When Things Don’t Sell

Most of us in the vintage selling biz have items that linger in our inventories for a long, long time. Stale inventory. Typically it’s just because that the right person hasn’t found it…yet! (I’ve had items in my store for over five years that have sold for my original listed price.) But it may be that the market is flooded with similar items or the piece is so off trend that few people are even looking for it!

So from time to time, I look at those items that have been gathering dust (so to speak as most are stored in airtight containers) and try to figure out what they need to help them sell. No “list it and forget it” for me.

Improving Photos and Search Terms

Always a first stop for me–photos and search terms. Is the lead photo compelling? Are my photos sharp and well lit? Do props improve or detract from the item? Am I showing all angles of the item? Currently I take photos on my phone using natural light (95% of the time), Air Drop them to my laptop and use PicMonkey to crop, resize and perform any edits. I rather like how this photo turned out.

I tend to use a plain background, but every once in a while I mix it up. I like how the tiny Polish pottery jug looks against this worn, chippy red tool box and the silver and coral pin against this poem.

But perhaps most importantly are my search terms accurate? I try to think about how a buyer might be searching for something. For example for a mod vase I might add the terms “boho decor” and “hippie vase.” For jewelry pieces I might add “girlfriend gift” or “mothers day gift.” I try to put myself in the buyer’s shoes. Though honestly I struggle a bit with coming up with good search terms.

Changing the Price

Prices too high or too low can turn off buyers so from time to time I research the prices on lingering items. What I discovered was that my Stangl lily vase (in my store for over three years) was priced about 33% lower than others of similar condition that had sold. I raised my price and it sold within a few months.

It sounds nuts, but it’s true. Everyone assumes if you lower prices/run a sale stuff will sell, but sometimes it takes a higher price!

Driving Traffic

While Etsy is a major site, I found that their search engine sometimes brings up the strangest things or that my items are buried. So I try to bring more traffic to my items with this blog and my Instagram account, though I haven’t done much there for a long time. Whatever you can do to help people find your items the better.

That said I do not use paid promotions (kudos if they work for you) other than the ones Etsy forces on sellers who make over $10,000 annual revenue called “offsite ads.” I have mixed feelings about these but that’s a topic for another day.

Trying Different Selling Venues/Platforms

A few years ago I decided to give Chairish a try and found that items that didn’t sell on Etsy, sold there. I don’t have much listed so it’s not a major source of income, still it’s nice to have another vintage selling platform. My first sold item was one I had listed on Etsy for over a year. I put it in my Chairish store and it sold in a few weeks.

Of course the old standby eBay is always a possibility and I have sold things there over the years though I have had more negative interactions in recent years and tend not to use it for selling anymore. Some folks create their own websites or use one of the smaller, more niche sites. All good options if you help drive traffic to them.

And of course in-person venues are a great way to sell. I actually checked out the possibility of having an antique booth at one time, but the mall owner kept pushing me towards having a locked glass case for smalls and I really needed a booth for my larger, harder-to-ship items. In the end I realized the fees and commission would likely wipe out any profit. Selling at a flea market tempts me but seems very tiring.

When “Item Fatigue” Sets In

When an item has been in my shop for years I can get weary of it. Sometimes I despair that it will ever sell. By that stage I generally take one of two courses…

Let It Rest

When an item lingers for too long, but I know it’s a darn good thing, I deactivate the listing. Then in six months or more I’ll create a new listing with new photos and see what happens.

Cull It

Once in a while it’s time to say “bye, bye” to things. Here are a few of the things I’m culling from my store inventory…

This 1960s Belleek Ribbon sugar and creamer porcelain set was given to me by a neighbor for my store over six years ago. I tried many different price points over the years, but it never found a buyer. This makes me sad because I know she wanted to help me and my business. Instead I ended up in the hole on this with years of listing fees (about $4).

Checked on Worthpoint today and this Belleek set is selling, but for well under $20! Most hovering around $10. Not really worth it for me to ship. Time to let it go.

I thought this signed artisan pottery vase was cool when I bought it years ago. But I’m giving up on it. Done!

Moving Forward

Of course I always hope things will sell quickly and some do but I am also patient when things take longer. But moving forward over the next few weeks I will be reviewing older items, culling more and buying very (very) selectively.

My only recent purchase is this vintage Doña Rosa burnished jug. It’s a beauty.

Doña Rosa (1900-1980).
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

I’ll close for now, wishing you happy hunting…and selling!



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