Have you ever been perusing an adorable store and found a really cool, unique piece that you want to buy, only to find a NFS (not for sale) sticker on it? Or worse yet, there’s no price tag on it at all, so you ask the nice lady working there and she says, “Oh, that’s not for sale, we just use it for display.”
Frustrating, right? As a customer you think, “For Pete’s sake, I’m in a store…don’t they want to sell stuff?”
During a recent visit to a vintage event, my eye spotted a yardstick length of unique picket fencing. The pickets were soft yellow, about 10″ high and in between each foot section there was a soft green pillar connecting. It looked like a large dollhouse picket fence and I was smitten.
Now, there’s not much that catches my eye that makes me want to get out my wallet these days, because I still have hoards of cool stuff from almost 20 years of buying and selling. But I knew I could find a spot for this cute little section of fence, maybe clipping clothespins to it to display cards or seed packets or something. One can always find a use for a piece of architecture, right?
There were 4 sections of this little fence, all haphazardly sticking their necks out of an old bucket. The other pieces were a little shorter in length. I only wanted one to hang somewhere in my house. I saw a price tag hanging from one of the pieces: $62. Obviously this price was for all 4 pieces.
I almost didn’t bother asking, but then upped my boldness and asked the sweet cashier if they would consider just selling one of them to me. She inquired to the older lady, who was obviously the owner, who reacted with a frown, commenting something about getting the fence coming off of a 100 year old house and not wanting to break it up.
Do you think this woman was more of a Collector or an Entrepreneur?
Those of us who sell and have sold vintage and antiques obviously love the history and the stories behind that which we sell. And there are times when having a full set of something such as Pyrex mixing bowls will be more valuable to a certain buyer when all together.
As a buyer, I loved hearing that this cute fencing was from an old victorian house; people love hearing the history of a piece. But the story didn’t make me want to buy all four pieces for $62, because I don’t need that much fencing and I only wanted to spend about $24.
I think this dealer cared more about the history of the piece than how she could profit, in other words, she was more of a collector than an entrepreneur.
As I was asking if they would split up the fencing, I was doing some quick math in my head. I would have priced each of the fence sections from $18-$24. The bunch would have made her $80, at least. She would have made $20 more selling them separately. And probably would have sold them more quickly, because it’s much easier for a customer to spend less that $25, than more than $50. This was the 2nd day of the event, so obviously no one had bought them the first day.
And pieces of architecture are not really a matched set. They will not be more valuable when sold together. They are more of an eye candy piece. To the hundreds of customers that were shopping that day, how many of them would care more for all 4 than just one?
Yes, on Ebay there are definitely collectors that desire a full set of something. But to the everyday shopper who spends their money a little more freely, a single item that catches their eye that doesn’t hurt their pocketbook too much is a much better bet.
Buyers also have limited space in their homes and only want to buy what will fit. For example, bedroom sets were all the rage years ago. Newlyweds would buy a bed, side tables, a vanity, and a masculine chest of drawers and a mirrored feminine dresser. A dealer may come across this set and be thrilled to fill up their booth space. But how successful do you think they will be selling the whole set together?
People use vintage and antique pieces differently than they did years ago. They not only don’t want all those pieces of furniture together, they probably won’t even use those pieces in their bedroom!
As sellers, we need to get into the minds of our customers. How will someone want to use this item? As originally intended, or completely different? And also have an enterprising mind: Will I make more selling this item together or separately? And will it sell more quickly together or separately?
And for you frustrated shoppers who just wanted to buy something cool and unique and the dealer doesn’t want to sell? I feel your pain. Just know that we vintage dealers do love our junk, which sometimes clouds our thinking;)
Can you relate to either side of this? I’d love to hear your story!
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