There appears to be a dialogue of some 1stdibs member dealers who have made public comments and complaints about an evolving process of commerce. It has always been a concern that this industry has little life blood left compared to just a decade and further into the past. While auction success with the buyer’s premium certainly took a toll on dealer survival, we are now witnessing the next transformation of the industry by 1stdibs.
There is a thread of commonality in any “concerned” 1stdibs dealers that the 1stdibs web site does on such a large scale what any individual dealer can never achieve, eyeballs and buyers. As a Johnny-come-lately to 1sdibs, I know the frustration of trying to build a competitive web site. In the early 2000s, my web site had almost 10 times as many visits as today. I know my loss certainly has been their gain. Yet, now as a new member of 1stdibs, I am selling far more with an ease of transaction that does not necessarily require the hand holding of a physical showroom. That is revolutionary and the next challenge for dealers is to accept and embrace this power offered by the Internet.
As a case in point, most if not many dealers today are not in central locations build for foot traffic. The rents and overhead of those locations (as well as their specific inventory stock) have made that method difficult or nearly impossible to be profitable. That has lead to the demise of or the curtailing of a storefront in favor of a traveling show exhibitor and/or an inexpensive storage overhead location. The gap of location is now filled with the Internet, and if you take that out of the equation, for most dealers you take out 1stdibs.
As I see dealers fret about the Goliath of a 1stdibs running roughshod over them, I see a company that is trying to grow and with it come growing pains. I don’t think any “concerned dealer” could deny that 1stdibs is forward thinking and wants to move into new and untested areas of commerce. To me that is exciting and an opportunistic prospect. I can think of nothing better than benefiting from their success, and I would suggest that the issues of concern for the dealers run parallel to 1stdibs.
A lot of the dealer issues center around technical problems like good analytics and clearer functionality for both dealers and buyers. However, they at least understand that customer service is a big head ache for all of us and they are trying to absorb some those issues for the dealers. Undeniably, customers (whether interior designers or private purchasers) today are much more demanding of service, price, and other options.
With the prospects of dealers having a dialogue with the management of 1stdibs, it is certainly an opportunity to help them help us. I will always encourage them to charge fees when they perform a service that can result in a sale; it is my pleasure to share a profit and grow with them. For me, it is making them more efficient in my generating and completing a transaction. Their assistance in making it happen is undeniable in this new age of commerce for the industry. It is also a testament to what they have accomplished and that they appreciate their relationship with dealers and our method of trading, which auctioneers seemed to have left at the doormat.
While I don’t claim to be an apologist for all the dealer complaints or issues cited in this collective group, I will say that my experience has been quite positive and beyond my expectations. It has been the successes of direct contacts (mostly with trade designers) initiated from 1stdibs that have dominated over the 1stdibs direct “purchase” (which has operated quite nicely-less discount net of their fees and no need to deal with retail types). Collaborating with 1stdibs to make changes should be with a measured and not antagonist approach. If you think you can create a competitive alternative site, don’t think Accel Partners isn’t in the same profit mode as a Benchmark.