Park near Arundel in West Sussex. We are talking the other end of the spectrum from our usual rickety tables in draughty community centres and sports halls…This is a three day event in a Hilton hotel no less, with gold lettering above our booth and hob-nobbing with TV stars and the generally well-to-do. The human being in me thinks we shouldn’t be pandering to the gentry (believe me in this game the feudal system is alive and kicking) but the pauper in me says lets make lots of money.

This is not so much a pie as a five-bird roast with twenty-seven vegetables, a starter,  fish course, FULL dessert trolley and lemon sorbet between courses – all served in French with full access to a very generous wine cellar. A bit nerve racking as its a jump in the ocean for us (not that we don’t have quality stock, its just that we’ve never tried anything on this scale before).

Anyway at this fair, only the best will do so we will be leaving behind the battered brass and curvy copper, abandoning the broken boxes and crusty curios and as some of our fine arts and collectibules are in our Etsy store, we are sadly soon to be taking them off the interwebs and packing them into carefully lined crates.

The bonus is that some of our “affordable” pieces will get a chance to shine in the meantime and we are really gearing up for Christmas now. Just take a sneaky-peeky at the pics below and you’ll see what I mean. Give us a tickle on our Google+ page, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest  for more as it is listed and watch this space as business partner loses her hair with stress and I paint myself into a shellac’d corner…