The vintage scene is really blossoming at the moment, and with this has come budding entrepreneurs wanting to open their own vintage shops. Recently a few people who want to do this have asked me for some tips, so here they are…
1. Do borrow the antiques dealers trade mantra of ‘CONDITION, CONDITION, CONDITION’. Buy the best condition you can, and in most cases try and avoid any vintage items that are damaged. While vintage items rarely look brand new, I personally believe they shouldn’t show too many signs of damage either. I can often spot a new vintage seller a mile off because they sell ripped, stained or bad quality vintage items as ‘good condition’, claiming that this is normal wear and tear of vintage items. In my opinion, it’s not. If you do have poor condition everyday vintage clothing/ jewellery etc items in stock (which are not sought after collectables btw) there are a number of things you might want to consider doing, like having a bargain bucket corner or selling them as job lots (there’s a good market for this). You absolutely do not want a reputation for selling shoddy goods.
2.Do enjoy researching your items. If you don’t like investigating and research, do not become a vintage seller. Research is a massive part of a dealers work, and can takes many hours just on one item.There’s just no getting around this one, you have to love learning about your vintage subject all the time.
3. Do give the best service you can. My tips? Give detailed, honest descriptions, with the best photos you can from multiple angles. Ship within 48 hours, and keep a customer informed of their order status and shipping times, especially if there is an emergency delay or you are posting overseas. If there are any problems, always offer a no-quibble refund. Never take things too personally, and always be polite and professional. Make sure you have friendly (and legal) terms and conditions – aggressive one’s are a sure way to put off your potential customers.
4. Do visit as many antiques events and vintage shops as you can. Literally feel your way around your chosen subject! If you love vintage clothes, touch the fabrics, examine the sewing and seams, take note of how things were printed, and learn the old clothes companies names. With vintage jewellery, hold the beads, study how things were made, feel the weight of the metals, notice the different types of clasps used. Compare all your discoveries with modern items, and see how they differ.
5. Do give a little back, and share what you learn. Not only is this a lot of fun, but the antique and vintage trade would grind to a halt if we didn’t share our knowledge. I wouldn’t be doing this job now if it weren’t for kind experts writing vintage jewellery articles which helped me so much in my early days of selling. It’s feels really good to give back now I’ve acquired some knowledge of my own.
6.Don’t ask other vintage sellers to do the hard work for you. While sellers usually do help each other out, they also know when they’re being sneakily tapped up for a valuation by a lazy vintage newbie who can’t be bothered to do some simple two minute Google search of their own. I’ll say it again – if you don’t like research, you won’t like being a vintage seller.
7. Don’t expect to sell your item straight away. While occasionally you do sell items within minutes of being put on sale, it’s not unusual to have jewellery in stock for months, and even years.
8. Don’t give descriptions of your item based on a guess – chances are you’ll be wrong, and your customer won’t be happy. There are a lot of knowledgeable collectors out there who have loved vintage fashion long before it became on trend, and boy do they know their stuff! If you have a vintage item in stock which you honestly don’t know much about, then don’t be afraid to say so – just give a detailed description of it’s condition, measurements, and lots of photos! Encourage your customers to ask questions too.
9. Don’t under-charge, nor over-charge for your vintage item. Finding the right prices to sell at is a constant struggle, because there is no concrete-set industry standard for vintage fashion. Just because something is old doesn’t automatically make it valuable, yet under-charge and your item won’t sell as customers will think it’s a fake or damaged. Again, do your research and investigate what prices similar things are selling for in other outlets.
10. Finally, enjoy what you do! There’s a world of difference between loving something as a hobby, and doing it full-time, and I have personal experience of this. You see, I never set out to be in the jewellery trade – my childhood dream was to be an artist. However, when I finally got the courage to quit my job and do that, I slowly realised I’d made a huge mistake; I loved painting, I just wasn’t enjoying it as a full-time ‘job’. It was a humbling experience, and it was hard to admit both to myself and to others that my dream was becoming a boring nightmare. I’d always liked buying vintage jewellery to wear for myself, and I fell into it quite by accident as a way to suppliment my income during this transitioning and painful time. I had no idea at that time I would end up a become a complete jewellery enthusiast! Life works out strangely (and for the best), when we are honest and open, especially to ourselves.