Pros and Cons of Running an Online Vintage Store

Over the decades I’ve worked for a number of companies (high tech and non-profit), in a number of positions, all of which involved sitting behind a computer in a fluorescent-lit office. They were good jobs, till they weren’t! Nowadays I am happy to be out of a cubicle and working for myself doing something I love. But it’s not all sweetness and light.

If you’re thinking about becoming a reseller, here are some of the pros and cons I’ve experienced from selling vintage things online. This list is not complete, just a few things that came to mind.


Pros

  • Hunting for things is an adrenalin rush. There’s nothing like walking into a thrift store, estate sale or yard sale and spotting something fabulous amidst all the flotsam and jetsam. It’s darn exciting. Hecka exciting. (The rummage sale purchase below–a large Towle sterling silver jug weighing 606.9 grams–was my best-ever, heart-racing find at $5.)

towle-jug

  • I’m the boss. I love making my own schedule. Working when I want and as much as I want. Meeting friends for coffee in the middle of the day, if I want. And knowing that my success is in my hands. And bonus: No office politics!
  • Learning/researching new stuff. There are so many categories of vintage/antique items that you’ll never run out of areas to learn about. I am a generalist (with a few areas of  deeper knowledge) so I am always looking to learn more. (My neighbor just dropped off a book on antiques and I’m already perusing it. Thank you Beth!)
  • Working at home. Gotta love a commute that is only a few steps and such a pleasant work environment. 🙂 I’ve been known take my laptop outside and work on photos and listing out on our front stoop with a view of flowers and birds.
  • Displaying some items until they sell! It’s been fun having a collection (albeit temporary) of great stuff. Sometimes I’m kinda sad when they sell! [I still miss this Spode Pink Italian cache pot and my youngest daughter does too.]

spode-pot2

  • Ka-ching. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I love hearing the “ka-ching” on my phone. Even my family is attune to it now and will yell out “Hey, you got a sale!” I usually check right away to see what sold. Always exciting and a nice affirmation.
  • Sweet communications with buyers. Hands down, I’ve had some of the best buyers!

Cons

  • Hunting for things can be time consuming. It can involve a lot driving, walking around, examining things and sometimes doing on-the-spot research. Even when I buy things online to resell it takes a lot of looking to find the bargains. This represents hours each week, some of which bear no fruit.
  • Hunting for things can be a dirty, dusty, grimy business sometimes requiring a post-hunt wash up for me and the goods.
  • I’m the boss. Staying motivated is sometimes tough. Enough said.
  • Bookkeeping. Aargh. The irony is that I was once a technical writer for Quickbooks. Still not my favorite activity though.
  • Death piles. It’s easy to keep sourcing and buying. It’s the fun part. It’s also easy for inventory to pile up…and up. And that’s not good. It’s like keeping money in a mattress…it’s not doing you a bit of good. I am slowly chipping away at my unlisted stash. (Here’s a pic of my desk area a few months ago. Thankfully it looks a bit better now!)

disaster-zone

  • Finding damage on items after they’ve been bought. With pre-owned, older items some wear can be expected and it’s fine if you spot it before you buy, but afterwards it’s not so good. Sometimes the damage makes the item unsellable. Case in point: I bought three Mayfair Wedgwood cereal bowls with no visible (or felt) chips or damage. I put them in soapy water to soak off the price tags and clean them only to have the water reveal that one of them had two hairline cracks. Drat!
  • Storing inventory. It’s the bane of being an online reseller. Where to you put all the stuff your selling? How do you organize it so you can find it again? (Having a small house with limited storage makes it a headache for me but I refuse to rent a storage unit.)
  • Dud inventory. Everyone who sells stuff has duds from time to time. It happens. You may think it won’t happen to you, but it will.
  • Seasons of slow sales. I wish I had one of those stores that had consistent sales all the time. I don’t. Mine come in waves…and in between the waves there’s a lot of hand wringing and gnashing of teeth.
  • “Bad” customers. Every once in a while you’ll get a customer who is just not nice or actually tries to scam you. Sad, but true.

But to end on a high note, I have to say, overall, I’m having a blast. Wish I would have started doing this sooner. Would love to hear if you have some different pros and cons.

As always, happy hunting,

Karen

1 Comment

  1. […] writer of the blog, shares her experiences of running an online vintage business. Read the post here Thank you to Meg for her time and contribution! Until next time, -Kitty […]

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