When I inquired if my teenage daughter was considering working at the family business any time this summer, she remarked “write a blog why I should work at Newel”. Talk about reversing the tables on who’s the boss! So it’s time for some humility and serious consideration about her, my other two sons, and wife. What are the opportunities to succeed in the antiques and decorative arts industry in the 21st Century?
For anyone in the industry, whether a dealer or auctioneer, the ability to just survive is tenuous and very unfamiliar as to how the industry has always been. Anyone connected to the trading of art and antiques is witnessing the most dynamic shift ever to take place in modern times in our industry. However, the stress of being able to adapt to a new world of trading these items should bring opportunities for novel methods to market, price, and distribute these objects. It will take a new generation of dealer to move it forward.
Styles may change, but one thing that will always be constant is the nature of people to collect. It has always been about having the resources to buy things of perceived value that please the aesthetic cord of an individual. Art, antiques, music, the theater, all invite intellectual pleasure and are supported with a financial underpinning. The new world order in the antiques industry is now open to opportunities to innovate as pass practices don’t continually work.
The next family generation who might contemplate coming into my business will have the advantages of a going enterprise with 3 prior generations of experience. It should be a great opportunity for them to question how things work and what improvements could be made. New methods of marketing and management might alter how antique shops promote their products and establish market pricing. The collateralization of these items is such a necessary part of any future success for the industry. The ability to raise capital and sell inventory through public market exchanges should become a reality in the next generation, which should allow for building bigger and stronger companies.
Many say these are the worst economic times since the Great Depression, and that might be true not only for the art and antiques world, but autos, real estate, and many other industries. Somehow I don’t think all is lost, quite yet. To my children, the challenges are monumental, but the opportunities are boundless. Go ahead, be creative and resourceful; you’re lucky to have the chance to have your vocation be what most people can only do as an avocation.