Classic Revival

Incorporate antique pieces to drive creative sales
By Jessica Harlan

The world of antiques might seem daunting to the uninitiated, but it also offers an unparalleled opportunity for home furnishings and giftware retailers to give their stores a reputation for truly unique and one-of-a-kind merchandise.

If you’re looking to incorporate pieces into your merchandise mix that have a history or the patina of age, you don’t necessarily need to become an expert in period furnishings. You can rely on the knowledge of experienced exhibitors who’ve spent a lifetime learning the business. A sense of what will incorporate well into your store, and an eye for value will serve you well and enable you to dabble in this realm.

Antique horse statue from Acanthus Studio

Antique horse statue from Acanthus Studio

“If you walk into different stores these days, you’ll see the same tables and chairs because everything is mass produced,” says Misty Fowler of M. Fowler Antiques. “They might be beautiful but customers realize they don’t have anything unique that won’t be found in the house down the street. The appeal of buying antiques is that you’re buying something that was handcrafted during a period of time when they took care in handcrafted construction.”

Adds Gayle Baker, co-owner of Acanthus Studios, “Carrying antiques will give a depth and quality to your inventory and will attract new clientele. And when designers can find both new and antique items in the same place, it makes it easy for them to shop.”

If you’re looking to dabble in the wonderful world of antiques, these words of wisdom from antique dealers will help smooth the way.

Don’t attempt to learn it all

Mix antique and modern pieces into design. - Blue Ocean Traders

Mix antique and modern pieces into design. – Blue Ocean Traders

If antique and vintage items are only going to be a small portion of your assortment, don’t even try to become an expert in the industry, says Jason Mulvene, president of Blue Ocean Traders. Just evaluate items on whether they seem like good quality and value for the money, if they’re on trend and sellable. “We’re trained to source it for you, so you don’t have to take too much time to buy vintage,” he says.

Fowler notes that the antiques dealers themselves can be your best resource for information and advice. “Most of us got into this business because we have a passion. [A dealer will] be able to tell you the history, the lineage, what it’s made of. Use them as your resource and when you find an antique dealer whose style you really like, keep in contact with them.”

Start small
Mark Weinstein of Golden Oldies Ltd. suggests that smaller decorative objects that aren’t highly collectible can be affordable options to incorporate into your merchandise mix. Jess Baker of Acanthus Studios agrees. “Smaller items such as lamps or jewelry boxes will blend in with the items you’re currently selling, and they’ll fit into a consumer’s home a lot easier than, say, a large piece of furniture.” As you start learning more about buying antiques, you can then progress into larger pieces or more specific items that make sense for your brand.

Antique lamp from Kenny Ball Antiques

Antique lamp from Kenny Ball Antiques

Mix old and new
Increasingly, designers and home furnishings retailers are finding success with a mix of both old and new to create an inimitable look. “It’s as simple as taking old china and putting it on a new table,” says Fowler. “Mixing eras, mixing materials like brass and Lucite. It’s an extreme mix, nothing matches anymore.”

Adds Mulvene, “Mixing vintage with more contemporary furniture, makes it a lot harder to reproduce what you’re doing.”

And Kenny Ball, owner of Kenny Ball Antiques, says, “Shelter magazines are a good source for getting ideas on how to mix. An antique chest with modern art: incredible!”

Know what will sell
When you start adding antiques or vintage to your mix, choose items that will mesh nicely with what you already have in your store. After all, your regular customers already like your aesthetic and may even have a similar look going on in their own homes. “One of the best lessons I learned early on is, buy what you love,” says Fowler. “If you love it, odds are your clients will love it too.”

Also look for functional, useful pieces. “People want pieces they can use,” says Ball. “Chests of drawers, mirrors and lighting always sell. Pieces that people can collect such as boxes and porcelain sell well too.”

Gayle Baker says that it’s important to get an idea of what might be popular in your market before you start acquiring pieces. “Educate yourself by reading magazines or blogs,” she says. “Know who you’re buying for and know that every market is different.” As an example, Jess Baker points out that a primitive cabinet might not sell in Miami, but it would in the Rocky Mountains. Midcentury modern and industrial pieces, say the Bakers, are particularly in demand right now.

Play Up the Story
If you’re making the effort to carry antiques, it’s crucial to convey their history to your customers, so they’ll easily be able to differentiate your new merchandise from your vintage assortment. Create hang tags and signage with as much information as possible about the piece: where it’s from, what it’s made of, what it was used for, and how old it is. While signage is good, “nothing beats training your salespeople, having them on the floor and engaging with the customer,” says Mulvene.

With these considerations in mind, adding antiques to your store will help you distinguish your brand and will give your customers yet another reason to return.

For More Information: Acanthus Studios – 877.886.8673, acanthusstudios.com; Blue Ocean Traders – 502.637.1840, blueoceantraders.com; Golden Oldies LTD. – 718.445.4400; Kenny Ball Antiques – 434.293.1361, kennyballantiques.com; M. Fowler Antiques – 850.496.6304, mfowlerantiques.com.

In addition to the one-of-a-kind showrooms, visit the all new ANTIQUES Temporary Collection July 14 – 17, 2016 during The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market®. ANTIQUES will be located in located in Building 1, Floor 2.

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