Yesterday, I was taken off guard by the question, “do you think the vintage business is dying or changing?”
Almost too fast, i answered, “Changing!”
As the promoter of a show, you bring in dealers and promote to bring in customers. That was the job. That was when booth rents were $500+ for a weekend. There was a waiting list to get in. As a dealer you had to watch your P’s and Q’s if you wanted to get in or be invited back.
The economy was solid. Customers (Baby Boomers) had lifelong jobs with pensions they could count on. Big houses filling with big dark furniture. There was an appreciation and understanding of antiques and vintage and history.
Full time dealers. There were many more than today. The road warrior group is shrinking and so are the shows that cater to them.
Ebay. Don’t get too excited, it didn't kill the vintage market. It’s only part of why the vintage world changed. eBay flooded the market with things collected, yet common. We didn’t know. Suddenly you didn’t have to go to California to buy Bauer Pottery. Collectors could get it anywhere. Dealers could sell it worldwide. It was great.
I'm not sure there would be much of an industry left if it wasn't for eBay.
Things level off. Something rare is still rare on Ebay and there are collectors for it.
Today, there are more part time or people selling as a side gig. People that love vintage and are looking for extra side cash.
Big weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday shows aren’t working for this kind of dealer. Time equals money. An entire weekend isn't possible but one day is.
The biggest earning segment in American are the Millennials.
Jobs with pensions and lifetime possibilities are scarce. They don’t have access to money and wealth like the Boomers. With antique shows and vintage markets scarce, our new biggest earning segment in America doesn't even understand it.
Today student debt is higher. More stay with parents to save. Jobs where you are guaranteed a pension and lifelong benefits don’t exist anymore. It’s a difficult scenario for this group and it changes the way they shop and spend. I'm going to explore this in another post.
Organizers of shows and markets need help from sellers to promote. That means working together. It means working with as many dealers as possible who have followings and skills online. The event can be promoted more for less. Keeping booth rents lower.
Organizers don’t have the money to promote the way they once did. Many organizers don’t know the ways to get info out there in this new tech world. Cost of venues go up, vendor counts are down. Keeping it cost effective and known, is what it is today.
As a dealer, full time or part time, you need a physical presence AND an online presence.
Vintage Garage Chicago is a prime example of a show with millennials who appreciate vintage. They understand it’s more cost effective, higher quality and can hold it’s value. The ones we know will be even savvier buyers in 2027.
Millennials, use the internet to get their information. Tech is moving faster than vintage (and most everything). I personally haven’t looked at newspaper for anything let alone vintage info in years. I’m reading my news online, paying bills online and my schedule and my weekends all planned online. I’m 48 years old which, by the way, makes me a Gen Y'er?
Anyone below my age is doing the same especially the further south we get of that number. Vintage dealers, shop, malls and events have to promote themselves online, make sure they are reaching an interested audience. Or creating an interested audience.
Will you still be in business in 2027?
Let me know what you think in the comments below!