There is competition in business.
No doubt. The vintage industry is no exception.
Any niche market you decide to get involved with, will be filled with people who are interested in what you do. If there is demand, there will be competition.
If you are in a niche with NO competition and you are killing it, it won't be long before it shows up.
What does that mean in the Vintage world?
This is really simple and important and if you learn nothing else from this post, this is it.
The only competition in the vintage world you need to worry about is competition to BUY. It's that simple.
The good news? There is plenty. If you don't think so, or are having trouble finding merch. This may not be the business for you.
What you buy and for how much determines your success.
Some of you may know my market in Chicago, Vintage Garage. At the Garage, I could have 10 vintage clothing dealers (or Midcentury dealers, any selling niche works) set up in a row for a whole day. If 3 of the 10 dealers had an amazing show and sold the heck out of their merchandise, what will the other 7 say? "Too much competition." To that, my answer is, bull-loney.
The first instinct is to blame others. I get it, we are human. Unless no one showed up, the problem was something on your end.
Here's what I KNOW isn't the problem:
Competition from other dealers.
Too many vintage clothing dealers in a row.
Here's what it could be:
Paid too much for your merchandise.
Sizes (everything is tiny).
Lack of knowledge on your items.
If 10 vintage clothing dealers set up in a row, how many items are duplicates? Not many if any. What are the differences between the 10 dealers? Experience levels, quality of merchandise, consistency, marketing, set up.
All of these things matter.
Here's what doesn't matter:
The fact that there are 10 vintage clothing dealers set up in a row.
Our niche doesn't have stores at the mall. When people go shopping for vintage, they look for groups of stores or groups of vendors. They want to see a LOT of stuff at once. Ten booths in a row in the same genre isn't going to hurt your sales unless you are priced too high and your merchandise isn't working for the audience.
What does this mean to you?
If you're complaining about your competition on a daily basis, stop. You won't make it. Looking at others won't solve your problem.
Take a hard look at your buying practices.
Are you only buying at the thrift? I can pick out a booth where every item comes from a thrift in about 5 seconds flat. Where are you getting your merch and how much are you paying for it? Are you buying for sport or the thrill? If you have issues this is the first place to start.
How to buy and for how much is something you learn with experience and time. You buy right, you will make money in the vintage business.
"I had to learn this business on my own, so should everyone else."
If this is your feeling, this isn't the right place for you. I have paid my dues over the past 20 years. Is sharing my "secrets" going to ruin my business? Nope. Is it smart if you want to strengthen the niche you are in? Yes. There is serious interest in vintage, yet we've seen decreases in sales. Seeing what your competitors do well can provide valuable insight to the market and help show you what works. You can be the most experienced dealer in the world and you can still learn from others. I learn something new everyday because you never know what can help.
When I go through the Vintage Garage on an early morning set up, I might stop at a booth and size it up. If the word SMART comes into my head, I know that dealer is going to rock. The set up is strong, prices are right, merch is cool. This dealer walked in the door with a plan. It's almost impossible for any booth to be the same as another. It is almost impossible for vendors to have the same merch at the same prices.
So what's your problem with competition? I know, it's the same as mine, I'm jealous! You picked up some great stuff or a great estate, I'm happy for you! Of course a little jealously would be normal. It can be used for motivation to get out there and and find something equally as exciting.
Every single day, I talk to dealers. I give advice on how to improve their business. Online, offline, I'm an open book. When I've asked dealers to share tips with new dealers who join the Vintage Garage show, I usually hear crickets.
It's fear. What if I give that idea up, someone takes it and uses it and suddenly becomes a zillionaire? Again- completely normal feeling, but not one that's going to help you in the long run.
I share everything I can.
Do you know why? I know how to buy. How I buy and where I get my stuff is hard to duplicate even if you know my secrets and many do.
Since I started sharing info with other dealers, my vintage sales has gotten stronger, not weaker. If you know what you are doing, your tips and tricks for other dealers or customers won't affect you at all. You might even learn something and get some new vendors on the right road OR a new customer. That's what we are going to do here at the Business of Vintage. Share and learn.
Your confidence will shine through and that helps make money.
If you think competitors are your biggest problem, I challenge you to give your vintage business a hard honest look.
Let me know what you think!
P.S. Take my dealer survey, tell me what's going on in your business you'd like to fix!