Learning from Buying Mistakes

Over the years I’ve had my share of buying mistakes for my vintage business and I can tell you it’s painful. Each and everyone of them. I’m small scale. I don’t make gobs of money. I get good scores now and then, but mostly it’s bread-and-butter items–$48 and under–that keep my biz afloat. It’s a lot of work when all is said and done.

Here’s one of those mistakes. Let me set the stage. A good friend of mine lives in a retirement community and years ago put me in touch with a friend of hers who lives there too and wanted to downsize. The first time I went I did buy a few things from her, but I was making decisions by the seat of my pants because I had no cell phone access and couldn’t look anything up.

Well, this handmade, soft leather vintage Etienne Aigner of hers seemed like a good thing. It was a good designer brand and well made, but I didn’t like it at all. It had a1970s/80s “Mom purse” vibe. But here’s the thing I bought it anyway and paid $20!! Jeez Louise! And it didn’t sell. For years it didn’t sell at any price. (I’m not surprised.)

Finally, I thought, sod it and donated it to a charity. In hindsight, it’s clear that this was a stupid misguided, off-trend purchase.

So now I have different purse-buying criteria and a purse must meet most of these to be considered:

  • On trend/popular
  • An amazing brand
  • Quality
  • Very good condition
  • A good price
  • And lastly, I must like it.

That still casts a wide net, but has helped me. For example, the other day I found a vintage Coach leather purse at the thrift store. Coach remains popular among buyers so it’s always one to look for and it is quality. But the style wasn’t my favorite and it was too beat up.

Then today at my neighborhood thrift store I found this clutch by Etienne Aigner. At first my heart sank. Aargh, not another Aigner purse. But then I really looked at it and what a difference! This vintage clutch in Oxblood leather has a modern minimalist look. It ticked all the checkboxes.

I would be happy to keep this for myself!

Yup, clutch purses are on trend. Some of the Brit royals use a clutch exclusively at public events. Kate Middleton favors them because they can help avoid awkward hand-shaking situations. (Don’t you hate those awkward hand-shaking situations!)

Photo courtesy of The Insider.

Now my bigger Aigner clutch is more of a day-time, meet-the-girls-for-lunch purse.

Picture it…you’re wearing a pair of jeans, a crisp white shirt, an old-school tweed blazer and this under your arm. Ha, you don’t have to picture it because I found one for you. This is it. The look I was envisioning.

So I have no doubt this Etienne Aigner clutch purse will sell.

But another area I have faltered in is the field of hand-made artisan pottery. First let me preface this by saying I love hand-made pottery. I have a lot of artisan pieces scattered throughout our home. It’s like kryptonite to me. So I am forever buying pottery for my online stores too. But I have made some buying blunders. Like this one. I should have left it behind. While it’s well made and unique, it’s huge and homely! I don’t know what I was thinking. I didn’t even like it. After having it in my store for a few years, it’s now on my donate pile.

Here are a few of the hand-made pottery buying lessons I’ve learned:

  • Avoid big, mediocre pieces. Shipping is so costly these days and buyers balk at paying it. No one wants to pay $20 shipping for a $40 item.
  • Don’t buy off-trend items. No 1970s chunky brown wine goblets or hefty covered casseroles. Trust me, no one wants them.
  • Avoid the generic and ubiquitous (unless a piece is made by a famous potter). No to mugs and most bowls that everyone and their mother makes.
  • Look for the weird and unique. Quirky sells.
  • Answer the question: Does this appeal to me? Not that I am some great arbiter of taste, but I figure if I like, someone else will too.

This leaf dish is the pottery direction I’m heading in. Small, charming, beautifully made, unique.

Like you I hate wasting money. I find it infuriating. Over the years I guesstimate that I have re-donated $300-$400 worth of purchases. Not an earth-shattering amount, but still a waste. I guess I’ll chalk it up as education expenses!

Wishing you happy hunting and wise decisions,



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