Lately on social media I’ve been reading about vintage sellers who are calling it quits. Some are leaving Etsy or eBay and choosing other platforms and venues, but others are quitting the biz altogether. One woman cited stagnant sales as the main reason, but also felt at her age (mid-60s) she was ready to be done with it. On the other end of the spectrum, a young woman decided to quit because it wasn’t supporting her adequately anymore and she wanted a regular job with a steady income with health benefits. Another was tired of all the inventory stacked up in her home.
I can certainly understand these reasons. When I opened my Etsy store nearly eight years ago, I had a love of vintage stuff and some basic knowledge, but no idea of the challenges that came with selling it. No understanding of “the life.” I was naive. When I listed my fabulous treasures, I was sure they would sell like hotcakes. They didn’t. I underestimated how much time researching, listing and shipping would take. I was sloppy with my bookkeeping because I didn’t like to do it. (Ironically, in another life I was a both a technical and web writer for QuickBooks.) I assumed that every sourcing trip would reap scads of finds. Au contraire! And bless my heart, I don’t know why, but I thought everyone in the business would be fair, honest and polite. (A few estate sale visits later cleared up that misconception!)
As I’ve read the stories of those quitting, I realized chucking it in does hold a certain appeal. But despite all the ups and downs, I still enjoy buying and selling vintage stuff. BUT, I know I need to make some changes, because from time to time I’ve felt on the edge of burn out. I’ve hit pockets where I’ve been totally demotivated and drained before the day even starts. So while I’m not ready to quit the business, I am ready to quit how I’ve been doing it!
What I’m Going to Do to Switch It Up in 2020
Take time off.
Every day I do at least a little bit of store work. Most days it’s hours. Even when I’m on vacation. I’m realizing I NEED to have some time away from it. Totally disconnect from it and focus on other parts of my life. Get some balance. Maybe have more days at the beach!
Reduce the size of my inventory.
Between my three selling platforms (Etsy, Chairish and eBay) I have over 600 unique items listed and hundreds still unlisted. Now I know for some folks that’s nothing, but I am weary of dealing with so much inventory. Particularly with items stored in our house. I am getting seriously annoyed with all the excess stuff around. So, I’m putting more (and more) things on sale, donating others and plan on buying less moving forward. That will be key…buying less!
Buy fewer items that sell for $25 and under (except jewelry and books).
Given the amount of work it takes to research, list and ship items, along with the cost of goods and fees, many low-cost items just aren’t worth the time and effort. Particularly items that are fragile and need extra time and packing materials to ensure they arrive intact. Take for example this little 1920s German porcelain vase. It sold two years ago for $16. Less the COG, shipping and fees, I made $9 profit. Hmmm.
I need to work smarter, not harder!
Focus, focus, focus on buying the “right stuff.”
For me that means vintage/antique items that are in one or more of the following categories: 1) unique, 2) on trend, 3) heirloom quality and/or are 4) proven sellers for me. That includes Southwestern/Native American jewelry and decor, mid-century modern smalls, paintings, religious items, ethnic textiles, quality lace, folk art, vintage charms and quirky pottery.
Here are a few pieces in my Etsy store that I think are the “right stuff”!
So I’m hoping as I implement these I will keep “burn out” at bay and instead rekindle my passion. For those that are quitting, I wish you well in your new ventures and adventures. Someday I will be joining you…but today is not that day.
Would love to hear what’s working or not for you.
As always, happy hunting,
I’m glad you’re not ready to quit yet!
Thanks for sharing your wise reflections. It’s great to hear from a fellow “collector” and seller. You’re absolutely right that there are ups and (many) downs. I think your points today will help towards making the ups outbalance the downs 🙂
The issue of storing items at home is a particularly vexing one, especially when space is limited, like it’s the case for most of us. This is a big issue. Buying less and trimming down the less relevant items is a key advice. Likewise the need for a balance between working time and time off.
Selling vintage items might not always yield a good or stable income. In that respect I quite like the mindset of certain cultures. I’m thinking of crofting in Scotland, or some Scandinavian areas like Iceland where they hold multiple jobs – depending on season, need or hours. For instance, they might be local guides, drivers, shepherds, fishing, crafting, whatever for some part of their time, then have another occupation for other part of their time, and also depending on the season.
Finally, I have to admit that your blogposts made me develop a keen interest in silver, which then turned into a love for antique silver and finally antiques, especially 18th C, altogether! But I also realised that not all of my collection can stay with me and need to part with some of it… 🙂
Sending you good karma and looking forward to your blogposts ❤
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Thank you Gabriella for your interesting and thoughtful comment. It means a lot to me.
The strange thing is that this has been my best year selling, but I’ve also more pockets of disenchantment and weariness with it. So I’m hoping the changes in 2020 will make the difference.
I like your idea about having multiple job streams. Besides selling, I do a little freelance writing for a former employer, which makes for a nice change.
Glad I was able to kindle your love for antiques! Isn’t old silver lovely? I’ve got a few pieces I don’t plan on ever parting with.
All the best,
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I wonder what your very favourite silver pieces may be 😉
I also started with antique paintings, but that depleted my budget very quickly!
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Your post really hit home. I am thinking about downsizing my booth at the antique mall and maybe ditching it altogether. Sales have been dismal and it’s hard staying excited and motivated when very few things sell. The vintage market has become way too competitive and brick and mortar stores are the first to get hit.
I don’t sell on Ebay or Etsy but I occasionally try Marketplace and I find that most people are either rude, ask for a huge discount or leave me hanging. It takes forever to sell something that’s over ten dollars. 😦
I am crushed by this because I truly enjoy the hunt for fresh vintage finds and love when my stuff finds the right home. But when I walk into my booth now, I find trash on the shelves, broken stuff and theft. I know a lot of it has to do with location. People in my area have changed and don’t care about vintage and antiques and it shows.
Do you think I should try online selling? I’m happy you’re not quitting. I love your unique stuff and enjoy your blog. I always learn something!
I won’t quit yet, but a smaller booth with cheaper rent for now might help. Plus, my husband and I are still addicted to auctions!
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Oh Patricia. I feel for you. That would be so discouraging to see your antique booth in a ravaged state! I remember loving some of the items you showed in photos of your booth.
Once in a while I try selling on Craigslist, FB Marketplace or Nextdoor, but it rarely works out. (Some guy offered me $15 on a $30 item!) Overall I do like selling on Etsy and would encourage you to try it. I found the set up pretty easy, the fees are cheaper than eBay and majority of the buyers are fabulous. But shipping can be a pain and I definitely consider that now before buying big or fragile things.
I’m glad you’re continuing too. And thanks for your kind words. I have to admit I am addicted to the hunt too.
All the best,
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