Ups and Downs of Selling Vintage Stuff During a Pandemic

In the best of times, selling vintage and antique stuff is risky. Items go in and out of fashion. Prices fluctuate. Competition is fierce. (Both in buying and selling.) Sourcing venues dry up. You need honed negotiation skills (not my forté). And of course you must keep learning about items (which I love). But during this time of sheltering in place (SIP), this biz feels even more risky.

Limited Sourcing/Buying Opportunities

I suppose the obvious is that finding goods to resell is more difficult. Problematic. Prior to this SIP I bought about 45% of my goods at thrift stores, 15% at the flea market, 15% at estate sales and 15% online, 5% at antique stores and 5% at yard sales. My neighborhood thrift store has been a beloved honey hole for eight years and I have found some amazing things at estate sales and more recently at my local flea market. Now I am left with finding undervalued things online, reducing my death-pile inventory (which is dwindling) and letting go of under-appreciated items from personal collections. I’m guessing I can limp through the rest of 2020 like this, but I hope I don’t have to.

I miss the “Jewelry Lady” at my local flea market.

“Risky” Online Purchases

Most of my “new” stock during SIP is coming from online purchases from other sellers. Far from ideal. Not being able to see and handle items in person makes it more difficult to know for certain if the items are good ones and are what they purport to be. (Over the years I have more than a few disappointments with things I’d bought online. You probably have too!) Plus there’s the cost of shipping. (Items with “free shipping” have the cost factored in.) As I said, not ideal.

Here’s what I wondering about this week. A few days ago I wrote that I was perusing eBay for vintage brass. I found one thing that I wanted to bid on, though honestly, one minute I was “This is fabulous” and the next “Gosh, I don’t know.” The photos weren’t ideal and I asked the seller for more which he provided and they weren’t ideal either! In the end I couldn’t shake the feeling that this might be something good so I placed a modest bid and beat out the one other bidder. Oh boy.

Here’s what I won…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is asian-boat-1.jpg
Listing photo. It’s brass, 13.5 inches long and 3.5 pounds. Kinda cool, right?

Haven’t been able to find anything quite like it. I’m not even sure what country this represents. Possibly Thailand? (He had the listing title as “Antique Asian brass” and said it had been in his family for 40 years.) So I’ll need to do some research on this when it arrives.

Bottom line: Can’t wait till I can source in person again!

Longing for a good rummage!

Strong SIP Sales…For Now

On the up side, sales and revenue have been robust this past April and May is starting off strong too. I’m guessing the people with more time on their hands are shopping online…a lot!! I’ve been pleasantly surprised and delighted.

But I’m also wondering if further down the road, as more folks start to struggle financially, sales will take a dramatic nose dive. Certainly I don’t sell anything essential! (Though I could argue that books are darn essential to me!) Well, time will tell.

But There’s More Buyer’s Remorse Too!

I rarely get cancels or returns but I’ve had two in a matter of three weeks. One $60 item was returned to me as “refused.” The buyer never contacted me to say it was coming back which she is supposed to do. The package just arrived unopened. I waited a few days to see if she would contact me, but it was radio silence. The other day I contacted her and asked if she had intended for this to be returned. No answer. I’m going to wait a bit more.

And the other night a buyer bought a lovely piece of antique jewelry for $100 and shortly afterwards sent me a note full of apologies and wished to cancel. That was easy to do. No problem. But a disappointment nonetheless.

So I’m guessing this stressful SIP time is creating a little more indiscriminate buying.

Plugging Away

With most of the U.S. (and world) still in lockdown, I’ve got no excuse not to be getting more done. Still the best I can say is that I’m plugging away. Plodding. Doing a bit of this and that. Adding a few things to my stores. Reorganizing some inventory. Cleaning. But also reading and enjoying sitting out in my front yard.

It’s prettiest in the morning light.

Maybe that’s good enough for now.

Hope you are finding ways to thrive.

Karen

7 comments

  1. Hi Karen, I’m glad your sales are pretty good but sorry about the returns and disappointment. I really miss going to auctions and wonder if they’ll reopen at all this year. Our store closed about the middle of March and I miss working in my booth, meeting customers and seeing my friends there, not to mention selling! We don’t sell online but after this mess, we’ll probably be setting something up. In the meantime, I’ve been sifting through all the stuff that didn’t make it to the store (which is a lot) and focusing on my writing. I just finished a novella and I’m writing new blog posts. Btw, your yard looks beautiful! Stay well! –Trish

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Trish. I remember seeing pics of your booth and fabulous items! You should definitely give online selling a try. There are pros and cons (like any selling venue) but overall it’s been a positive experience for me.

      So glad to hear your writing is going well. Would love to hear more about your novella!

      All the best, Karen

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Life is fine, we’re safe for now 🙂
        I tried to restrain my online purchases somewhat as my collections are piling 😉 Meanwhile I hung some of my antiques paintings, finally. It’s nice to enjoy them everyday!!! the only issue is that my other half is not so keen on certain antique portraits (too dark in his opinion, lol)
        When I read your last post, the temptation to poke around on eBay was great, but I distracted myself somehow
        Hugs and best wishes ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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