I generally like reading the Maine Antiques Digest and its editorials, letters to the Editor, and general interest news on the trade. The paper’s (6/2008) editorial expressed the antiques industry’s need for vibrant shows to attract customers to spend their money. But discounting tickets or free admission into these events will not entice buyers. Antique shows are predictable, usually disappointing, and very tired in appearance. Why would that bring in new buyers?
In my mind, the antiques show format has changes very little since the creation of the flea markets, no matter what the level of quality or price. Outdoor flea markets, a Vermont Antiques Dealers Show, or for that matter the Winter Antiques Show have been calcified events; same dealers, similar venue, predictable merchandise, with very few surprises. That doesn’t sound like a formula for enticing new buyers.
I’ve attended many shows over my career in the industry and especially enjoy buying from the dealers (when I can). All things considered, I’d rather spend my money with a dealer who I can get to know than being manipulated by the auctioneer. What’s more compelling is being inside dealers warehouses and really having the pick of their inventory. It becomes more personal and not contrived by the show setting.
My personal goal is for dealers themselves to become their own venue to attract buyers. Local dealers can develop a local following, and there is not better form of advertising than word of mouth. Like a good movie, word travels fast and a dealer’s reputation for inventory and customer service, along with a location and web site are what create a buzz among potential buyers.
However, when there is a dearth of fish in the pond you have less possibility of a hit. Taste and style rule this industry now. Antiques shows have no ability to influence that aspect of how and what people buy. It’s an industry problem that is acerbated by the auctions and their unfair competitive advantage to profit by manipulating a seller’s merchandise with a buyer’s premium, at any price.
When the buying public really wants to enjoy living with and pursuing the purchase of antiques, you’ll know that times have finally changed. The task of changing the public’s perception of antiques requires the industry to be creative and think out of the box; not quite the image of antiques shows or dealers.