Feb 14, 2015

Books the Antiques Experts Use

antiques books
I recently read a comment on an antiques forum that referenced a 2009 blog post titled “Being An Antiques & Collectibles Dealer Isn’t Rocket Surgery, But…”. The post was by Deanna Dahlsad, and is found on the Collector’s Quest blog. Mixed metaphors aside, Ms. Dahlsad shares the point that like both rocket science and brain surgery “knowledge is power; nowhere, perhaps, does that time-honored adage ring as true as in the world of antiques.” She goes on to discuss the need for ongoing antiques education (and does so admirably).

When the post was made in 2009 the economy was near the bottom of the recession, and times were tougher for antiques dealers. The point of the blog post was that in tough times, well-educated dealers tend to fare better than dealers with limited knowledge. Many paragraphs were spent discussing the one-and-only organized home-study antiques course and how undertaking its program of study would benefit dealers.

As an avid reader and graduate of the afore-mentioned home study course, I think I have a pretty good grasp of what educational resources are available for those interested in the antiques trade. And, I’m firm in my opinion that no single educational source can meet the needs of 21st century antiques and collectibles dealers.

Don’t get me wrong; a solid foundation in antiques is necessary for everyone in the trade. Even for dealers who specialize in a particular genre, the public expects antique dealers to be generalists and know a little bit about everything. That means that all dealers should have knowledge of historical periods, style identifiers, manufacturer’s marks, and construction techniques for furniture, metals, and types of glassware and porcelain. A knowledge of restoration techniques is helpful as well. But that knowledge by itself isn’t enough; the range of collectibles is simply too overwhelming. Read More

Feb 5, 2015

Trend Spotting with Web tools

google trends
It’s been said that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” By that reasoning, as the economy improves, all of us should be seeing greater sales revenues. Of course, the “rising tide” of the economy also increases our taxes and expenses, so, relatively speaking, we may not be any better off than we were at low tide. What’s needed for our individual businesses isn’t a rising tide, but a tidal wave in our particular niche. Or, if not a tidal wave, at least a wave big enough to catch with our “fiscal surf board” and ride to Fat Bank Account beach.

How do we spot “waves” that we can ride to greater revenues? With the Internet, it’s easy: We look for trends. On the Web, a trend is an indication of search volume over time. When search volume over a period of time rises, search engines interpret the rise as a trend.

Trending topics that are both within and without our product niche can help our sales. The key to using trends is to know where to find them, how to interpret them and how to apply them. Let’s explore this topic a bit: We’ll start with several easy-to-find antique industry sites, and then look at a way to create a custom analysis to spot trends for the products you sell.

One of my favorite industry sites for checking “what’s hot and what’s not” is Read More

Feb 3, 2015

Find More Time by Using Online Tools

if this then that
This time of year, many antique dealers are breathing a sigh of relief. The holiday selling crush is over. For the past month or so, administrative chores have been put on hold in order to service in-store and online customers. Hopefully, most of us have

Catching up on administrative tasks and end-of-year/first-of-the-year paperwork is a necessity of doing business.
Catching up on administrative tasks and end-of-year/first-of-the-year paperwork is a necessity of doing business.

fattened bank accounts to make up for all the hard work. Now, it’s time to buckle down and address those year-end administrative chores like taking inventory, catching up on payables, scouting new inventory, and contacting customers that we were too busy to contact during the selling season.

As we “catch up” in January, we often realize that in our holiday haste we missed some opportunities. Every January, I speak with customers that I had put on a back burner (in order to deal with the customer in front of me) only to discover that they had made their purchases from a competitor instead of me. My competitor (or his advertisement) was in the right place at the right time, and I wasn’t. When I consider the missed sales, I wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t have advertised more, or posted specials more frequently to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, my blog, or email, or a half-dozen other digital channels.

In order to “be where the customers are” we have to “go where the customers go.” Sometimes, that’s hard to do. We’re on Facebook, they’re on Twitter. We’re on Twitter, they’re on Pinterest. Or eBay, or Etsy, or Google. It’s all a matter of visibility. These days, the internet has made visibility cheap: social media platforms are often free, and the major selling platforms are cheap relative to the cost of running a bricks-and-mortar store. The problem is that when we’re real busy (like during the holiday season) who’s got time to maintain a presence on social media? And even if we did have the time, how much difference would it make to our sales anyway? Read More

Dec 5, 2014

Holiday Shipping: Hazardous to Your Gifts?

damaged package
If you’re gifting and shipping collectibles for the holidays, I hope you are either very lucky or very well insured.
I recently shipped a First World War artillery-shell lamp and packed it to the point where I thought it was bullet-proof: a layer of paper wrap, tape-reinforced at the lamp’s base and socket, bubble-wrapped, and then double boxed and sealed with strapping tape. My box was clearly marked “fragile” in several places. Nevertheless, the package arrived damaged. The box was torn and crushed, and the lamp was bent.
An artillery shell? Bent? They were made to be fired from a cannon; how could it get bent?
Surely, I thought, this was a fluke. Until last week, that is, when I read a featured article in the current edition of Readers Digest titled “Confessions of a UPS Handler.”
The former UPS handler says that during the holidays “parcel delivery service” is a synonym with “herds of uncomfortable, sleep-deprived people shoving too many boxes into too-little trucks.” Author Sara Ohlms goes on to explain that prior to loading, packages ride on conveyor belts and sometimes log-jams occur where one belt meets another. “When that happens,” says author, “it’s like tripping at the head of a stampede. There’s nothing we can do…but say a prayer.” Read More>>>

Nov 25, 2014

Getting Past "Just Looking"

just looking
The most thought-provoking comment I’ve heard lately came just last week from the mouth of a four-year-old boy.

I was browsing through the men’s department of a mall store when the four-year-old appeared, holding his mother’s hand. A clerk asked the mother: “Can I help you?” and without dropping a beat the young boy replied: “Just looking.” Then the clerk turned and left.

I don’t know which stunned me more, the response of the child or the response of the clerk. Clearly, the boy thought that “just looking” was the proper response to give to a retail clerk; he had probably heard his mother offer the same response dozens of times.

The clerk, too, upon hearing the words turned away, giving no thought to the fact that the words were said to him by a child.

The “can I help you – just looking” scenario is repeated thousands of times per day in retail stores all over the country. No one benefits from such an exchange: the clerk doesn’t make a sale and customer goes away frustrated, with their needs unmet. “Can I help you – just looking” traps both the seller and the buyer in an unproductive relationship.

Sales gurus have claimed for decades that the “just looking” response is a defense mechanism used against what consumers view as “pushy sales persons”. So, the gurus say, sales clerks should not open with the “can I help you” gambit, because it almost certainly assures the “just looking” response. I’m not so sure that this is true. Read more >>>