New York - Over the last ten years the options for antique dealers and vintage enthusiasts on where best to sell their wares online has become an increasingly refined process that has resulted in not only more precise and exact decorative arts listings, but has also created a wealth of new topic-specific industry websites specifically geared to such sales. Gone are the days when dealers were stuck with a broad spectrum two-choice listing on either eBay or Craigslist, or the sometimes unreliable and confusing categories of Facebook's Marketplace. Today, antique and vintage dealers can choose from a myriad of site-specific options when it comes to marketing their inventory online.
To find out what sites worked best, staff writers at the school spoke to a number of industry insiders to get their take on how some online sales platforms have created or developed new approaches related to the marketing of decorative arts items, in order to offer dealers more choice and options when it comes to promoting their goods. Below, we've tabled some of those results.
Offerup is one of Janet Cowers favorite selling sites. Cowers, who operates her own antique and vintage business in Portland, Oregon, says one of the sites best features is the integrated ability for buyers and sellers to negotiate out a price (hence the name). She's also fond of the regional approach whereby sellers and buyers can meetup to avoid any shipping fees. While some service fees can apply, they're not huge she says. As with many of today's best sites, you’ll need to download the app, provide some good quality photos, a well-written description, and a listing of your general geographic location. Cowers says she takes inventory that hasn't moved in a month and places it on Offerup at a discount. "So far the results have been outstanding," says Cowers, "I've really been able to save on the shipping of big items by loading-up multiple orders and delivering them in a single day to different local customers at one prearranged location." According to Cowers, she uses a large parking lot at a nearby conservancy hiking trial as a drop-spot, since it's highly visible, free, and offers lots of room for unpacking and packing-up for her clients.
Going one step further on the regional purchasing and selling scale is Bookoo - a site that claims its legacy comes as a result of yard sale fans who decided to create a site for other yard sale fans (minus the actual going to yard sales part). Wendy Dalton who runs two vintage Etsy shops from New Jersey, says she's a believer. "I buy almost as much stock as I sell," she notes. "However, the great thing about Bookoo is how local it is - sometimes I'm literally only a block away from picking-up or selling some of my inventory." Dalton says she's used Offerup as well, but thinks prices are better on Bookoo. "They want everyone to know their site is garage sale sourced," she says, "which means you have to buy right in order to sell here and still make a profit." The registration process is straightforward though, and according to Dalton, once you're account has been setup, Bookoo lets you list an unlimited number of items. "I really like it because it has more of a community feel than some of the other sites," says Dalton, "It's almost like a chat-group!"
Thomas Dryer is also a fan of regional buying and selling. Hailing from San Francisco with both an online presence and bricks & mortar shop, Dryer says he previously used eBay for his online sales but became tired of the escalating prices. Today, he says he's switched to eBid for listing and selling some of his finer vintage stereos from the 1970s and 80s using a local pick-up option. Aside from their very low commission rate of 3%, Dryer feels that eBid is a great alternative for those wanting to avoid rising fees associated with conducting business on eBay. "They have literally all the same features as eBay," says Dryer, "including the ability to import any of my items on eBay, directly over to my eBid account, which means I can get a lot more exposure for some of my items." Dryer says that his sales have been just as good on eBid, and that he's currently considering a lifetime membership for $50 that would drop his already low fees even more. "It's a win-win," says Dryer, "I'm saving money and selling more."
Remoov has become a recent favorite for many antique and vintage dealers because of its full-service offerings. Maria Alcaraz, who operates a number of consignment and vintage shops around the Tempe area in Arizona, says that it's all about the ease of use. "When something hasn't moved, and I need it gone to create more space for fresh inventory," she says, "I can literally take a few pictures, and set-up an appointment for the folks at Remoov to come and get my stuff." Alcaraz acknowledges that sharing the 50/50 split with the company after the item sells means there's not much room for error on her part, but notes that they're paying for the pickup, listing, and resale of the items. "I think that's pretty fair," she says, "and it allows me to dispose of slow moving inventory while still getting paid."
If you're in the Northeast, like Natalie Barber is, then you're in luck. Barber, who owns a higher-end mid-century modern and vintage business in the San Francisco Bay area, says she uses AptDeco almost exclusively as her online go-to when it comes to selling large furniture pieces. According to Barber, listing only takes a couple minutes and AptDeco handles all the moving and pick-up. "I'm tiny, so loading and unloading big pieces of furniture can be an issue for me, that's why I like AptDeco so much," she says. Aside from the convenience factor, Barber also likes the fact that rates are reasonable (23% on sales), but more importantly, she says she likes that the average time from pick-up to pay-out is around ten to fifteen days. "It means the money I spent on past inventory isn't just languishing around for months in a company's warehouse."
Finally, for those in the business who deal almost exclusively in the top-end range of the decorative arts field, there's Sotheby's Home (Buy Now) option, which according to New York dealer Carl Franks, is one of the better online venues when it comes to selling Georgian furniture. "I've tried them all," says Franks, "including 1stdibs, Charish, Ruby Lane, and more, but for me, Sotheby's has been by far the best." Franks admits that the listing prices ($1000 minimum), and commissions can be quite high (around 50%), but says for that kind of money you get a team of experts to review your submissions and who'll be there to proactively sell your items to a selective audience.
For many dealers over the last few years, the growing number of options available for online inventory sales has simply come down to a greater combination of choice and selectivity rather than just gross site viewership. No longer stuck with single all-encompassing listings on behemoth websites that have little relativity to local sales, dealers it would seem have now finally found their niche in decorative arts websites that seem more geared towards them, rather than everybody else. For those looking to enter into the current decorative arts field, this is certainly good news, as it should provide nascent dealers with additional streams of revenue sources aside from today's standard online and main street formats.
- A.I.A. Staff Writers
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